The Supply Chain: Top 5 Ways To Make Fulfillment Sustainable

Krista Greenaway

Krista Greenaway

Fulfillment hero

Fulfilment is a fundamental function associated with the supply chain. It covers the process of receiving, packaging and shipping orders for goods. Fulfillment is a process used by all ecommerce businesses, and one that consumers are increasingly demanding becomes fully sustainable.

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Supply chains are often overlooked when analysing a company’s sustainability agenda. The average consumer company’s supply chain churns out huge social and environmental damage compared to a business’s individual operations. Greenhouse gas emissions produced directly from the supply chain account for more than 80 percent of total emissions and more than 90 percent of their impact on air, land, water, biodiversity, and geological resources. 

With that in mind, the UK government was the first of many to announce an ambitious net-zero carbon emission target for 2050

A huge feat.

Nonetheless, the pressure is on to create sustainable supply chains. Here are 5 steps you can take towards a more eco-friendly supply chain:

warehouse-worker

1) Partner with eco-friendly suppliers

Picking the right suppliers is crucial in making your sustainability efforts stretch the extra mile. Businesses have very little visibility over their supply chains because it is a whole separate entity in itself. But correctly evaluating suppliers, and ensuring that they enforce green practices throughout all stages of fulfilment, will make your eco-conscious mission an easier one. 

Heard of Amazon?

Of course you have. Amazon is a big brand. But one you may not want to use for your fulfillment…

Sellers who use Amazon’s FBA service must first ship their products to an Amazon fulfillment center. There, the product is stored until a customer buys it. Then, it is shipped to the customer by Amazon, meaning that every product sold through FBA is shipped twice before it even reaches the customer. This produces a double demand on labor, transportation and packaging for every, single, sale. Not only that, you have no control over the cardboard they use for shipping boxes or the quantity of materials used for their delivery which stacks poor credits on your eco meter.

Consider shying away from fulfilment giants and look at your alternate options. There are many shipping providers these days who focus predominantly on green shipping. These are the kind of partnerships you want to be building alongside your brand. Not only will these partners support you, they make being sustainable easy. 

zero emmission delivery bike

2) Check that your delivery options are sustainable ones

Using a sustainable fulfilment partner is one thing, but the sustainability of your delivery options vary depending on who you use. With how mail services are currently running, the amount of planet-warming carbon dioxide emissions from delivery vehicles is set to increase by 32%, or about 6 million tons. Fortunately, many popular mail service providers are now participating in eco-friendly programs which utilise recycled shipping material and paperless invoicing and tracking options. Each courier also offers additional green and sustainable programs to their customers which allows buyers to offset carbon emissions from their deliveries.

 

 Check out these mail services making a difference:

 

These companies make greener options more accessible to consumers. You can also use shipping providers that go the extra mile and offer delivery windows and collection points to avoid missed deliveries. That way, you can stop delivery vehicles going out on the road unnecessarily. 

Even better, delivery services are now looking into using fully electrical vehicles to further reduce emissions. So far Yodel, DPD, and Hermes have already started switching to greener deliver vehicles. You may want to consider utilizing this trend early, swapping your regular fleet vehicles for low emission models which can help reduce your carbon footprint. 

waitrose click and collect service

Bonus Tip: Go beyond with click and collect

While delivery is a primary concept within the supply chain, proactive consumer habits are a reflection of your shipping choices. If you have bricks and mortar store, you may benefit from using click and collect (when COVID rules allow that is). Reports show 84% of consumers find it frustrating waiting for a delivery to arrive. Click and collect allows shoppers to be flexible and work within their own availability. So while it may seem like a hassle initially, a click and collect service is actually more convenient for your customers.

automated storafe retrieval systems in a warehouse

3) In-house warehouse practices

Warehouses have been operating in the same bland, systematic way for many years. Now is the time to embrace advances in modern technology and utilise automated and digital systems. Switching to artificial intelligence reduces the risk of human error and produces quicker and more accurate results. Increased accuracy, starting a business’s foundations, should relay a positive domino effect further into the supply chain. For example, carbon emissions incurred from vehicles returning incorrect or broken shipments can be minimized as a result of greater internal accuracy.

ASRS

Automated Storage and Retrieval Systems (ASRS) take on the responsibility to buffer, store, and retrieve inventory on demand. They are an effective use of space, reducing energy usage and as a result warehouse buildings have a smaller footprint.

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WMS 

Warehouse management systems, abbreviated to WMS, can help improve the sustainability of your distribution in a number of ways. From planning more efficient routes to load optimisation, the time and fuel required to distribute your stock can be drastically improved. Which, in turn, will save your company money on returns and labor costs. 

Automated warehousing technologies are a solution that can help save significant amounts of energy since they can work around the clock in dark, non-heated environments deemed unsafe for human workers. They are deemed better investments than conventional warehouse equipment that has high operating costs and energy consumption levels.

green warehouse

4) Warehouse Design

External warehouse designs are just as applicable as internal warehouse practices. While your products and practices may have had an eco-boost you should ensure that you are working within a warehouse that has also been built sustainably. 

Warehouses made from recycled and recyclable materials are a great place to start. They can be made from 100% recyclable aluminium framing, polymer walls and recycled UPVC windows.

Other features include translucent roofing material, which allows natural light through and reduces the need for electric lighting during the day. Alternatively, you can use reflective roof paint to avoid your warehouse absorbing too much heat that needs to be balanced by air conditioning. 

Solar panels are another useful instalment. They harness light energy, and – after an installation fee – utilising free natural resources can be very cost effective. 

You should also look into buildings that are relocatable and can be used for a variety of applications, which will save materials and reduce the carbon emissions associated with the construction process.

Hand holding a lightbulb surrounded by green

5) Use green energy suppliers

Once up and running, warehouses typically consume a large amount of energy within the logistics supply chain. Change to a green energy supplier and upgrade your lighting in your warehouse or distribution centre to better improve its functionality.

For day-to-day operations an automated lights-out electrical system is best as lights are generally required only during routine maintenance checks. You can also integrate daylighting technology (skylights, photocell sensors, etc.) that are greener than standard electric and will help companies to save energy costs in the long run. 

Integrating energy-efficient warehousing measures means that more than 20% of cost savings can be achieved. Green energy suppliers will help you decide what instillations are best for your business’s individual needs. Therefore, you have one less operation to worry about knowing your energy supply is in good hands.


A Green Supply Chain Needs To Become The Norm

Business is no longer solely about profits. There is an element of corporate responsibility that consumers demand. Supply chain and warehouse managers need to keep this in mind to ensure their businesses remain viable in the new corporate climate. An increased focus on green supply chain management practices will benefit both the business and the environment.

Choosing to use eco-conscious suppliers and warehouses means reduced environmental impact while simultaneous benefiting from increased efficiency and productivity as a result. As sustainability continues to be a major rising trend among consumers, businesses will need to work with other green businesses in the supply chain to help widen their appeal. 

One Tribe offers a guide that can help this transition become a smoother one. Containing easy checklists and other valuable resources. Be sure to join thousands of other people using our useful tool to make a positive environmental change.

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