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Sustainable logistics is increasingly becoming an imperative within the broader supply chain. From the push for Scope 3 emissions mitigation to improving warehouse sustainability, businesses are under both regulatory and consumer pressure to build greener supply chains.

According to a report from the McKinsey Institute, the typical consumer company’s supply chain accounts for more than 80% of its greenhouse gas emissions, and over 90% of its impact on air, land, water, biodiversity, and geological resources.

Yet mitigation plans remain lacking. The 2023 State of Supply Chain Sustainability report from the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals (CSCMP) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), only 35% of survey respondents said their organization had a firm net-zero carbon emission goal. Further, the survey found few organizations had initiatives underway to reduce carbon emissions.

Even if carbon emission mitigation measures are not more widespread, the urgency of adopting more sustainable logistics remains across the entire supply chain, warehousing, transportation, and yard operations.

Climate Regulations 

Domestically, carbon emissions from all sources are regulated by the federal Clean Air Act. States have also been enacting new regulations governing secondary emissions from vehicles entering and exiting warehouse facilities, including California and New York. The California Air Resource Board (CARB) also has a cap-and-trade system that sets a limit on carbon emissions and allows for trading in carbon credits.

Regulatory bodies can take legal action against companies that do not comply with emission regulations, including lawsuits and injunctions. In 2015, Volkswagen was hit with billions in penalties and fines — and reputational damage — for the “dieselgate” scandal, in which it was found to have installed software that allowed vehicles to cheat emissions tests.

Toward More Warehouse Sustainability

Warehousing contributes to carbon emissions through energy consumption, transportation, and waste generation. Large warehouses in excess of 100,000 square feet require substantial amounts of electricity for lighting, heating, cooling, and equipment. Waste from packaging materials also adds to their carbon footprint.

Sustainable practices include the development of LEED-certified warehouses on new construction, and installing solar panels for power generation. Energy-efficient HVAC systems and LED lighting can also lower emissions. Waste reduction and recycling programs, including cutting back on packaging use, help promote warehouse sustainability by reducing landfill use and promoting the reuse of materials.

Reducing Carbon Emissions in Trucking

Transportation contributes about 25% of all carbon emissions related to the supply chain, making it a key area of focus for sustainability efforts.

The adoption of alternative fuel vehicles, such as electric, hydrogen, and biofuel trucks, is a growing area of focus. The growing use of route optimization software helps minimize fuel consumption and emissions by creating more efficient delivery routes.

Companies are also collaborating to share transportation resources, increasing efficiency by maximizing vehicle loads and using technology to reduce the number of required truck trips. This not only lowers carbon emissions but also reduces operating costs, making sustainability a win-win for business and the environment.

Improving Sustainability in Yard Operations

Yard operations at warehouses and manufacturing facilities are also major contributors to carbon emissions. Trucks are constantly flowing in and out, bringing in deliveries and sending out shipments, often idling as they await gate clearance or an open loading dock.

For this reason, yard operations are an increasing focus area for corporate sustainability efforts. California’s ISO-WAIRE is the first regulation to make warehouse operators responsible for emissions caused by third-party truck fleets accessing their facilities, known as an indirect source rule. Companies operating warehouses with more than 100,000 square feet of space in four Southern California counties are required to offset emission impacts from medium- and heavy-duty trucks. New York is looking to follow suit with its own proposed Clean Deliveries Act.

Companies are also looking to leverage alternative energy vehicles in yard operations. Providers like Outrider supply EVs designed to replace the 50,000 diesel-powered yard trucks in operation today.

Next-generation yard operations technology leverages the power of artificial intelligence (AI), going beyond the capabilities of legacy yard management systems (YMS). Analytics on vehicle capacity and delivery schedules enhance load planning and shipment sequencing. These systems can also improve visibility into transportation schedules, routes, and available capacity, syncing yard operations with inbound/outbound logistics. Utilizing vehicle identification data from security cameras, they speed up gate clearance, eliminating bottlenecks and reducing idle time.

Logistics Sustainability in the Spotlight

With growing concerns over the effects of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide, supply chains and logistics are a natural target area for mitigation efforts, including a push for greater sustainable warehouse operations. Within that broad scope, warehousing, trucking and yard operations each represent opportunities for reducing carbon emissions. Regulatory enforcement, consumer pressure, and the potential for cost reduction are all drivers of change.

EAIGLE, a pioneer in AI-driven systems for gate, yard, and loading dock operations, is on the innovative edge of logistics technology. An enhancement rather than a replacement of a traditional YMS, EAIGLE uses advanced optical character recognition (OCR) and security camera feeds to automate and optimize yard operations from the gate to the loading dock.

Enhanced visibility into dock availability, inbound flow, and yard traffic means dock assignments can be updated and revised on the fly, based on shipment priorities, product dimensions, and other special requirements. To learn how EAIGLE can drive significant improvement to your operational KPIs, request a demo today.