These days consumers are demanding higher levels of corporate social responsibility and thus importers are seeking more eco-friendly supply chains to fulfill their shipping requirements. Enter here the term 'green shipping'.
What does green shipping even mean?
Green shipping refers to the use of resources and energy to transport people and goods by ship and specifically concerns the reduction in such resources and energy in order to preserve the global environment from greenhouse gasses and environmental pollutants generated by ships.
Purely from an operational perspective, green shipping would mean complying with the environment-related regulations set by the IMO (International Maritime Organization). There are a number of conventions which all share the same aim: to manage and monitor all harmful substances (marine pollutants and air pollutants) emitted from ships. Shipping emissions account for nearly 3% of the world's CO2 . As about 90% of world trade is transported by sea, the IMO aims to reduce the industry's overall greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2050.
Nowadays, green shipping is also used as a blanket term to describe the shift shipping companies are making towards sustainable and eco-friendly practices. According to a behavioral study on green shipping company behavior, the motivation to switch to green practices must come from within the company to be effective. Green shipping companies themselves can achieve greater green collaboration with suppliers and partners and ultimately their customers. Eco-friendly shipping solutions can help achieve the IMO's goal.
Why are green shipping solutions important?
E-commerce and online business is booming and having a well-thought-out shipping process is critical for these types of businesses. However, with this influx in logistics movement, comes concerning environmental damage. End consumers are not only becoming aware of human rights violations and scandals, but they're also observing how their orders are being packed and shipped. Consumers on the whole feel better buying from ethical retailers who are practicing green shipping.
A recent survey carried out by Nielsen , determined that consumers around the world are adjusting their shopping habits. A stark 81% of global respondents feel strongly that companies should help improve the environment . The demand for corporate social responsibility does not only stem from Millennials and Gen Z, but from the older generations as well.
Promoting your green shipping practices could be the boost your brand needs, as customers actively search for businesses whose brand reputation align with their own personal values. To generate new business and retain customer loyalty, showing your sense of corporate social responsibility is extremely important.
Shippers can make an easy start with careful packaging practices
For shippers, it's really a no brainer when you realize that not only does it help your eco-friendly brand image, but can also save you money! The more materials you use, the heavier the package and thus the more expensive the shipment will be. So by using fewer packing materials, you will save money in both the packing materials themselves and shipping fees. If your boxes and packaging are as close to the size of your items as possible, reducing any unnecessary materials, this will also result in less waste and lower costs.
For certain goods, much packaging material is inescapable. So in this case, consider biodegradable and eco-friendly shipping supplies. This type of packaging has less of an impact on the environment, and is also sustainable for humans and the environment. Biodegradable means they can easily be recycled and don't take so long to decompose. Eco-friendly packaging is a term for environmentally-friendly packaging which is typically made up of recycled or biodegradable materials. When searching for eco-friendly packaging, look out for common descriptors like these:
- Made from biodegradable, recycled or compostable materials
- Safe for humans and / or the environment
- Produces minimal or zero environmental waste
- Has a reduced impact on the environment
- Plastic free
Another way a shipper can proudly promote their eco-friendliness is by using a forwarder that is actively “greening” their processes.
Forwarders stand out by offering green shipping solutions
Forwarders can also support retailers who wish to minimize their impact on the environment, and a number of them already are. In the packaging area, start offering customers environmentally-friendly, recyclable air pillows instead of bubble wrap and packing peanuts.
Switch to materials like recycled cardboard, environmentally-friendly plastics, and biodegradable materials. More specific examples include non-toxic foams, biodegradable twine and packing peanuts, and reusable anti-static peanuts. Looking outside of packaging, what other practices or processes can be “greened” or improved?
Consider your vehicle fleet. One way others have “greened” theirs, is by installing teardrop trailers which have an aerodynamic shape to reduce air resistance. Therefore, decreasing excess fuel consumption. Another example could be by making use of 7ConNetwork partner, Container xChange , whose core business centers around reducing empty shipping container moves. This has a direct effect on reducing maritime pollution, supporting the IMO initiative as well.
Yet another way to show your commitment to green shipping could be via acts of giving back. 7ConNetwork member, Bertling , takes a proactive approach at improving their carbon footprint through their corporate social responsibility program which not only includes supporting the local communities from which they operate, but also focuses on helping the environment. They support charity causes aimed at re-plotting rainforest and have financed projects such as Clean Water for India and Water for Bolivia.
Moving toward a greener future
Shippers gung ho on their eco-friendly branding and business models may become a bit less enthused when they realize the carbon footprint the shipping industry has on the globe and the lack of a one-size-fits-all solution. Shipping products whether by land, sea or air, indeed create carbon emissions and negatively affect the environment. But by taking small steps in practicing green shipping, everyone can contribute to reducing the environmental impact of the global shipping industry. Plus, it'll not only save you money, but also inspire customer loyalty and increase your sales.
So what steps are you taking toward a greener future?