The role of logistics in contemporary transportation networks is crucial. The cost, effectiveness, and dependability of freight and passenger transport networks have all increased as a result of recent technical and geographical improvements. Additionally, the negative effects of travel on the environment have received widespread attention and are at the heart of the sustainability debate, particularly in metropolitan areas. It has been proposed that logistics is ecologically friendly since its applications typically improve the effectiveness of transportation networks, giving rise to the idea of green logistics.
‘Greenness’ became a buzzword in the transport sector in the late 1980s and early 1990s, just like it did in many other spheres of human activity. It emerged from an increasing awareness of environmental challenges, particularly with widely reported situations such as CFCs, acid rain, and climate change. The 1987 World Commission on Environment and Development Report provided environmental concerns a major boost in the political and economic spheres by establishing environmental sustainability as a goal for world action. The transportation sector, through its modes, facilities, and traffic, significantly contributes to environmental deterioration.
Many people saw the expanding area of logistics as a chance for the transport sector to exhibit a more ecologically responsible face. Looking back on the decade, it is obvious that the logistics sector’s concern for the environment was most visibly expressed in terms of seizing new market possibilities. Reverse logistics is a completely new sub-sector that emerged as a result of environmental concerns. Traditional logistics aims to organize forward distribution, which is the transport, warehousing, packaging and inventory management from the producer to the consumer. Waste and discarded materials must be moved as part of this reverse distribution. Although ‘reverse logistics’ is a commonly used phrase, other terms have also been used, including reverse distribution, reverse-flow logistics, and ‘green logistics’.
A significant new industry has emerged around the integration of logistics into waste management and recycling, including the disposal of poisonous and hazardous products. There are several variations. Customer-driven is a significant market where household garbage is set aside by residents for recycling. This has been quite well-liked in many towns, especially when the general people got engaged in the process. The second category involves the transportation of hazardous items and non-recyclable garbage to specific locations for disposal. Waste has to be carried farther to disposal facilities when nearby landfills grow limited. The incorporation of logistics into trash management and recycling, including reverse distribution, which is a continuous integrated process in which the organization (maker or distributor) assumes responsibility for both the supply of new items and their take-back, is an alternative strategy. This would entail taking into account environmental factors across a product’s whole life cycle like BMW who designs a vehicle whose parts will be entirely recyclable.
Given its commercial and economic imperatives, the logistics industry’s response to the environmental imperatives is not surprising, but by essentially ignoring important issues like pollution, congestion and resource depletion, the logistics industry is still not very green. The logistics sector in general is still far from being regarded as green at the start of the twenty-first century. Its primary concern with the environment has been reverse logistics. Recycling is one of the key components of sustainability, so the matter of concern is that, are the accomplishments of transport logistics environmentally friendly?
Analyzing the fundamental traits of logistical systems reveals a number of contradictions with relation to environmental compatibility. Discussion of four fundamental paradoxes include:
We are still a long way from having green logistics. The industry itself does not place a high focus or concern on the environment. The exception is in cases where reverse distribution has created new business opportunities due to increased social concerns about recycling and garbage disposal. As reverse logistics actually increases traffic where the producers of home garbage and manufacturers are the ones receiving environmental credit.
- A top-down strategy with government regulations imposing “greenness” on the logistics sector.
- A bottom-up strategy where industry-driven environmental gains are made.
- A deal reached by the government and business, most notably via certification. Although they are not antagonistic, they each provide various perspectives and ramifications.
Government interference takes many forms, pricing being just one. Most jurisdictions currently have laws governing the transportation of hazardous goods, limiting packaging waste, mandating the percentage of recycled materials in items, and requiring the mandatory collection and recycling of products. Indeed, the reverse logistics sector was born as a result of such regulations. There are several other sorts of government action that might have an influence on the logistics sector, including restrictions on driver time behind the wheel, driver education, and truck safety.
It seems certain that the government would continue to intervene in favor of stricter environmental regulations. Environmental law is already gaining traction on a global, continental, national, and municipal level. While there is a sizable industry, this regulation is generally well-liked. Despite opposition to more regulation, there is growing scientific and public evidence of environmental issues. Legislators are being pressured to act because of worries about traffic, land grabs and environmental deterioration, even if the full effects are still unknown. Individual logistics companies are simultaneously balancing environmental concerns with financial success. Adopting green practices is getting more and more accepted inside the sector. Although they frequently result in advantages that are more elusive, including improved image and reputation, they do occasionally lower expenses where, environmental management systems like ISO 14000 may present chances for the logistics sector to go green.
The Author is MD IRP/ Faculty Department of H&SS, Bahria University Karachi