There's an old saying: When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. That increasingly seems to be the axiom that many transportation and logistics experts are working with as pressures to reduce the environmental impact of global supply chains continues to mount.

That's also the thrust of a report produced by global consulting firm Ernst & Young late last year. The report makes the argument that identifying environmentally sound alternatives for managing operational risks while at the same time saving money is going to be particularly crucial when it comes to supply chain management in the all-too-near future.

“While [climate change mitigation] programs could be seen as a burden, they are actually great opportunities to cut costs while reducing an organization's environmental footprint,” noted Steve Starbuck, Americas Leader, climate change and sustainability services, for Ernst & Young. “The risks — once identified and managed for an individual organization — can help foster customer relationships and yield competitive advantages.”

This demand is coming from many sources, not the least being a growing number of large corporate supplier qualification and so-called “scorecard” programs that are employed to examine carbon footprints and resource use at every step of the product and service lifecycle — from the sourcing of raw materials to waste disposal by customers, Starbuck emphasized.

He also pointed out that government engagement is a prime motivator for corporations to green their supply chains. In fact, last November the federal government, which operates the largest supply chain in the U.S., unveiled the GreenGov Supply Chain Partnership, a pilot program to promote clean energy and cut waste and pollution in the federal supply chain by measuring greenhouse gas emissions (GHG). Following this pilot, the General Services Administration intends to develop an incentive-based approach that favors contracting with companies that track and disclose their GHGs.

What does all of this have to do with trucking fleets? Well, first and foremost, whether you believe in climate change or not, you're going to face increasing pressure to reduce the environmental impact of the supply chains you serve. More importantly, though, as Ernst & Young suggests, trucking companies (among others) should try to take advantage of such pressures. Use them as a way to not only cut costs, but also as a way to develop that crucial “competitive advantage.”

“Supply chain and environmental professionals share a common goal — to reduce waste,” said Starbuck. The advice here is for transportation providers to get ahead of change, finding ways to cut costs even as they comply with new rules while benefiting from being greener than the competition.

At the very least, benefiting from such change will make your lemonade easier to swallow.

Sean Kilcarr is Fleet Owner' s senior editor. He can be reached at