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Updated 21 Jun 2018

How Sony and Unilever are re-imagining logistics to reduce global pollution

Road transport is considered one of the leading contributors to a smoggy earth and related poor health. A shift is needed to ensure environmental sustainability. 

Pritesh Ruthun, 13 March 2017  Share  0 comments  Print

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There’s no denying that transportation is one variable that mankind cannot live without. But, current transport systems underwrite a wide range of challenges for society – including global warming, environmental dilapidation, health consequences, and emission of toxic greenhouse gases.

“The transport sector contributes 23% of the globe’s greenhouse gas emission resulting from burning of fossil fuels. Out of the total greenhouse gas emissions, road transport takes up a lion share, 75% to be precise and this trend is projected to increase in the future if it continues unabated,” says CEF

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“Burning fossil fuels increases greenhouse gases and raises the Earth’s temperature. Forecasts indicate that the planet will be 6 degrees Celsius warmer by 2100. Protecting the environment is the biggest challenge we face. With new technologies, increased social momentum and industry collaboration, we can turn this challenge into our greatest achievement,” says Lars Martensson of Volvo Trucks.

Sony’s attempt to cut pollution

Sony -logo

To reduce its environmental impact from the transport of finished products, electronics conglomerate Sony endorses a transport modal shift – switching its modes of transport from air to sea and from truck to rail.

“In Japan, Sony has promoted modal shift from truck to railroad transport. For large-sized products such as LCD TVs or Blu-ray players, in particular, Sony proactively leverages the rail. This accounts for more than 15% of all long-distance (500km or more) domestic transport,” company spokesmen say.

The enterprise also promotes domestic sea transport: “In 2015, CO2 emissions attributable to the transport of products in Japan were approximately 390 tons lower than would have been the case if products had been transported by truck.”

Behold the ‘milk run’

In a Sony ‘milk run’, a truck follows a route to collect parts from several suppliers, improving transport efficiency compared with the routing method of separate runs to each supplier.

“Efficient transport realised by maximising loading volume per truck reduces environmental impact. We seek to improve transport efficiency by utilising various modes of intra-industry collaboration such as co-operative transport and milk runs,” spokesmen add.

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Unilever’s attempt to cut pollution

Unilever -logo

“The majority of our transportation is still carried out on roads. But, we aim to use fuel efficiently in all our activities in order to keep our emissions from road transport as low as possible. Our transport management systems are crucial to this,” Unilever’s spokesmen say.

Unilever’s logistics specialists regularly review the company’s road transportation methods to discover areas where they can increase efficiency, for example by standardising pallet height to ensure optimal loading.

“We work in partnership with others to achieve efficiencies, for example we are working with our partners in our wider supply chain to share loads in order to reduce road miles. We also know that driver skill and education is critical, as this is the single largest factor in ensuring fuel efficiency,” spokesmen add.

Eliminating more than 100 million kilometres

Since 2012, Unilever’s logistics division has slashed the distance its trucks drive on European roads by over 100 million kilometres.

“The project comprises of a new Transport Management System (TMS), which was part-funded by the EU. This allows for the optimisation of transport flows between suppliers, factories, warehouses and retailers. It also involves transport efficiency initiatives and a new network structure. We have rolled this project out across a number of regions across the world,” spokesmen say.

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Your next move?

If you’re looking to improve your impact on the earth, cut emissions, and basically use less resources to move more goods, Standard Bank’s transport sector experts can assist you with an assessment of your fleet to see how you can streamline your operations. It’s also a good idea to look at a transport management system (TMS) – as a digital tool that can help you maintain greater control of your business.


  • Road transport is one of the leading contributors to pollution on the planet.
  • Companies must work toward smart logistics systems that make the most of route optimisation.
  • Sony and Unilever are continually refining their logistics strategies to ensure that they reduce their impact on the environment.
  • Standard Bank can assist you with a fleet assessment and direction on how to improve your transport operations.
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About the author

Pritesh Ruthun

Introducing the owner-driver responsibilities & risks

Bryan Verpoort, Head of Corporate & Business Insurance at Standard Bank advises smaller businesses on the risks and considerations when contracting to transport goods for a large company.

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