Rethinking the packaging and transportation mode used to deliver raw materials and powder solids in bulk form.

What is a carbon footprint?

The Cambridge dictionary defines environmental footprint as:
the effect that a person, company, activity, etc. has on the environment, for example, the amount of natural resources that they use and the amount of harmful gases that they produce

As many key stakeholders such as customers, investors, and team members are showing an increased interest in improving the sustainable business practices, many forward-looking companies are recognizing that green policies are beneficial for all; it is good for the planet, appreciated by consumers and investors and leads to cost savings and improved brand image.

Raw materials and production processes are usually the main drivers for the carbon footprint – but the logistics chain and packaging used with over 10% is also one of the main contributors.

As the mode of transport (truck, vessel, train, etc) is not under direct control of the shipper, companies and investors will support technological innovation which will ensure the appropriate capacity of reducing environmental footprint.

Improvements in the logistics chain and packaging means are not only good for the environment. Less emissions usually also translate to less logistics cost, less capital cost, less insurance, etc.

Five factors are the main drivers of this new interest in a cleaner, more efficient supply chain


1. The desire to cut transportation costs. By rethinking the processes of packaging, loading and unloading methods they use, companies can cut their supply chain expenses.

2. Competitiveness concerns: the acknowledgment that a rising proportion of customers prefer companies that demonstrate a reduction in their carbon footprint in a credible manner.

3. The desire to boost productivity, based on the knowledge that emissions-reduction systems can lower other costs and improve operations.

4. The desire to reduce congested highways by maximizing intramodal logistics that make better use of our rail infrastructure. Less silo-trucks making long haul deliveries by switching to containerized cargo. Existing silo truck inventories focusing only on making last-mile deliveries.

5. The aim to improve traceability and reduce cross-contamination. Silo-trucks long haul deliveries can only be optimized when finding cargo for the return portion. Forcing logistics to accept hauling back different materials after strict cleaning guidelines that most often fail to safeguard the total cleanliness of silo trucks and causing cross-contamination incidents seen on the news.

What is the real environmental footprint impact when transporting hard-to-flow commodities in bulk form?

Research shows that supply chains can be responsible for up to four times the greenhouse gas emissions of a company’s direct operations, while transport is the 2nd highest emitter of greenhouse gases worldwide as reported by Eurostat. Considering that transport represents such a significant share of greenhouse gas emissions in the supply chain, it is crucial for organizations to account for the impact of their logistics processes in the environmental analysis of their supply chains.

Some initiatives will improve transportation efficiencies: A silo truck that once carried 25MT of polymer resins will be replaced by switching to loading in bulk in standard intramodal containers that will make the long haul using the rail infrastructure to carry the same volume of goods with far less fuel and making the roads less congested and at far more cost-competitive rates.

Which step in your supply chain is the most affected?

The companies recognize that reducing the carbon footprint in their supply chain can contribute to the company’s sustainability initiatives but also has significant business impacts, such as reducing operational and logistic costs. To find out how carbon emissions can be reduced in the logistics chain and how to put in place improvement plans, organizations need to include game-changing technologies into their transportation processes. However, reducing the carbon footprint across the entire supply chain is challenging, it is a complex task that involves time and resources.

  • How can your company make a difference?
  • How much plastic are you throwing out? 
  • How much planet-warming carbon is your company producing?

Many businesspeople must begin to see such initiatives for what they are: opportunities to make their companies more profitable by reducing wasted resources all while contributing to society.

Only by looking at environmental initiatives in that light will companies be able to evaluate the opportunities for savings in the same way they would make any other business decision, whether investing in a company or buying a piece of equipment.

Experience has proven that in some cases it is possible to reduce emissions and even to reduce operational costs. Solutions can often be quite simple sometimes, as easy as changing an unloading protocol together with the end-user to foster collaboration toward a mutually beneficial goal.

The next step towards sustainable supply chains

Smart companies choose green policies based on a methodical decision-making process that involves the entire supply chain. Companies that have reached this level of maturity are committed to researching and doing what is most effective and beneficial for the environment and for themselves and their customers.

Identifying the best opportunities for footprint along a product’s supply chain operations is not easy, and managers may be intimidated by the complexity of that task. Fortunately, there is a straightforward, proven process that can help them reduce the carbon emitted by their supply chains. 

In every case the analysis requires taking the following three steps

  1. Understand the carbon footprint of each product, in the context of the company’s overall strategy and operations. The focus should be on where, how much, and which kind of resources are involved in the product’s transport throughout its lifecycle, from raw-material production and distribution to end-consumer.
  2. Separate necessary steps from those that could be reduced or eliminated. Companies should identify which segments of those logistics expenditures are essential to the effective import or export of raw materials. If something is not essential or it is being wasted— through the generation of more movements than is necessary to complete a task, for instance changing the packaging or the way the loading/unloading is executed. Through this analysis, they can identify and assess the true drivers of footprint and opportunities for reduction.
  3. The final step is to consider the alternatives in the context of different criteria, such as effective contribution to footprint reduction, financial impact or ease of implementation.

Finally, the optimal footprint savings initiative will include a combination of measures.

The solutions developed by BULK FLOW enables exporters, importers, distributors and manufacturers of granular and powder raw materials to improve their supply chains processes with regards to environmental impact by switching to intramodal bulk containerized shipments that offer a true silo-to-silo delivery system to each individual shipment in 20′, 30′, 40′ 45′ and 53 standard sea containers.

Conclusion

Working together, raw material producers and converters would reduce both their emissions and their operational costs with no need for additional resources—proof that being green can be good business.

Posted by Team Bulk-Flow