Sustainable warehousing and logistics

MHD speaks to uTenant’s Laura Moreno Madrid about the importance of sustainable warehousing and supply chains, and what companies can do to move in a future-friendly direction.

According to Laura Moreno Madrid, Project Coordinator at uTenant, the goal of building ‘sustainable warehousing’ incorporates myriad considerations.

“When we think about sustainability in a warehousing context there are various factors to consider,” Laura says. “Examples of what businesses need to think about are: warehouse location, the surrounding environment, how the buildings have been designed, constructed, used, maintained, and how they might be demolished.”

All of these components have implications for limiting overuse of energy, water, and the unrecyclable materials used in warehousing.

The goal, Laura says, is to create warehousing that is sustainable both in terms of environmental impacts and the health of those working within it. “The ultimate goal is to provide a sustainable building that also provides a healthy and comfortable indoor environment and delivers long-term benefits for the owners,  tenants, users, and the planet.”

Laura originally trained as an environmental engineer in her native Colombia, and worked in the renewable energy industry, before directing her environmental passion into sustainability in an industrial warehousing context.

While it might seem obvious to support – in a general way – the idea of environmental sustainability, its importance for supply chain and logistics businesses is not always kept front-of-mind.

“The onus on those in the industry is to be proactive rather than reactive,” Laura says. “Companies have to choose to implement sustainable practices, and if standards are not mandatory and regulated – or there isn’t consistent external pressure to make changes – then there can be the feeling that it’s not considered a business priority and therefore no action is taken.

Photo of uTenant's Laura Moreno Madrid.
Laura Moreno Madrid – Project Coordinator at uTenant.

At a societal level, politicians have set targets such as a 50 per cent reduction in carbon emissions by 2030, and to become carbon neutral by 2050. But on a business level, it can be overlooked how much energy is being wasted on a day-to-day level, unnecessarily increasing costs.

Laura notes that according to the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources, 4.5 million tonnes of carbon emissions were produced from indirect energy in the transport, postal and warehousing industry in 2019. “Internal warehouse decisions that improve the efficiency of a warehouse, and economise on  energy, can have a huge impact not only in terms of reducing carbon emissions but in saving indirect carbon emissions, too,” she says. “Because in effect, oftentimes you’ll find that you’re simply paying someone else to supply energy – energy that could be conserved with more sustainable warehouse practices.

“We’re now seeing the rise of tier 1 and tier 2 logistics companies putting in place comprehensive climate protection programs, which is great to see. These policies will drastically maximise their energy efficiency and reduce their carbon footprint. Whether driven by consumer demand or by businesses’ environmental awareness, these changes will be forced upon all businesses at some point. So, far better to get ahead of the game than be caught trying to play catch-up.”

Laura notes that one top tier company developed a custom-built warehouse for their operations that is a great example of sustainable warehousing. “The warehouse they built for a customer was the first carbon neutral warehouse in Melbourne – the first warehouse to receive Carbon Neutral Certification under the National Carbon Offset standards.

Some of the more readily-actioned changes these companies have implemented include putting solar panels on roofs, switching from traditional to LED lighting, installing roofs that allow for more natural light – thus reducing reliance on artificial light – and transitioning to electric forklifts.

Another big priority for supply chain and logistics companies ought to be waste management, Laura says. “A lot of people didn’t talk about waste management prior to 2018, because we used to be able to export our recycling to China. But since China closed its doors to Australia’s waste-recycling, companies have to be a lot more conscious about what materials they use and how they manage their own waste. If you use materials that can be recycled, then you have the opportunity to utilise your waste. For example: they can be re-sold to other companies to use as material for things like desks or tables and so forth – this would be a  very elegant solution.”

Connect with Laura on LinkedIn for tips on how to create a more sustainable and environmentally friendly warehouse – Laura’s Linkedin

For more information on uTenant, click here

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