One word continually surfaces when challenges arise in the transport field – “Sustainability.”
The term “sustainability” carries diverse meanings, depending on one’s vantage point. A recent global survey conducted by MIT Center for Transportation and Logistics and the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals delves into the multifaceted landscape of sustainability within supply chains. The survey explores how professionals define, implement, and measure sustainability, offering a comprehensive view shaped by nearly 10,000 survey responses.
Gathering data was just the tip of the iceberg. The MIT team invested months in crafting the survey, engaging in cross-cultural conversations to ensure accuracy across translations in English, Spanish, simplified Chinese, and Portuguese. The process involved collaboration with diverse perspectives, uncovering nuances and shedding light on regional disparities in interpreting sustainability.
“One of the fun parts about writing the survey is that we do it in four languages,” says MIT Research Scientist David Correll. “I get to work with people all over the world, and we get into these really cool conversations that are really enlightening.”
Correll describes the three-month data collection period as the “easiest” phase of the project. The real challenges lie in the preceding months of survey preparation and the subsequent analysis period. This intricate process ensures a thorough examination of the supply chain sustainability landscape.
How do we balance sustainability with the complex demands of the global supply chain? Watch the latest episode of the Stay In Your Lane Podcast for insights from thought leaders in this field.
When it comes to the freight transport industry, sustainability takes on different hues. There are a myriad of definitions, from rate and capacity sustainability to on-time delivery and consistency in carrier bases. Each viewpoint brings differing practical implications of these definitions for various stakeholders.
A critical aspect of sustainability is its cost, both in economic and environmental terms. Basic considerations such as facility insulation can be chalked up as wins for sustainability. Yet longer-term bets on factors like diesel fuel prices and the finite nature of hydrocarbon resources have a larger role to play in our industry’s path to a greener future.
Electric trucks are at the forefront of the conversation on sustainable transport. The challenges of power draw, capacity loss, and the holistic environmental impact are paramount in this growing debate. Drawing on the insightful Senate testimony of American Trucking Associations’ Vice Chair Andrew Boyle, Correll acknowledges that the nation’s electrical infrastructure will need to adapt to meet the requirements of a fully electrified fleet.
“[Boyle] explained that the power draw of semi trucks is big,” says Correll. “We have to weigh the cost of that power draw against the benefits we’re looking for, and we’re not ready yet.”
Despite these challenges, Correll emphasizes the importance of embracing solutions incrementally. Acknowledging the interconnected nature of supply chains, he encourages a holistic approach that combines short-term wins with a commitment to finding the most cost-effective, sustainable solutions.
“We don’t have a grid right now that can handle moving everything to electric trucks,” Correll says. “But we have to be careful how far we convince ourselves that no action is worthwhile.”
Navigating the complexities of supply chain sustainability takes a nuanced understanding of the industry’s diverse perspectives. As this conversation evolves, it becomes clear that sustainability is not a one-size-fits-all concept. Instead, it requires a comprehensive, collaborative effort to create lasting change in the freight industry. The journey towards sustainability is ongoing, marked by challenges, tough conversations, and a commitment to finding viable solutions for a greener, more efficient future. Through it all, Triple T Transport remains committed to balancing sustainability with industry-leading 3PL solutions our partners can depend on.