Versions Compared


  • This line was added.
  • This line was removed.
  • Formatting was changed.


Green logistics applies a three-dimensional life cycle approach, as opposed to the traditional one-dimensional, economics only focused approach. Following the three-dimensional approach does not necessarily means that the level of effort and times will increase by three. However, as the organisation reduces its impact on the environment and support positive social behaviours, there may be a return on overall “value for money.” 


Types of effects   


  • Economic regeneration
  • Sustainable economic development
  • Development of Environmental Management Systems
  • Total cost of ownership and life cycle costing
  • Value for money
  • Poverty reduction


  • Environmental resource management
  • Urban planning
  • CO2 reduction
  • Alternative energies: e.g.: solar, wind
  • Water management
  • Sustainable agriculture
  • Marine resources management
  • Protection of ecosystems
  • Pollution and waste management


  • Human rights
  • Clean drinking water
  • Food security
  • Fair pay and labour law protections
  • Anti-child labour and forced labour laws
  • Fair trade
  • Health and safety
  • Gender equality including universal education
  • Child mortality and maternal health
  • Healthy lives and well-being for all

World Bank - Sustainable Procurement (2019)


Best practises exist that allow a more sustainable balance between economic, environmental, and social objectives. These might include:

Area of Activity

Actual Situation

Steps to Improve



Fleet causing high amounts of pollution, air quality reduced.

Measure the movements, costs and maintenance of transport to gather data about their use. Invest accordingly in proper maintenance depending of the needs and the selected strategy. This might include: redrawing shorter routes, investing in green vehicles, etc.

Lowered emission transport units, well maintained and following repair plans that reduce environmental and economic cost by increasing the efficacy.


Distribution channels not well organised or with big inefficiencies.

Plan supply chain and procurement taking into account the cost to manage the waste produced.

Effectively connect places of production with the distribution points, including using proximity to storage/distribution points as a selection criteria.

Assess the production line or third level distribution channels of your suppliers for waste or misuse.

Faster deliveries, increased flexibility for late requests, and time savings on managing waste.


Price based selection that potentially hides unethical or not environmentally friendly activities.

Create and apply selection criteria that matches the ethical and environmental policies of the organisation.

Research initiatives that other organisations are putting in place and adapt them to your situation.

Reputation increase.


Product loss by degradation caused by poor storage condition, or damages during in-storage movements.

Make improvements in the infrastructure to facilitate cargo movement. Use solar light and natural ventilation.

If the infrastructure is going to last more than two years, invest in solar or wind power sources and manage your power consumption. (Power Supply section).

Save money and time.


Excessive use of non-biodegradable materials.

Choosing the appropriate mode of transport with enough time, to be able to understand how the cargo is packed and labelled. Try to find a good compromise between safety and handling; Reduce packaging or/and use reusable or biodegradable materials. Example - corrugated cardboard and other forms of paper-based packaging.

Resources saved.

Protecting the environment is especially important in humanitarian sector; environmental degradation - due to conflict, natural disasters or over-use - can directly impact the coping mechanisms used by affected population.


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


  • Volume of fuel used to keep an operations running over a defined period of time, including:
    • Operating vehicles.
    • Running generators.
    • (If possible) fuel used by third party transport providers.
  • Proper maintenance and repair of equipment, including:
    • Monitoring the changing/degrading performance of generators and vehicles.
    • Monitoring consumption of dependant/support equipment (tyres, filters, etc).
    • Proper disposal of waste oils and lubricants.
  • Proper transport utilisation, including:
    • Avoiding sending vessels empty or partially loaded.
    • Sharing transport resources with other agencies.
    • Understanding international transport needs, especially items transported by air.
  • Setting targets for reducing waste reduction, including:
    • Minimising spoilage and expiration of stored items.
    • Reducing packaging requirements for relief items.
    • Environmentally friendly disposal of expired commodities.
    • Ensuring a proper disposition plan for all items.

Minimising Negative Environmental Impacts


For more information on the proper methods of maintaining a generator, on selecting and installing a solar electric system, and on using battery back-up systems, please reference the electrical power generation section of this guide.


A proper maintained fleet has the advantage of being both environmentally friendly, but also cost efficient. For more information on vehicle selection, vehicle and fleet monitoring, and proper maintenance, please reference the vehicle and fleet management section of this guide.


For more information on proper stock keeping methods, please reference the warehousing and physical stock management section of this guide. Managing fuel and handling hazardous materials can also be found.

Green Procurement


Example of selection criteria might include:




Previous/current experience Accreditation by independent certification organisation.

Accreditation by independent certification organisation to a standard.

Impact of materials used and processes of production.

Productivity/service capacity.

Evidence that workers know their rights and responsibilities at work.

Impact of packaging.

Design robustness/innovation.

Presence of independent trade unions or effective management/worker committees which address workers’ priorities, including pay, hours and conditions.

Impact of transport (air freight from

Europe may be greater than sea freight from Asia/Africa).

Whole-life costing of product

Sub-supplier practices and conditions.

Impact of product life cycle.

Switching cost of current supplier.

Participation in multi-stakeholder initiatives that educate and change practices to address ingrained problems.

CIPS, Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply Chain, (2013). Ethical and sustainable procurement.


sustainable procurement



Ongoing procurement has had such an impact on green logistics that ISO has develop a specific Standard able to guide every procurement decision.

Formed in ion the bases of ISO 26000 for Social Responsibility, Sustainable sustainable procurement relies on:

  • Assess the organisation organisational “buying culture” ; - Understand how and from who the organisation buys/sells to, the control over sub-suppliers as well as sub-supplier capacities to accommodate green demands, and if green requirements are realistic and expressed clearly.
  • Know the organisation supply chain ; - Evaluate the cost of the supply chain, and the proportion of the revenue that goes towards paying suppliers. Assess the suppliers societal and environmental impact.
  • Think strategically; Consider the risks and opportunities of working more closely with the main suppliers across the whole life cycle of products and services.
  • Get buy-in from top management ; - Ensure key decision makers are on board and aware of the benefits, opportunities, and possible consequences of implementing sustainable procurement into the organisation.


This document is inspired by the collaborative works of the Universities of Cardiff, Heriot Watt, Lancaster, Southampton, Leeds and Westminster. These universities are undertaking research into the sustainability of logistics systems and supply chains –


Forest Certification Resource Center: for businesses and consumers seeking accurate, objective information about forest certification.

Legambiente: (League for the Environment) is the most widespread environmental organization in Italy.

Sustainable Event Management: A Practical Guide: a practical, step-by-step guide leading readers through the key aspects of how to understand and manage the impacts of events of any type and scale.

Earthscan: The world’s leading publisher on climate change, sustainable development and environmental technology.

Fleet Forum: the first independent knowledge centre, focused on issues surrounding humanitarian fleets within the aid and development community.


Reverse Logistics

Reverse logistics has been traditionally defined as the process of moving a product from its point of consumption to the point of origin to recapture value or ensure proper disposal. It is one of the fastest developing fields of commercial logistics, resulting continuously changing scope and significance. Reverse logistics includes activities that:

  • Avoid return of assets or items.
  • Reduces materials in the forward system so that fewer items flow back.
  • Ensures the possible reuse and recycling of materials and packaging.

It is important to ensure that aid projects are handled in a responsible manner and that they do not end up causing long term damage to the very people and socieites that they are intended to assist.

Reverse logistics is the management of all the activities involved in the flow of goods, demand information and money in the opposite direction of the primary logistics flow, including reduction in the generation of waste, and management of the collection, transport, disposal, and recycling of hazardous, as well as non-hazardous waste, in a way that maximizes the long-term profitability of the business.

Reverse logistics covers a broad range of items and activities and can include:

  • Movement of capital items and equipment to the next emergency response.
  • Removal of containers and packaging from an area of intervention.
  • Destruction of spoiled food commodities and out of date pharmaceuticals.
  • Return of rejected goods to suppliers.
  • Movement of excess or over-supplied goods to other programmes or organisations.

Reverse logistics occurs in the humanitarian sector when:

  • Downscaling of activities:
    • Goods have to be moved to different programmes or disposed.
    • Evacuation due to insecurity - may result in the suspension of activities when goods have already been purchased and have to be returned to the supplier or used in other programmes.
  • Closing programmes or ending of emergencies prompts the handover of items
  • Products are recalled by their manufacturer
  • Rejected goods are returned to the vendor due to:
    • Incorrect orders.
    • Incorrect deliveries.
    • Deliveries being delayed and goods no longer useful to the programme.
    • Damaged goods.
    • Goods on warranty or going for repair.
  • Back-trucking of packaging materials for re-use or disposal.

In all instances listed above, there are cost implications that should be taken into consideration during the budgeting and planning period.

Sites and Resources