January 9, 2017
Column | big picture

Lean and green in the Netherlands

A Dutch carbon-reduction initiative has had positive effects on the environment throughout Europe.

By David Maloney

In the January issue of DC Velocity, we feature two stories on the supply chain in the Netherlands. It is, after all, the logistics heart of Europe. Over half of Europe's DCs are located in the Netherlands, and its network of highway, rail, and water routes is among the best in the world.

With so much freight being transported across the nation's borders, it's good to see that the Dutch are also leaders in supply chain sustainability. They've established a program known as Lean and Green that's similar to the SmartWay partnership between the Environmental Protection Agency and the transportation industry in the U.S. Both programs are part of a worldwide effort to meet the Paris Agreement goal of cutting CO2 emissions by 60 percent by 2050.

The Dutch government provided initial funding for the Lean and Green initiative, which it launched in 2008. It kicked off the project by conducting a study to identify the sectors responsible for CO2 emissions, eventually determining that they came nearly equally from three sources: international transit (ports and airports), delivery (urban logistics), and small vans and work vehicles.

Lean and Green started out with just 10 partners. Today, it has more than 450. Connekt, a Dutch nonprofit network for sustainable mobility, coordinates the program, which is now funded through membership fees.

Member companies that present a plan of action to reduce CO2 emissions by 20 percent within five years are eligible for the Lean and Green Award. Such a plan might include optimizing routes, reducing carton sizes, using smaller trucks, reducing empty miles, utilizing rail and barge, and switching to alternative fuels. An independent third party evaluates the proposal to determine if it's feasible. If it gets the go-ahead, the applicant executes the plan, making changes within its own operations and working with its suppliers, carriers, and other partners to achieve the goals.

Once a company reaches its target, it receives a Lean and Green Star that it can display on its vehicles and use to promote its green initiatives. Organizations that achieve further gains can apply for a second Lean and Green Star.

Connekt also maintains a database of best practices called Lean and Green Analytics, which companies can draw upon and use for benchmarking purposes. The goal is for businesses to eventually become "net-zero" in their carbon footprints.

Following the program's initial success in the Netherlands, Lean and Green has spread to Germany, Belgium, Spain, Italy, and Luxemburg. Countries outside of Europe are also at various stages of implementing the program.

How effective has Lean and Green been in its first decade? So far, CO2 emissions have been slashed by more than half a million tons—all the better to keep those beautiful tulips in Holland blooming brightly.

About the Author

David Maloney
Editorial Director
David Maloney has been a journalist for more than 35 years and is currently the editorial director for DC Velocity and Supply Chain Quarterly magazines. In this role, he is responsible for the editorial content of both brands of Agile Business Media. Dave joined DC Velocity in April of 2004. Prior to that, he was a senior editor for Modern Materials Handling magazine. Dave also has extensive experience as a broadcast journalist. Before writing for supply chain publications, he was a journalist, television producer and director in Pittsburgh. Dave combines a background of reporting on logistics with his video production experience to bring new opportunities to DC Velocity readers, including web videos highlighting top distribution and logistics facilities, webcasts and other cross-media projects. He continues to live and work in the Pittsburgh area.

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