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by John McCaw
John McCaw

5 min read

From Vision To Action: How To Avoid Supply Chain Greenwashing And Make Real Progress On Sustainability

March 23, 2023

John McCaw
by John McCaw


We’ve all seen news stories exposing companies for making false claims for the purpose of appearing more eco-friendly than they really are. The phenomenon is known as greenwashing — but it’s not always deliberate. In fact, most organizations care about pursuing sustainability goals, but their efforts aren’t as comprehensive or impactful as they could be.

Why? It’s often because well-intentioned companies lack the necessary framework to set achievable goals and measure sustainability progress. Additionally, incomplete, disorganized, or even misinterpreted supply chain data can unintentionally lead to supply chain greenwashing. Without comprehensive data and a way to measure sustainability progress, it’s easy for organizations to overstate the environmental benefits of their supply chain practices — or understate environmental impacts in terms of CO2 emissions.

These challenges have a significant impact on transportation in particular, which is one of the supply chain’s most critical functions. Scope 3 greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions make up the vast majority of emissions for many companies, and transportation accounts for roughly 10% of scope 3 emissions. This highlights the impact sustainable transportation practices can have on reducing an organization’s overall emissions. But to make sustainable operations a reality, transportation teams require a framework that enables them to set goals and measure scope 3 emissions.

The good news is that many shippers have adopted sustainability as the fourth pillar of their transportation strategies (alongside cost, capacity, and service). Now, shippers committed to sustainability must prioritize transparency and data-driven initiatives to ensure their efforts align with overarching goals. Specifically, C-suite leaders need to take the lead by empowering sustainability and transportation teams to implement day-to-day actions that catalyze real sustainability progress.

3 ways C-suite leaders can support sustainability initiatives

Transportation-related emissions make up a significant portion of GHG emissions within a supply chain. So if you’re serious about reducing your organization’s carbon footprint, weaving sustainable practices into your transportation strategy can go a long way. Measurable sustainability progress can also help you avoid unintentional greenwashing and its consequences, which can include a loss of customer trust and legal ramifications.

Although taking the first steps toward more sustainable operations seems daunting, guidance from the right transportation management partner can help you transition from good intentions to real progress. As you get started, here are three ways you can help your sustainability and transportation teams move the needle on sustainability goals:

1. Facilitate collaborative goal-setting.

Cross-team collaboration among C-suite decision-makers, sustainability professionals, and transportation teams is essential for setting relevant and attainable goals. While these groups have become more aligned on which types of goals must be set, many C-suite leaders continue to set goals that extend well beyond their sustainability and transportation teams’ resources. In fact, resource availability was the top barrier to sustainability progress according to a 2022 survey by Breakthrough.

For example, transportation teams have the resources to measure cost, capacity, and service. But they lack systems for creating alignment between operating goals and sustainability initiatives. You can avoid this hurdle by establishing a channel for cross-team communication, facilitating collaborative dialogue, and developing shared goals that each team has the resources to act on.

2. Encourage stackable wins.

No single, big initiative can achieve your sustainability goals — it’s all about incremental improvements. Encourage your teams to pinpoint actions they can take today, like selecting carriers with a lower carbon intensity score, leveraging intermodal and rail, or even improving fill rates. These seemingly minor actions add up over time, and prioritizing stackable wins can help build momentum and enable cross-functional engagement.

Additionally, it’s important to not only take these actions, but to learn from them. For example, instead of waiting for the development of an alternative energy infrastructure, you can use biodiesel and renewable natural gas for certain vehicles right now. You can also collaborate with trusted partners to pilot alternative energy vehicles. Through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, more funding is available to support these initiatives. Implementing these changes today enables you to learn from the experience and build a strategy with multiple energy types. The result is that you’ll be prepared to act when alternative energies become more readily available.

3. Invest in systems to measure progress.

You can’t measure progress without an emissions baseline. The right strategic transportation management partner can help you establish this baseline, which is a critical step in the achievement of business-aligned sustainability objectives.

Look for a partner that provides access to comprehensive data and relevant insights that help you identify areas for improvement. With access to granular information about your absolute emissions and emissions intensity — two key sustainability metrics — you can track your progress and make accurate, data-driven claims about your sustainability impact.

Take your first steps toward a more sustainable future with CleanMile

The road to sustainable transportation operations within your supply chain may seem daunting. But with the right transportation management partner, you can make real progress toward emissions reduction. And there’s no better time to start than now.

Stay the course by continuing to collaborate with transportation and sustainability teams, prioritizing stackable wins, and leveraging data-driven metrics to measure your emissions progress. The payoff is that you’ll develop organizational agility so you’re better prepared to navigate future challenges and emerging technologies — while making measurable and verifiable sustainability progress along the way.

Schedule a demo of CleanMile today to enable ongoing emissions tracking and identify actionable recommendations for your organization.

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