green shipping initiatives

Green Shipping Initiatives for a More Sustainable Supply Chain

Image by Pixabay via Pexels

Green Shipping Initiatives for a more sustainable supply chain

The shipping sector plays a vital role in a globalized market like we enjoy today. If it weren’t for the nearly 90,000 cargo ships currently traveling the world’s oceans, we wouldn’t have access to many of the products we have become accustomed to. Everything from food and beverages to computer chips were likely on a cargo ship at one point or another. But this convenience comes at a great price for our planet’s environment. The shipping sector is responsible for roughly 4% of all climate change emissions globally. We have come to depend on cargo ships as an important segment of the supply chain, but there is a clear need to revolutionize the way it operates. Here are some different steps your business can take to make the supply chain more sustainable. 


  • Engage Your Customers

In order for effective changes to occur, everyone needs to be involved in making a more sustainable supply chain. Obviously, as a business, you have more control over the sustainability of your products, but it is important to encourage your customers to act more sustainably as well. Showing what steps your company has taken to be kinder to the environment can cause a chain reaction that encourages everyone to live greener. 

In fact, responsible consumers have already begun supporting companies actively playing a role in protecting the environment. These customers will go out of their way to purchase products from businesses that manufacture their goods sustainably. People have been shown to be willing to spend up to 10% more for goods sourced consciously within a transparent supply chain. Marketing your company’s green policies is vital, but remember actions speak louder than words. Some businesses will brag they are acting sustainably with no evidence to back up these claims. This is a practice known as greenwashing, and it can lower the trust customers have in your business. 

  • Streamline Your Shipping Operations

One of the most effective ways to make the supply chain more sustainable is to evaluate your current shipping model and identify areas where it could be made more efficient. There are a few different ways shipping operations are commonly streamlined. The first is to automate certain processes of your warehouse fulfillment. This is done through the use of shipping APIs, or application programming interfaces. In the simplest terms, an API facilitates communication between two disparate databases or software applications in the same way a user interface allows a person to communicate with an operating system. For example, you could connect your warehouse inventory database with your shipping scheduling program to automate the scheduling of packages and deliveries.

A lower-tech way of streamlining your shipping process is to improve the container management of your products when shipping. Nearly one in every three containers is shipped while completely empty, which is an obvious waste of time and resources. This leaves a great deal of room for improvement. Reducing the number of empty containers shipped without reason can make room for containers carrying products and make the shipping process more efficient. This not only makes the shipping model more sustainable, but it will also save your company money that would otherwise be spent on labor and handling costs. 

Sea container image by Tom Fisk via
  • Package Sustainably

The packaging our products are shipped in is one of the leading contributors to physical waste. Most product packaging cannot be efficiently recycled and end up in landfills where it can take years or even decades for the plastics in this packaging to break down. Even when the packaging does finally break down, there is a good chance it will end up in water sources. Water tainted with microplastics and other chemicals poses serious risks to the health of humans and entire ecosystems. Reducing the amount of packaging surrounding your products and adopting environmentally-friendly waste management techniques will reduce the amount of physical waste in the world and save you some money as well. 

  • Source Your Products Consciously

In order for your business to truly transition to a more sustainable model, there need to be changes made at every level of the company. This includes the core of your business: the products it creates. The most effective way to make your products greener is to ensure all of the raw materials that go into them are sustainably sourced. This may come with some additional costs, but as previously mentioned, responsible consumers will pay higher prices for environmentally-friendly products. 

  • Slow Steaming

Slow steaming is the practice of reducing a ship’s speed to between 12 and 19 knots so it burns fuel more efficiently. This could result in overall slower shipping speeds, but can save your company money that would have been spent on fuel. In the case of container ships, slow steaming at 21 knots can reduce fuel usage to nearly 200 tons. Slow steaming is one of the older and more basic forms of reducing the emissions from cargo ships, but it is still prevalent because of how effective it can be.

Incorporating these green shipping initiatives into your business operations can help ensure a more sustainable supply chain.

1 Comment

  • Lieven Godderis

    The best shift could be Hydrogen driven engines, powered by solar panels and only fresh water as ‘waste’. Almost as sustainable as nature !

Post a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *