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


This topic aims to introduce logisticians to green logistics and encourage them to think in ‘green’ "green" terms, to highlight the challenges and to indicate some advantages of thinking ‘green’ in organisations. It is not intended to answer all the questions or solve all the problems that surround green logistics in the humanitarian space, but to set precedence."green."

What is Green Logistics ?

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 component of reverse logistics. In the past “cost” has been defined in purely monetary terms, where-as 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, as illustrated below:.


Diagram 1: Where-as cost

Green or sustainable logistics is concerned with reducing environmental and other negative impacts associated with the movement of supplies. Sustainability seeks to ensure that decisions made today do not have an adverse impact on future generations. Green supply chains seek to reduce negative impact environmental impact by redesigning sourcing, /distribution systems and managing reverse logistics so as to eliminate any inefficiency, unnecessary freight movements and dumping of packaginginefficiencies.

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

Correct or incorrect packaging has consequences for how much of a product can be stored, how it is stored and or transported 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 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. This principle goes all the way down to the level of individual tins or cartons of food.

It is this type of packaging that presents the greatest challenge to logisticians as, increasingly, there is a responsibility for the supplier and the buyer to recover and recycle or effectively dispose of packaging.


This topic will provide some basic guidelines to help reduce costs arising from negative economic impact on the environmental and achieve a more sustainable balance between economic, environmental and social objectives.


Logistics and transport activities have been identified as having a major impact on the environment in which we all live. For example, excess carbon emission has changed the environmental landscape, by destroying the ecosystem. Indigenous forests have thinned out and changed rain patterns thus impacting farming and food production. Consequently logistics and transport have attracted significant legislation at both national and international level. Targets for improving environmental performance have been set by the international community via the Rio, Kyoto and the Copenhagen summit meetings.

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. The very first two standards deal with environmental management systems (EMS).


  • what environmental risks do your organisation’s activities pose?
  • do the materials you use pose any danger?
  • do you know what impact the material that you supply (including its disposal) and services you provide have on the environment?
  • do you know the quantity or type of waste you produce?
  • do you know how this waste is disposed of or what the cost is?
  • is your organisation operating the most cost-effective method of controlling or eliminating pollution risk?
  • are there hidden benefits such as greater efficiency, or even straight forward business opportunities (for example, commercial utilisation of waste) from adopting alternative methods of controlling or eliminating the pollution risk?
  • are you aware of existing environmental standards and legislation in the country in which you are operating?
  • what arrangement do you have for monitoring compliance with environmental legislation?
  • is senior management actively engaged in ensuring that proper weight is given to environmental considerations in your organisation?
  • could you improve your environmental image to the donors and employees? and
  • are you highlighting your environmental performance to donors?


GR is Green logistics is no longer an option or a fantasy; it is reality and everyone has a clear and present responsibility to promote it. This topic will help focus attention on GR and provide a starting point for a sustainable GR policy within your logistics function.a


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 – . 


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