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Green logistics is quickly gaining importance throughout logistics and supply chain management. Donors and host nations are becoming more aware of "green" issues. Simultaneously, international "green" legislation is being introduced and applied world-wide to all aspects of business including humanitarian supply chains.

Aim of this topic

This topic aims to introduce logisticians to green logistics and encourage them to think in "green" terms, to highlight the challenges and to indicate some advantages of thinking "green."


Green logistics, in the context of humanitarian logistics encourages all stakeholders to consider the impact of their actions on the environment. The main objective of Green logistics is to coordinate the activities within a supply chain in such a way that beneficiary needs are met at "least cost" to the environment. It is a principle principal component of reverse logistics. In the past “cost” has been defined in purely monetary terms, whereas "cost" can now also be understood as the external costs of logistics associated with: climate change, air pollution, dumping waste (including packaging waste), soil degradation, noise, vibration and accidents.

 Protecting the environment is especially important in humanitarian logistics, because often a degraded environment (due to conflict, natural disasters or over-use) is one of the reasons a beneficiary community is in need of humanitarian assistance.

Diagram 1: Where-as cost

Green or sustainable logistics is concerned with reducing environmental and other negative impacts associated with the movement and distribution of supplies. Green supply chains seek to reduce negative environmental impact by redesigning sourcing/distribution systems and managing reverse logistics to eliminate inefficiencies.

For example, logistics deals with packaging of materials. Packaging  Packaging represents one of the greatest challenges to environmental environmentally friendly logistics while at the same time being vital in shipping and storage.

Correct or incorrect packaging has consequences on the transportation, storage and volume of materials in a given space. This can increase to the unit cost if the packaging hinders optimization of storage space. Many industries have developed forms of packaging that do all that is required of them can perform in transit but do not justify the expense of returning them to the point of origin. This packaging is only used once and then discarded. It is this type of packaging that presents the greatest challenge to logisticians, increasingly, there is There should be a responsibility for the supplier and the buyer to recover and recycle or effectively dispose of packaging.

Logistics and Environmental Best Practice

This topic will provide some basic guidelines to help reduce costs and achieve Best practises exist that allow a more sustainable balance between economic, environmental and social objectives.Environmental issues are often complex and they have the ability to generate intense donor and public interest. For these reasons, this topic should be only seen as an introduction to the subject.

Environmental Management Systems (EMS)

Logistics and transport activities have been identified as having a major impact on the environment in which we all live. Consequently logistics and transport have attracted , significant legislation at both national and international level has started to be produced. Targets for improving environmental performance have been set by the international community via a range of international agreements and meetings, from the Rio Earth Summit in 1992 to the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals at Rio, Kyoto and the Copenhagen summit meetings.The +20 in 2015 and the climate change related meetings of the Kyoto Protocol, in particular the Paris Accord, also adopted in 2015. International agreements of particular relevance to Logisticians include the Basel-Rotterdam-Stockholm conventions on management of wastes, the Montreal Protocol on protecting the ozone layer (covering substances including air conditioning gases) and the Minamata convention on phasing out mercury.

Environmental impacts are best managed using a systematic approach that helps organizations to understand all their impacts and address them in some sort of priority order. The most common tool is an environmental management system (EMS), and the best known approach to EMS is laid out by the International Organization of Standards (ISO) 14000 series of standards provides a formal system for the management of environmental matters. The ISO 14000 family addresses various aspects of environmental management and have been adopted by more than 300,000 organizations world wide. The very first two standards deal with environmental management systems (EMS).

  • ISO 14001:2004 2015 provides the requirements for an EMS.
  • ISO 14004:2004 2015 gives general EMS guidelines.

The other standards and guidelines in the family address specific environmental aspects, including:

  • labelling.;
  • performance evaluation.;
  • life cycle analysis.;
  • communication and auditing.

This standard provides These standards provide a framework for managing environmental issues rather than establishing performance requirements. It is seen as a The process that starts with a senior management commitment and the creation of an environmental policy and leads on to:

  • documenting environmental impacts, prioritising them and setting goals for improvement;
  • planning how legal obligations stakeholder obligations (including legal requirements) and targets will be met;
  • implementation (including operational controls) and operation of the plan;
  • training and communicating with staff; and
  • control of relevant documentation.