Case study: Clean, green shipping

Case study: Clean, green shipping
Shipping things around the world has its clean, green challenges: thankfully someone’s got a solution

The challenge for FOB to go green first came from a paper importing client and managing director Dave Robertson was initially skeptical of any benefits for the company

Is there something weird about green logistics? Especially when the priority for shipping is speed and reliability, and the cost is noise and pollution.

Enter Freight On Board (FOB), the only certified carboNZero shipping and logistics company. The challenge for FOB to go green first came from a paper importing client. Initially managing director Dave Robertson was sceptical of any benefit that might accrue, other than keeping an existing client. He now sees it helps with the ‘sell’ and is a definite point of differentiation from other freight and customs agents.

“Our main objective in this exercise is business growth; nevertheless we’re starting to understand that outcomes such as sustainability, corporate social responsibility and meeting public demand for green solutions are positive byproducts. Moreover, as a business looking after the needs of a whole host of other clients, we are starting to understand that carbon-neutral ‘conformity’ brings a whole new dimension of service offering to the container.”

In the process of making the green move FOB has become the first New Zealand-owned logistics company to fly the carbon-neutral flag.

“It’s not just corporations that are seeking this stamp yet the reality is that to achieve this status requires more than just lip service. Some very hard yards and rejigging of practices had to occur in order for us to achieve bona fide carbon-neutral status.”

“If it seems relevant, I use our status in presentations and also in cold calls to companies that I see starting to tout the carbon-neutral line. Getting new business on board is paramount and this initiative has raised our profile and helped us move up the company selection ‘dance card’ with a number of organisations.”

The compliance process has been time consuming and has added an extra $3,500 per year cost to the operation.

“We have established 2008 as our base year. Our sources of emissions are the fundamental business requirements of electricity and vehicles plus the unavoidable (in this industry) air travel emissions. Our total GHG emissions for 2008 were 9.2 tonnes of CO2e. In order to reduce these emissions we immediately introduced area-targeted call-cycles for our sales team. We also instigated energy-savings initiatives such as controlling temperatures by way of thermostats and ensuring, when appropriate, that all computers were turned off. For the year ended 31 December 2008, we have measured our emissions, put in place reduction initiatives and cancelled ten carbon credits to become carbon neutral.”

Where possible, FOB now also uses suppliers who have achieved carbon-neutral status, reinforcing its commitment to making its CarboNZero involvement all the more dynamic.

Robertson says the ‘warm fuzzies’ of contributing to planet-saving initiatives are pleasant yet he is continuing to look at the process from a business bottom line. Small companies making small contributions is progress but he says realistically much bigger entities need to come aboard in order to create meaningful impetus.

He looks offshore to Europe where being carbon-neutral is becoming a deciding factor among consumers in selecting goods and services, and believes this is also starting to happen here.

“When the bigger world economies start on the path, then some real differences to the environmental well being of our world will happen. As a company that looks to the future we see the importance of being aware of our emissions and reducing them wherever possible. If our efforts help the generations ahead, then we’re very proud to say we’re carbon neutral.”

The balancing act: 

Logistics is the integrated management of any number of activities required to move products through the supply chain. In a typical product scenario this extends from a raw material source through the production and distribution system to the point of consumption and the associated reverse logistics. Under the category of logistical activities comes freight transport, storage, inventory management, materials handling and all the related information processing. It can, by definition, be an incredibly paper-heavy process—one look at the enormous Harmonised Customs Tariff Guide that dictates global trade shows this is the case. The balancing act in sustaining green logistics comes from managing:

  • Economic variables: growth, efficiency, employment, competitiveness, choice.
  • Societal variables: safety, health, access, equity.
  • Environmental variables: climate change, air quality, noise, land use, biodiversity, waste.

Dave Robertson, managing director, FOB The company’s carboNZero disclosure statement can be viewed here

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