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Eliminate waste so that only value remains. That’s the timeless guiding principle of continuous improvement cultures that serves as the foundation for long-term growth and sustainability. The supply chain industry, where I have proudly spent my career, has exemplified this principle for decades. As companies have adopted real-time transportation visibility software to optimize their logistics operations, many have started to leverage this software to accomplish goals beyond managing critical freight. One of the most compelling use cases I’ve seen emerge is the ability to use visibility platforms to improve sustainability in an organization’s end-to-end supply chain.

Yesterday, I was joined by Rob Haddock, Group Director Planning & Logistics at Coca-Cola North America; Dustin Braun, Senior Director of Logistics at Land O’Lakes, Inc.; and Bart De Muynck, VP Analyst – Supply Chain at Gartner, to discuss how companies can leverage technology to drive sustainability across their supply chains. I can’t think of a better representative group to have gathered together for this occasion. Rob and Dustin have been collaborating with each other to share capacity and reduce empty miles in their supply chains. Together with Bart, who knows the ins and outs of the logistics industry in a way that few others do, they discussed how companies can adopt technology to successfully collaborate and achieve their sustainability goals. Read on for three main takeaways from our discussion.

Sustainability must be analyzed at the network level

Today’s supply chain networks are vast and complex; even small changes in operations can have much larger, unintentional consequences downstream. We’ve seen this play out in real time over the last few weeks with the COVID-19 health crisis, as newly imposed border controls (as illustrated in our new real-time border control map) designed to promote safety have made it difficult for some retailers to keep their shelves fully stocked.

This butterfly effect similarly applies to supply chain sustainability initiatives. When one company makes a change in its logistics to reduce empty miles or greenhouse gas emissions, it may, in fact, unintentionally result in additional emissions elsewhere in the supply chain. So while internal optimization is a crucial component of the sustainability puzzle, we must move toward network optimization to build truly sustainable end-to-end supply chains.

As Bart explained during the webinar, real-time transportation visibility software plays an important role in helping companies analyze their supply chain operations at a much larger scale – and beyond their own four walls. As more and more companies adopt real-time transportation visibility software and can see the implications of their operations across their network, it becomes easier to collectively optimize for sustainability. 

Break down internal and external silos

As a former athlete, I frequently reflect on how much the success of any supply chain initiative depends on teamwork. You’ll never be successful if you aren’t working in sync with your teammates, both within your own organization and with external supply chain partners. 

Historically, transportation and logistics have been siloed functions within a company. But with newly available technology and data, these functions are increasingly being viewed as strategic and valuable partners for corporate sustainability initiatives. Dustin put it best: There’s a logical tie-in between transportation and sustainability. He advises companies to tap into the existing talent on their teams to drive new sustainability projects forward, as many supply chain professionals are knowledgeable and passionate about the cause, and are eager to help their companies make progress toward their sustainability goals.

Rob and Dustin also discussed some of the challenges they’ve experienced in trying to break down silos across companies to better collaborate. Previous collaborative pilots had often fizzled out because they depended on cumbersome, manual processes. Using FourKites’ Lane Connect as a common technology platform was crucial in their backhaul collaboration initiative. Lane Connect also ensured that they were working off the same set of robust data from which they could make well-informed decisions. And while technology has been critical to the success of their pilot, Rob also mentioned how helpful it was to invest time upfront in analyzing their mutual data and determining next steps. 

Not sure where to start finding external partners with whom to collaborate? Look to industry associations for support. Coca-Cola and Land O’Lakes both belong to the Trading Partner Alliance and Consumer Brands Association, and have leveraged those associations in finding other companies eager to tackle supply chain sustainability initiatives.

Now is the time to act

Consumers are increasingly concerned about sustainability, and government regulations will only continue to tighten. So it’s important to be proactive in addressing sustainability in your supply chain to stay competitive. As Bart put it, as more companies adopt real-time transportation visibility platforms, “the bigger the network will become, there will be more opportunities to collaborate, and more data will be available to reveal critical insights.”

It’s difficult to consider the chaos of the current COVID-19 pandemic and not be distracted from our overarching sustainability goals. But as Rob put it, “Now is the time to not let [those sustainability initiatives] slide to the back burner. Rather, we should continue on the path of understanding what we can do from a sustainability perspective, and utilize the technologies that can help us get there.” 

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Thank you to all of you who joined us yesterday for Day 2 of FourKites’ Virtual Summit! We’ve still got one more session to go! Don’t miss today’s final discussion on Reverse Logistics.

And if you’re interested in learning more about how you can use real-time visibility to maximize sustainability in your supply chain, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me at [email protected].

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