Published: 14 July 2015 By Sophie Punte, Executive Director at Smart Freight Centre

In 1998 I joined KPMG to work on corporate social responsibility (CSR). At that time companies were mostly exploring how they could improve their environmental performance in-house. Fast-forward to 2015 and we find ourselves confronted with the threat of climate change and the realization that the only way we can achieve 30-50% emissions reductions is if companies collaborate with each other, across sectors, countries, and their logistics supply chains.

Luckily, more corporate leaders are seeing it this way too. Take, Gretta Schoonderbeek, Manager Customer Logistics & Distribution Benelux with SCA Hygiene Products (tissues, diapers, kitchen towels…) and an Ambassador of the Lean and Green program for logistics in The Netherlands. What is unique is her conviction that financial gain is not a good starting point for collaboration between businesses on sustainability issues. “As soon as you talk in a program about money then this hampers collaboration,” she told me. “Instead, you need a common vision first, and then make sure that everyone wins.”

She gave an example of a collaboration between Dutch retailer giant Jumbo, five product suppliers (SCA Hygiene, Heinz, FrieslandCampina, Hero Benelux and Refresco) and logistics service provider Nabuurs. They decided to focus on CO2 reductions and a more responsive supply chain as a common goal. They understood that Jumbo faces the everyday challenge of getting their products to shops and consumers across the Netherlands using hundreds of carriers. Imagine products from different brands being transported separately to Jumbo's distribution center in Woerden, only for trucks to then return empty. The five product suppliers and Nabuurs worked out a way to “bundle" orders for Jumbo in shared trucks and make arrangements for freight backhauls. The result: 40% less supplies stacked at the distribution center, 40% less deliveries, 30% higher truck load factors, 35% less transport kilometers and 35% lower carbon footprint.

Of course this resulted in cost savings, and while these were not the same for each partner, everyone benefitted in some way. “For SCA no significant savings but we contributed to a greener and more responsive supply chain,” Gretta continued, “this fits with SCA’s ambition to minimize the impact on the environment and with our Supply Chain goal to be preferred partner striving for excellence in logistics.”

This example shows perfectly that only by working together we can decarbonize the logistics sector. Or as the saying goes: alone you go far, together you go further. How true for business too.