Decarbonizing the Supply Chain

When the average consumer thinks of clean transportation, they will think of hybrid cars, pubic transportation, or walking, but for the industrial world it has a whole different meaning.

It is a world made possible by carbon as trucks, ships, and airplane move goods around the world from factory floor to retail shelf. You have warehouses, container yards, and distribution centers where goods are stored, broken down, and packaged for shipping, and then you have the packaging… the boxes, cartons, bubble wrap, pallets, and Styrofoam that keep good safe and provide a place for branding.

Perhaps one of the least thought of area of “greening”, the supply chain was the focus of the recent World Economic Forum report Decarbonizing the Supply Chain (PDF Report Here):

The World Economic Forum’s Supply Chain Decarbonization is a comprehensive review of the scale of the logistics and transport sector’s carbon footprint, and the principal opportunities for reduction of emissions. Researched and co-written with Accenture, the report assesses the legal and commercial drivers for supply chain decarbonization. It establishes a framework for meaningful cuts in emissions across end-to-end supply chains and, through simple scorecards, analyzes the relative importance of the main opportunities for change.

The 40 page report, even for those that are not supply chain management professionals, is a very easy and enlightening read as some of the various brown issues of supply chain management are measured and highlighted.  Dedicating a significant amount of space to laying out some of the solutions (see Figure 9 above) that are available through a score card method was also a great addition to the report design and education value.

Unlike many of the flashy aspects of cleantech, my personal opinion is that it is through these reports, and through these collaborations that we will begin seeing real change.  The report makes mention of the work that Wal-Mart is doing in partnership with their providers of logistics, warehousing, and packaging, and it is all very interesting to see how industry players are willing to work on an open platform model vs. the ultra secretive VC approach.

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