Greener transport needs people to talk to each other
“Both logistics buyers and logistics service providers want to make an effort for the environment, but communication between them doesn’t work. There are no ‘bad guys’ out there,” says Amer Jazairy, researcher within sustainable logistics at the University of Gävle.
Researchers attempt to understand how businesses that buy logistic services (shippers) and those that provide them work together to attain more sustainable, green logistics. Researchers have studied businesses that attempt to make a difference regarding sustainability, big businesses as well as smaller ones.
“It concerns using biofuel and electrical forklift for transports, but also running warehouses on renewable energy, increasing their efficiency and having programs for regeneration of, for instance, water.”
Logistic service provider seen as the villain
In general, Amer points out, we tend to place all responsibility for minimising environmental impact on companies providing logistic services, like DHL or Schenker.
“In the news, logistic service providers are often portrayed as environmental villains, but our research shows that a major part of the responsibility lies with shippers. They choose which logistic service providers they want and what alternatives they want to pay for. If they opt out, there is no deal.
Amer stresses that both actors are “good guys” who strive to work for sustainable logistics.
“We have seen such fine examples of when both buyers and providers have tried hard to fulfil sustainability goals.”
Demands impossible to fulfil
The researchers have noticed that shippers often try to add on an increasing number of sustainability elements in their demand specifications. But among them are demands that cannot be fulfilled. Amer gives us three examples:
- A shipper demands a specific fuel that media says is a good one. But as the logistic service provider has shared access as their strategy, the truck is used by other customers as well who in turn demand another type of fuel that the provider has agreed on using. (If your demands are too specific, they might backfire.)
- The next problem is conflicting demands. The shipper demands the shortest transportation time, the lowest emission and its goods to be delivered tomorrow. However, the lowest emission rate requires transportation by train, which runs only once a week. (The infrastructure or technology doesn’t exist as yet.)
- The shipper wants the logistic service providers to invest in an intermodal sustainable transportation system, but wants only a one-year contract. The logistic service provider needs a longer commitment than one year from the shipper to be able to invest.
Make flexible demands and negotiate
So, it isn’t just about making demands, Amer underlines. Sometimes the demands can cause problems. We need to understand that the shipper may have insufficient knowledge about the logistic service providers’ preconditions.
“If you make flexible demands and remain open to negotiating these with your provider, better results can be reached. In all our research, we notice poor communication.”
The example Ernst’s Express
Ernst’s Express can deliver green transports to its customer. They use biofuel like HVO and RME. Its customer are often major industrial companies within heavy industry.
Long contract and modified vehicles
They adapt their vehicle fleet to their customers’ needs. They don’t sell standardised logistics and can as a result secure long-term contracts.
“As a rule, we don’t sign contract for less than five years when we develop specially adapted vehicles for transport operations. For us, the costs are the same for running our vehicles on biofuel or on conventional fossil fuels,” says the CEO for Ernst’s Express.
“Shared responsibility is a must in environmental projects like these, as are long-term contracts and collaboration from the start. If you take away any of these, you run into difficulties,” Amer Jazairy says.
Everyone is waiting
At present, both parties are waiting for the other one to make more demands for sustainability. The shipper wants the provider to be more innovative and come up with new ideas. “You know the technology so come up with something more sustainable that goes beyond our demands.” The provider in turn waits for the customer to make more demands for sustainability.
The easy way out
Amer says that all the logistic service providers he has interviewed, small as well as big ones, say that they do more than the authorities require today. As a result, the customers fail to make high enough demands, while the authorities just wait for the industry to solve the problems by themselves.
“In this situation, the providers may take the easy way out and do very little, and that may not be for the best.”
Unique for Sweden
In Sweden, it is the market and the customers which are the big incentive for sustainability work. It is a competitive edge for businesses in Sweden to focus on sustainability and have green logistics as their core value associated with their brand.
“Having logistic service providers with such a green incentive is unique for Sweden.”
However, Amer stresses that there is great need for standardised demands from the authorities. He concludes with an example from Paris. Here authorities encourage mixed loading of goods to maximise vehicle fill levels. It motivates French businesses to share trucks to fill them and so they collaborate for greener transports.
“We can nearly see the solution; it is close. I am very optimistic. All problems can be solved and collaboration is the key,” says Mer Jazairy.
Amer Jazairy is a PhD student at the University of Gävle and his research focuses on sustainable logistics.
“I studied the master programme in logistics and innovation here, and it was very good.”
Earlier, he worked in logistics in companies in Saudi Arabia, for instance with a project that managed Ericsson’s logistics in Saudi Arabia.
“As I met many people from Eriksson, and since my interest is logistics, I came here to study that subject. Now, I will continue doing research within logistics, on the same type of logistic service providers like, for example, Schenker, DHL and Speed Group etc.”
For more information, please contact:
Amer Jazairy, PhD student at the University of Gävle
Phone: 070-313 67 36