Airforwarders Association: Building a sustainability plan that will work

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The eagerness to discuss how the air cargo industry can meet the challenges set by end consumers’ demand for environmental and sustainable working practices is palpable, even bordering on pervasive.

Freight transportation providers are listening but the day-to-day operational hurdles such as high freight volumes, customer relationships, and labour issues mean that finding the time to support a worthwhile sustainability effort is a challenge in itself.

While we may be in the overnight delivery industry, creating an effective plan to address environmental sustainability takes more time and should include some essential considerations.

Sustainability is a broad-based topic and creating a company plan to address the challenge requires management and employee commitment.

The strategy should have a positive impact but does not necessarily need to be all-encompassing and a distraction from your core business.

For example, a plan to address climate change within your organisation is essential, but so is the need to address stakeholder needs.

Therefore, make sure everyone understands and adopts the scheme before it begins.

Decide what is essential to your organisation and make those elements key to your plan.

Tracking those objectives in a written format is important, along with those predefined metrics that will help measure progress.

Again, the exercise should not be complex but include measurements for making future course corrections.

Plan to succeed

All worthwhile plans begin with a vision statement that should define the overall goal and your organisation’s promise to deliver on the commitment.

Then, over time, your sustainability efforts should be woven into your organisational culture, brand identity, and even into the company’s financial performance.

Establishing sustainability goals is a relatively simple exercise but achieving them will require effort and accountability from all company stakeholders.

Expect interruptions and missed objectives caused by outside influencers, including sudden business surges, unforeseen emergencies, or competing business priorities that require attention for the company’s sake.

Minimise these risks by selecting the right team managers and employees who understand that commitment to the sustainability plan is essential, and their compensation will increase if successful.

Assembling a “green team” of capable and committed team members is worthwhile.

Still, to create a thriving sustainability culture, all employees and managers must understand how environmental sustainability affects their industry, their job, and the primary operational goal of the company.

Therefore, training will be a central component of the plan and should permeate throughout the organisation.

Knowledge transfer not only fosters increased operational efficiency but more effective employees who are innovative, competitively insightful, and understand how the sustainability plan impacts the company’s performance.

Once initiated, consider the plan when taking on a new client or making business investments.

For example, suppose you want to expand and open new offices or purchase equipment such as trucks, forklifts, lighting, or climate systems.

In that case, incorporate the sustainability goal into the purchase decision matrix.

Acquiring inefficient warehouse handling equipment or an air conditioning system that consumes too much energy may be inconsistent with the plan’s goals and should be reconsidered.

Collaboration between company managers and employees should include external partners such as vendors and customers.

Be sure to include their concerns in your plan by incorporating their interests into its target structure.

For instance, if your shipper also has a sustainability plan to achieve specific carbon reduction goals, consider tailoring those within your strategy to a similar level.

Measuring up

The business adage that what gets measured gets done certainly applies to a successful sustainability plan.

Consistently issue a periodic report detailing its strategy, tactics, goals, targets, commitments, and performance.

Widely distribute the document to internal and external organisational stakeholders and, if possible, integrate it into financial reports to validate the effort and increase corporate accountability.

Those firms operating in the public sphere will undoubtedly attract the appreciation of an investment community increasing focused on sustainability.

Most importantly, environmentally dedicated customers will appreciate the transparency provided by the report.

Unlike some action plans that get completed and sit on a shelf, sustainability programmes are part of an ongoing journey.

Even the most thoughtful, well-documented strategies today may prove irrelevant tomorrow after business realities exist.

Therefore, a successful plan must periodically include manager, employee, vendor, and customer re-engagement.

No programme is perfect, but revisiting the strategy is an integral part of achieving success and reducing the carbon footprint of your organisation and our industry.

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