The process of getting products and packaging to supermarket shelves is largely out of sight and out of mind for many people. However, within supply chains there is both significant use of plastic and waste. Manufacturers, retailers and the logistics and supply chain industries are uniquely positioned in that they can provide innovative solutions, including reusable systems, to reduce the waste and environmental impacts associated with moving products around the world.
A company that has demonstrated exemplary practices and innovations to improve the sustainability of supply chains is CHEP New Zealand, an arm of a multinational supply chain logistics company, which is itself a subsidiary of Brambles. The practices that could be modelled from CHEP’s approach to rethinking standard supply chains include:
- Designing solutions based on circular economy principles: Using systems thinking to go beyond the individual components of a supply chain and instead consider how standardised pooled assets can flow through a network, reducing waste and increasing efficiency.
- Enabling sharing and reuse over single-use: The reusable system of plastic pallets, crates and containers reduces single-use tertiary packaging by continuously sharing and reusing assets amongst an extensive and collaborative network.
- Using data and insights to improve efficiencies: Combining physical platforms with cutting-edge digital and internet of things (IoT) technologies enables innovative data-driven solutions. For example, tracking temperature and other metrics through the supply chain to understand where improvements could reduce food waste and the need for packaging.
- Aiming for zero-waste solutions: After multiple rounds of reuse, plastic pallets can be recycled at end-of-life so that the resources stay in circulation. This supports the company’s zero waste to landfill commitment. In 2018, 94% of CHEP NZ’s timber pallets and 100% of their plastic crate and container service centres diverted end-of-life product from landfills.
- Making better decisions about environmental outcomes: CHEP design their overall system and each customer solution based on quantified environmental impacts from third-party verified LCA studies that measure carbon emissions, waste and raw material use.
- Communicating environmental benefits: CHEP provides customers with a certificate of recognition that quantifies their saved carbon emissions and waste based on the LCA and can be used by customers for their own environmental reporting. This highlights their contribution to progressing the UNSDGs (see Appendix 1).
- Eradicating empty transport miles: Using its network scale and visibility to facilitate collaborative transport solutions, CHEP brings manufacturers and retailers together to reduce the environmental impact of their operations and save money.
Rethinking and innovating supply chain logistics is a way for a company to reduce waste and environmental impact, without altering their actual product offering. CHEP’s innovative model for supply chain logistics helps deliver environmental efficiencies, not otherwise available through one-way, single use alternatives, at scale. The size and reach of the network further enhances the environmental benefits associated with reuse.