Supply Chains & Sustainability: Virtual Strategies for Reducing Our Environmental Impact


In the 21st century, our lives are lived against a constantly bustling backdrop of global supply chains, busily involved in harvesting, storing, and shipping vital elements of our ultra-modern existences this way and that across the globe.

Unfortunately, while this perpetually moving engine room of the world’s economy brings us many benefits – most notably, being able to source products from pretty much anywhere on the planet – it also brings significant downsides.

The most worrying side effect of our global supply chain is its environmental impact. Over the past few decades, climate change has gone from being a shadowy spectre of dread in the background, to a frightening reality, with its effects being felt around the world. As a result, it’s more important than ever for our supply chains to employ more environmentally friendly methods in a bid to reduce the negative effects our activities are having on the Earth.

One avenue which can offer a range of eco-friendly solutions is the world of technology, which is constantly evolving to meet modern challenges. Here are some of the virtual strategies that could prove vital in lessening the environmental effects of our global economy.

Going Paperless

The global spread of Covid-19 brought home to many logistics companies the importance of going paperless in order to operate as effectively as possible on a remote basis. A mind-boggling array of important documents are required in order to ship items around the world, including invoices, purchase orders, bills of lading, and many others.

By making all of these documents virtual, and therefore instantly accessible, logistics companies can help to minimise delays and mistakes, instantly share vital documents across borders, and ensure a higher standard of service. Going paperless also makes it easier to store vital documents, particularly PDFs, which you can reduce by up to 99% with the help of a PDF compressor such as the helpful tool provided by Smallpdf.

Going paperless – or, at the very least, significantly reducing the amount of paper a business uses – is also, unsurprisingly, a much more environmentally friendly option. Not only does acquiring paper mean cutting down trees, but the actual creation of paper is, in itself, a contributor toward climate change, as the process produces carbon dioxide and both nitrogen and sulphur oxides. By reducing the amount of paper used by global logistics companies, we can also reduce our emissions and the number of trees being cut down to be converted into paper.

Wider Use Of Virtual Twins

Digital or virtual twinning is a technological innovation that is already being employed in the worlds of manufacturing and architecture, but can also prove helpful when it comes to logistics.

Using a virtual twin of their real-world supply chain, companies can oversee every ‘link’ of the chain – ranging from the initial procurement phase, all the way through to the distribution of the items. This virtual supply chain can allow them to pinpoint any weak points along the way, and test different procedures and plan for potential mishaps to help devise the most efficient way of doing things.

These virtual twins can also shed light on the current environmental effects of a company’s processes, giving them valuable insights which they can use to come up with more eco-friendly strategies.

Planning Software That Boosts Efficiency

Specifically designed planning software can go a long way toward helping logistics companies streamline their services, meet key targets (KPIs), and c0me up with strategic plans to cope with all potential scenarios.

This planning software can help by providing crucial data in a continuous feedback loop that provides an accurate and transparent overview of every stage in the supply chain. This can range from the sales side of a logistics business, through to the procurement and shipping of products from one part of the world to another.

By using software that can provide essential insight into every area of their business, logistics companies can work to create a more streamlined and effective service. This, in turn, can help them to more effectively reduce their carbon footprint and come up with more planet-friendly ways to conduct their business.

Tap Into The Positive Power Of AI And Machine Learning

One of the reasons for the severe negative impact of the supply chain on our planet is that, often, companies don’t know how much demand there is for a particular product, so they provide too little or too much. This results in products having to be discarded as waste, or reworked, which contributes to environmental harm.

To help ensure that the supply of products more accurately meets the demand, logistics companies can use cutting-edge innovations such as machine learning and artificial intelligence. There are a number of significant benefits to using these technologies to boost supply chains.

For instance, with the help of artificial intelligence, it becomes easier to predict how much product will be required. This helps to ensure that the supply accurately meets the demand, and that the distribution process is more efficient – and, therefore, more eco-friendly.

AI and machine learning can also be used to help evaluate every stage of the supply and distribution process and come up with a range of improvements. Even if each improvement is relatively minor, taken as a whole, they can end up having a significant positive effect over time by helping to reduce waste and hasten distribution.

AI can even be used to help logistics companies find the most effective routes – whether by air, land, or water – that will help to lessen their environmental impact.

Maximise Container Usage With Predictive Analytics

If some containers on a cargo ship or plane are left empty, due to inefficient planning, this represents a significant waste and means that the carbon emissions produced by that journey were, to some extent, unnecessary.

By optimising the use of shipping containers by ensuring they are all full – using predictive analytics – logistics companies can ship products from multiplier suppliers to their intended destination without any wasted space onboard their plane or ship. In turn, this helps to reduce the carbon footprint of the company by reducing unnecessary journeys.

Summing Up

These are just a few of the ways in which technological solutions can help us create more eco-friendly and efficient supply chains around the world.

As consumers across the globe demand more ‘green’ ways of doing business, it is to be hoped that growing numbers of logistics companies will take advantage of technology to streamline their processes – benefitting themselves, their customers, and (most importantly) the environment along the way.