Better integrating technology for a greener supply chain

Real-time data analysis, automation and digitalization are becoming a winning combination to support logistics players in their sustainable development strategies.

The latest IPCC report is clear: the logistics sector has a key role to play in the fight against climate change. While some progress has already been made, there is still a long way to go – but the means are there.

Addressing sustainability and reducing carbon emissions as part of a cohesive approach across the supply chain is a critical topic, but actual project implementation varies, cost reductions and efficiency gains are still often considered more important than carbon footprint reduction.

This demonstrates the need to deepen and improve the monitoring of sustainable development, by developing access to precise and reliable data. How can a better consideration of technology and data help make our supply chains greener?

Existing strategies with varying degrees of maturity

A recent study on the sustainability of supply chains in Europe, investigated the sustainability goals, performance monitoring and technologies used by major supply chain players in Europe. The results of the survey show that 72% of the companies in the sample have implemented a sustainable development strategy, and that just over half of the respondents already have more than two years of experience in this field. The remaining 50% do not have a sustainability strategy, or have one that has been in place for less than two years.

Interestingly, the level of maturity of a given company’s sustainability strategy seems to have an impact on its objectives: while all strategies focus on reducing emissions and carbon footprint, Newer strategies — like those implemented during the pandemic — place greater emphasis on cost reduction and operational efficiency. There is therefore still a long way to go, and the pace of development of sustainable development strategies depends heavily on the integration of appropriate technologies.

Real-time visibility, a crucial technology

Among these, real-time visibility is undoubtedly the most promising innovation. Some 45% of respondents in the study said they use real-time visibility tools, and about 11% are already using this technology specifically to better embed sustainability into their operations. 36% plan to introduce it within the next two years.

Having access to real-time data allows companies to vastly improve their ability to react and adapt to events – especially in combination with route planning and optimization software. The wealth of data it provides will certainly make real-time visibility one of the technologies most rapidly adopted by the logistics sector in the years to come to support companies in improving their strategies related to sustainable development. .

Automate data processing to achieve environmental goals

Whatever the stage of maturity of these strategies, it seems however that there is still no consensus on the best approach to monitor their performance. Manual internal systems are the most commonly used method, an observation that suggests a lack of out-of-the-box tracking solutions that apply directly to the needs of a specific business. Automating accurate data analysis in freight operations also supports broader business sustainability goals, such as calculating emissions intensity and empty mileage.

The data will be critical to accurately reporting carbon footprint Scope 3 emissions (indirect emissions) which make up a significant portion of many companies’ overall environmental impact. Accessible Scope 3 emissions data is a crucial external indicator in CSR strategies, hence the need to integrate tools to access it in real time and continuously to inform internal decisions on planning and supply.

It is clear that supply chains in Europe rely more and more on technology and are more proactive in seeking opportunities to be part of a logic of sustainable development. The rate of adoption of new technologies in this respect is what will make all the difference in the medium and long term. If a general awareness has indeed taken place, it is now necessary that all the players in the sector work together for a better integration of technologies and data.

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