Logistics getting greener

Developers of logistics real estate as well as transport companies implement innovations that make their operation more environmentally friendly.

Metrans, a Slovak transport company, offers carbon-free transport.Metrans, a Slovak transport company, offers carbon-free transport. (Source: Courtesy of Metrans)

The climate crisis has made sustainability a hot topic for several sectors of the economy, and logistics is no exception. Developers and administrators of logistics real estate and logistics companies are pursuing green solutions to make their businesses more environmentally friendly, not only under the pressure of regulations and public opinion but also to become more efficient.

“Sustainability would not be possible if it did not have a positive impact on the company,” Ivana Košianová, head of land transport at Gefco in the Czech Republic and Slovakia, told The Slovak Spectator. “Sustainability and the economy usually go hand in hand, and I do not consider it inappropriate at all when the primary motive for sustainability is greater efficiency and financial savings.”

Making logistics greener

With respect to the alarming condition of the climate, a large number of companies have adopted an environmentally-friendly approach to their business.
“This trend of establishing environmentally-friendly and sustainable company set-ups will clearly define which companies will be successful in the future and which will not,” Peter Jánoši, executive director of P3 Logistic Parks, told The Slovak Spectator.

This is already reflected in the behaviour of governments and multinational organisations, which evaluate the quality of companies in terms of access to sustainability. Companies that take a responsible stance in their business, for example to the environment, have better access to subsidies within the EU, the US and Asia. At the same time, governments provide these companies with various benefits and relief packages, either in the form of tax benefits or by increasing space for business. On the contrary, ‘irresponsible’ companies will increasingly be sanctioned and limited in terms of custom duties or taxes.

“We see that this trend is starting all over the world,” said Jánoši. “Green topics are getting stronger and they are asking for sustainable solutions in all areas of a company’s operation.”

Martin Baláž, vice-president and country manager of Prologis in the Czech Republic and Slovakia, a major logistics real estate developer, agrees, adding that many of their clients are looking for partners who share their values and visions.
“Several of our customers in the logistics sector are trying to eliminate their own carbon footprint,” Baláž told The Slovak Spectator. “In general, there is a growing demand for sustainable energy sources and charging stations for electric cars.”

Examples of green solutions

When listing adopted green solutions, Baláž mentioned the usage of LED lighting, which has become the company’s standard since 2016. Its plan is to use high-quality, energy-efficient LED systems in its complete portfolio as of 2025.

Last year, Prologis began to construct smart buildings across Europe. These buildings include modern, sustainable technologies, low-carbon building materials, drill holes for the storage of thermal energy and electric heat pumps. The principles of a circular economy are also implemented in them.

“These intelligent buildings are a brand new standard in the field of warehousing and logistics,” said Baláž. “They make the operation of warehouses more efficient from the first day of use and optimise it during their whole life span.”

At P3, the buildings in their industrial and logistics parks are modern halls of the highest quality level (grade A) meeting strict environmental criteria. Several of them hold BREEAM VERY GOOD certificates.

“Already, the criteria of this certification puts high stress on ecology and sustainability, and encourages environmental protection,” said Jánoši, adding that the most common ecological practices including the efficient use of rainwater.

More sophisticated examples are the use of local suppliers and sources to eliminate the import of materials from far distances, reducing their carbon footprint. The proper insulation of halls contributes to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, for example during the heating and production of hot water.

P3 is also the first logistics developer to sign the US Global Impact, the biggest corporate initiative in the world focusing on achieving permanent sustainability.
Gefco has been providing some of its 150 clients regular reports about CO2 emissions during the transportation of their goods.

Another green solution at Gefco is its reusable packaging units GefBoxes that they have been offering clients for more than 30 years. Originally, they were developed for clients from the automotive industry, but today they are used in other sectors, too.

“We secure the complete production flow, which includes washing the products; this service brings clients significant savings compared to disposable packaging,” said Košianová, adding that this way they not only reduce the amount of used disposable packaging but also the number of trucks on the road thanks to loading rate optimisation.

Gefco is also testing trucks using LNG alternative fuel.

One of Dachser’s green solutions, apart from the usage of LED lighting, is emission-free delivery in large cities like Stuttgart, Freiburg, Prague and Oslo. It is preparing to introduce this service in other cities as well.

Dachser is also working on utilising more energy generated from renewable resources.

Currently, it covers more than 60 percent of its total global consumption from local photovoltaic systems and purchases electricity generated by wind and water, said Roman Stoličný, managing director and member of the board at Dachser Slovakia.

The Slovak transport company Metrans is one of few companies in Slovakia that offers carbon-free transport.

This means that its rail transport does not generate additional CO2. When it cannot influence the creation of CO2, it invests in the replacement of each gram and kilogram of created CO2.

Since 2019, when they introduced this project, they have saved 29,704 tonnes of CO2, Peter Kiss, CEO of the Metrans group, told The Slovak Spectator, adding that their engine fleet belongs among those most modern in Europe.

“We want to continue to invest in the development of rail transport as it is the only form of transport that can already operate as CO2 neutral today,” said Kiss.

Železničná Spoločnosť Cargo Slovakia, the biggest freight rail company in Slovakia, uses predominantly electric engines and continues to provide clients single wagon shipments contrary to its competition, which focuses on more lucrative block trains. They transport 5-6 million tonnes of goods within single wagon shipments annually.

“While the legislation does not oblige us to provide this service anymore, we see an environmental dimension in continuing the provision of this service,” said Roman Gono, chairman of the board of directors of ZSSK Cargo. “If we did not transport these consignments, they would have to be transported by trucks on the road. This would mean some 450,000 truck trips every year.”

Greener might not mean higher costs

While some green solutions might, in the implementation phase, mean higher costs compared to older traditional technologies, this is not always true.

“We have to strike a balance between what clients want and prefer and what they are willing to pay for,” said Jánoši of P3, adding that the latest trend is to design and build modern logistics buildings that not only consume electricity but also generate it, for example via solar roofs.

At Dachser, the problem when introducing green solutions is not in finances but in the insufficient infrastructure of, for example, hydrogen filling stations. A study Dachser has commissioned from Kempten University of Applied Sciences confirmed the possibility of deploying hydrogen trucks.

“The use of green hydrogen is preferred, but as hydrogen is produced as a bi-product, for example, in the chemical industry, there is no reason not to use it as fuel in transport, at least until the proper infrastructure is built,” said Stoličný.

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