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Logistics for Fashion – Sustainability · SupplyCompass

Logistics for Fashion – Sustainability

6 mins

Image by Raphael Zamora, Unsplash

by SupplyCompass in Production

Logistics for Fashion: Sustainability


The fashion industry contributes upto 10 % of annual global carbon emissions, according to Global Fashion Agenda. A significant part of this contribution is freight movement across the global supply chain that spans continents. Heavy fuel oil and diesel for marine, air, on-road and rail freight not only produce greenhouse gas emissions during combustion but also generates black carbon, from incomplete combustion. Although diesel particulate filters (DPFs) can filter black carbon, many countries’ emissions standards do not require DPFs.

Maritime shipping is the least impactful of the main freight options. A big ship will emit about 10 grams (0.4 ounces) of CO2 to transport 1 metric ton of cargo 1 kilometre. That’s roughly half as much as a train, one-fifth as much as a truck and nearly a fiftieth of an aeroplane’s emissions. In 2015, The International Transport Forum (ITF) estimated that international trade-related freight transport contributed to more than 7% of global emissions.

Green freight refers to a collection of technologies and practices that help measure and reduce impact, incorporate carbon accounting, as well as environmental efficiencies, according to Global Green Freight. 

Use a three-step process — Calculate, Reduce and Offset — to create a holistic sustainable logistics plan. 

Calculate: First, it is important to measure carbon emissions from your shipping. The free Flexport Carbon Calculator, for example, automatically evaluates a variety of factors to assess and analyze the emissions by transit mode, supplier, destination and more.

Reduce: Think about where your raw materials are sourced, processed, sewn and shipped to and track these journeys with the aim to optimise journeys. Food for thought: It’s not always better to produce close to where your end consumer is. If your raw material is grown in Turkey, processed in China and then transported to be sewn in the UK, your garments have already made a roundtrip across the world, compared to manufacturing close to your raw material source and shipping the end product over. What is important to consider is having full visibility and traceability across the length and breadth of your supply chain, mapping every quantity and activity. With accurate forecasting, you can also reduce and eliminate overproduction.

Reducing the volume of your packaging can go a long way in optimising shipping space and reducing the carbon footprint of your product. Think about the shape of both your product and packaging and how it can be stored optimally. You can choose packaging options that use less paper or fibreboard (such as Viupax for footwear) or even alternatives to voluminous bubble wrap (such as Ecoenclose’s GreenWrap).

Additionally, you can also check if your freight operator is a part of Green Freight programs. Areas of focus can include optimizing transport routes, shipping through ‘green’ transport corridors and operating energy-efficient warehouses, fulfilment centres and electric/hybrid vehicles that use alternate fuels. Transhipment can also be an option, wherein there are intermediate destinations during transit, wherein the goods are moved from one freight option to another, allowing for some legs of the journey to be made in slow options. Also consider not providing fast or next-day delivery that would typically use air freight or rewarding customers who opt for slower shipping.

Offset: Finally, the last step – Offset – is when you are unable to mitigate your impact anymore. For every 1 tonne of CO2 emitted,  an equivalent is removed through offset programs. Look for third-party accredited programs only, that can range from afforestation to developing clean energy and programs in developing countries. 

This guest blog is written in collaboration with Flexport, a leading digital freight forwarding company headquartered in San Francisco. Read our full Logistics for Fashion Guide now.

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SupplyCompass is a  production platform that enables fashion brands and manufacturers to produce better, together. The platform enables brands to manage the entire product development, sourcing and production process from design right through to delivery, all in one place.


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