Freight Forwarding: Sustainability in Practice (1/3)

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Building a sustainable supply chain, is now top-of-mind for many freight forwarders as regulators increase pressure for compliance and customers demand transparency. 

The transport sector is amongst the largest producers of carbon dioxide, second only to energy use. Its emissions are some of the most harmful to the planet, which only intensifies the sustainability challenge faced by the freight forwarding industry.

Greenhouses gas emissions in transport, why we need to put our sustainability goals into practice

In this article we are going beyond the sustainability talk and taking a deep dive into what it looks like in practice. Sharing the specific actions being taken by some major industry players to become more sustainable.


So…what does sustainability really look like in practice?

Sustainability has been on the agenda for years now. But for many of the businesses we speak to, it still feels like a huge, obscure challenge and they just don’t know where to start. 

Ultimately sustainability needs to be part of an organisation’s structure – when you take your ESG (environmental, social and governance) seriously, sustainability is built into your business’ DNA and has a real impact on every aspect, from product design through to distribution. 

Some key areas to focus on are:

Supply chain

Building a more sustainable supply chain means having end-to-end visibility, reducing operating costs, better managing resources and improving risk management.

Managing risk is especially important as climate-change impacts and supply chain issues become more common. 

Culture

Sustainability should be compatible and well integrated into the very culture of the business. 

You need to clearly communicate to the whole team that sustainability is a strategic priority for the company, have well defined processes for sustainability-related decisions, develop measurable targets and performance metrics.

It’s also important to avoid greenwashing i.e trying to make people believe your company is doing more to protect the environment than it really is.

Product

Focus your attention on a specific sustainability goal, rather than trying to cover many different issues. 

A great example of this is Think Better Group. Their core sustainability goal is to eliminate plastic completely, so all their products revolve around this topic. 

They design products focusing on renewable materials, circular end of life and recycling. They have also developed tools to calculate plastic usage and plastic offsetting and put their efforts into creating a sustainable supply chain.


Think Better Group: reducing plastic use with a circular supply chain 

Sustainability is at the core of Think Better Group, but that hasn’t stopped them developing thriving brands in high growth, competitive markets. Some of their eco-friendly products are Ecoriginals, Econaps, Minor Figures, Project Blank, Colonna Coffee and Peak Water. 

Whether tackling single use plastic nappies or petroleum-based wetsuits, all its brands have a clear shared goal: materially reducing the need for plastic.

Think Better Group knows sustainability is a commitment that involves all brands and every aspect of their organisation. Their main focus is the use of plant-based materials, plastic circularity and circular solutions, and they prioritise a sustainable and ethical supply chain.

We spoke with Philip Hutchinson, Merchandise and Logistics Director at Think Better Group. He shared with us some key insights around sustainability, how they put it into practice and why they choose to work with socially-minded and sustainable partners like Explorate. 

The direction Explorate is going around carbon tracking and carbon offset fits really well with our business and can help us achieve our sustainability goals. With some other freight forwarders there’s a lot of greenwashing around it, but Explorate is genuinely doing it.”  he says.

How do Think Better Group put your mission of ‘building an ecosystem to provide solutions to single use plastics’ into practice on a day to day basis?

It really begins with looking at two things, our product and how our business runs and asking about each element “Is there a better way this could be done” and working piece by piece on improvement. It  is a journey.

How has your mission influenced not only your innovative product design, but your supply chain and organisational culture?

As any business knows, your customers and your product are your two keys to success, so the supply chain which delivers our products to the customers must be integral to any solution. When talking about emissions or plastic, the discussion needs to be holistic all the way up the value chain – from how and in what manner the product is made all the way to how the customer disposes of it.

Achieving zero plastic/emissions seems unachievable to many. How did Think Better translate your bold mission into actionable strategy? How do you suggest people get started? (i.e. reduce, offset)

With a clear mission to avoid plastic use and offset where unavoidable, Think Better Group has developed a tool to measure all material used in scope 1, 2 and 3 across all brands. This data is used as a baseline for reduction targets, and it indicates how much plastic must be offset to achieve plastic neutral status. 

We suggest starting with measuring the impact to know your baseline. Using the baseline results, a business should develop and implement strategies to avoid and reduce the plastic use across the entire value chain. Once the actions to eliminate plastic, move to responsible sources for remaining plastic and increase recycling and reuse have been taken, a business should buy verified plastic credits to offset the remaining emissions. 

What sustainability wins/impact are you most proud of?

Assessing the environmental impact of our businesses has been definitely one of the biggest wins for us this year. Knowing how much plastic has been prevented by choosing our range of products in comparison to conventional products has been also very impactful. The other wins include achieving plastic neutrality, changing to more sustainable raw materials, and entering circular partnerships.

Technology can be a powerful tool. How have Think Better leveraged technology to achieve your mission?

It can be daunting to not only engage with plastic or emissions but to do so in a genuine way. Technology can help particularly in the key area of measuring. If you set the right structure up, you can account easily for all your actions and therefore decide what are the best actions to take.


How Explorate builds sustainable supply chains for its customers


Sustainability is a huge challenge for the logistics industry. Our goal is to make it easier for our customers, and the industry in general, to take positive steps and be more sustainable.

Earlier this year we put our thinking caps on to see how we could help our customers track and offset their shipment emissions at the click of a button.

Sustainability in practice with Explorate's carbon emissions calculator
Sustainability in practice with Explorate's carbon offset tool

Today they can do that (and a lot more!) when they use the Explorate platform. 

They have end-to-end supply chain visibility and real-time data about their shipments and can even pre-plan shipments through our upcoming PO Management tool. 

Now they can also make those shipments more sustainable: track the emissions, know how much it’d cost to offset them and reduce the carbon footprint through carbon offsetting. 


Understanding and quantifying CO2 emissions are the first key steps to a sustainable freight forwarding industry, but we need to do a lot more than just keep track of the carbon footprint.

So, how do we take action?

Follow our blog and don’t miss part 2 of our sustainability in practice series, where we’ll deep dive into the practical tools to build a sustainable supply chain and manage your emissions. 

Get in touch to find out how we can help you focus your actions and resources to achieve your sustainability goals.