Sustainability in logistics - Optimistically missing the target?

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This INFORM survey reveals the slow implementation of sustainability strategies in companies.

Is the current crisis an opportunity for a more sustainable economy? Seen from an economic point of view, definitely! Although the discussion about more sustainability is not new, many companies still lack concrete implementation. The potential and also the willingness to operate more sustainably is there. Nevertheless, companies are still at the beginning. In a survey, INFORM and the German trade magazine LOGISTIK HEUTE asked 72 specialists and managers what sustainability in logistics actually means to them and how it is currently implemented in the company.

The ongoing crisis, as well as the Fridays for Future movements, have revived debates about sustainability and climate change. International supply chains, and thus the logistics industry as well, are making a significant contribution to global warming. For many companies, however, profitability cannot be neglected, especially in the current economic situation. The question arises to what extent sustainability and profitability can work together at all.

Overall, the survey left an optimistic mood: Around 81 percent of those surveyed said that sustainability in logistics was highly or very highly relevant. 78 percent also consider sustainability and profitable growth to have good or very good compatibility. But what exactly is sustainability? When asked, the term was clearly assigned to the areas of ecology and nature conservation (75%). A small group of 11 percent tended towards process optimization, and the rest formulated approaches such as "corporate growth" or "organizational development".

Practical implementation still expandable

Finally, if one looks at the practical implementation and relevance of various sustainability approaches in the company, optimism and zest for action are missing in the most cases. Only 18 percent of the participants stated that sustainable logistics in their company is considered very relevant, only 31 percent said it is highly relevant. Just under a third (35%) could only define an average importance, for 14 percent the topic has only a low relevance, and for 2 percent even no relevance at all. But this is not to remain so in the future. About half of the respondents report that the topic of sustainability is currently being addressed at least proactively in their companies - in 46 percent of cases driven by internal project groups, in 31 percent of the surveys with the help of logistics IT systems. In the foreground of sustainable logistics is transport optimization (55%), followed by waste reduction and recycling (42%) and inventory optimization (40%). At this point, the use of logistics IT can bring efficient advantages: better utilization of existing capacities, a reduction in transports or increased transparency of processes.

The diagram reveals the restrained degree of implementation and reveals that the majority of companies are still in the conception phase. Whether and to what extent designed concepts will be implemented in the future remains uncertain.

In addition, the survey revealed that only 37 percent of those questioned are convinced of the success of their company's sustainability strategy. 22 percent even consider it unsuccessful. But what is the reason for this initial situation? Probably the biggest hurdle, with 56 percent of the answers, is the costs that could arise from implementing the sustainability concept. Other causes named were a lack of seriousness about sustainability, a lack of incentives and fear of increasing costs. "Encouraging, however, is the fact that there are many possible measures available that, for example, promise to increase profitability through waste avoidance, energy efficiency or the optimization of transports and processes," says INFORM sustainability expert Dorothea Ernst.


About the survey

The participants in this survey are specialists and managers from Germany. They work in a wide variety of industries: 26 percent work in the logistics services sector. 17 percent each come from the automotive industry and retail. They are followed by industry representatives from the chemical and pharmaceutical sectors (9 percent), consumer goods, food, mechanical and plant engineering (all three with 6 percent each), textiles and electrical engineering (2 percent each). The remaining 9 percent stated "other industries". The surveyed companies employ up to 100 employees (32 percent), 100-500 employees (25 percent), 500-1,000 employees (11 percent), 1,000-10,000 employees (10 percent) or more than 10,000 employees (22 percent).


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