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Options for Competitive and Sustainable Logistics

Sustainable Logistics

ISBN: 978-1-78441-062-9, eISBN: 978-1-78441-061-2

Publication date: 4 December 2014



Logistics as a sector has a key role to play in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and in reducing the dependency of our economy on non-renewable energy sources. The challenges are enormous: by 2050 the sector needs to have achieved about 50% lower fossil fuel use and CO2 emissions. If freight volumes grow according to expectations, this requires over 70% less CO2 emissions per unit of transport. This chapter explores the options for reducing CO2 emissions from freight transport and their reduction potential, and analyses whether the logistic sector would be likely to achieve the required reduction based on its intrinsic drive for cost reduction alone.


In this conceptual chapter we identify options for sustainable logistics and discuss the necessary economic conditions for their deployment using a simple cost/benefit analysis framework. We distinguish between three regimes of measures for improving sustainability: efficiency measures with net negative costs (‘low hanging fruit’), cost-neutral measures and measures that allow to reach societal targets at net positive costs. Policy measures are discussed that may help the sector to implement cost-effective greenhouse gas abatement measures that, in the absence of incentives, go beyond the point of lowest cost from an end user perspective.

Social implications

Sufficient energy saving options are available to be implemented in the short to medium term, which can lead to operational cost savings with a short return on investments period. The potential contribution of the logistics sector to sustainability is larger, however, as logistics can make large steps ahead in sustainability with cost neutrality or with small cost increases. The full potential has been underrated by many stakeholders and should be explored further.

Originality/value of the chapter

Efficiency measures are a necessary but insufficient condition for sustainable logistics. The industry will need to go beyond cost saving measures, or even cost-neutral measures to reach the long-term energy saving and emission reduction targets for freight transport. We provide a systematic presentation of these options and discuss the additional necessary measures.



Smokers, R., Tavasszy, L., Chen, M. and Guis, E. (2014), "Options for Competitive and Sustainable Logistics", Sustainable Logistics (Transport and Sustainability, Vol. 6), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 1-30.



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