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How Sustainable Products are Driving Logistics Changes

Tom Walker, Director of Chemical Markets & Compliance at A. Duie Pyle
Tom Walker, Director of Chemical Markets & Compliance at A. Duie Pyle

Tom Walker, Director of Chemical Markets & Compliance at A. Duie Pyle

The sticker on your travel coffee mug tells you it is now without BPA. Your household cleaner is now without some other chemical you never heard of. And your water bottle is now made of cardboard. What exactly is going on, you ask?

Green chemistry is a growing trend geared toward designing safer chemicals and processes with the goal of achieving greater sustainability in chemical production. While this is more noticeable in many facets of our consumer lives, what is less visible are the significant changes in the chemical manufacturing and supply chain sectors which bring such products to market. As chemical companies make sustainability a business imperative and begin developing newly formulated, often more water-based products, they also must consider how these products will be properly maintained in their journey through differing phases of the supply chain.

Green chemistry trend

Consumer demand for sustainable products is one of the key factors driving the green chemistry trend. In response to this demand, chemical manufacturers are moving toward the production of more eco-friendly products and processes that minimize the negative impact of chemicals on human health and the environment. From household cleaning staples to bath and beauty products, the movement toward safer and more sustainable products seeks to offer a more conscientious alternative to harsh, consumptive substances found in numerous goods. Consumers are using their dollars to make their preferences for these products known – a Nielsen report found that sales of sustainable products outperformed products without sustainable attributes.

  Companies will continue to manufacture green products with new chemical profiles to better meet consumer demand and to remain compliant with growing state and federal regulations​. 

Companies recognizing consumer demand for these products and the business benefits of moving toward sustainability are making these initiatives a priority. A Bain & Company survey of 297 global companies found that 81 percent said sustainability is more important to their business today than it was five years ago, with 85 percent believing that it will be even more important in five years. The survey also found that sustainability is now incorporated into two-thirds of these companies’ core missions.

Trend implications for company logistics planning

This drive toward sustainability, coupled with mandates to meet evolving government regulations, is spurring chemical manufacturers to lower volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in products and use more water-soluble formulations. With the chemical make-up of products changing to include more water-based formulations, companies need to examine whether these changes warrant more specialized attention during the transportation and distribution process. 

Winter conditions present numerous logistical challenges, and this is especially true for water-based products. Companies shipping products like water-based paints and chemicals, water-based glues and starches, and sterilizing commodities used in stores and hospitals should consider a third-party logistics provider with heated, insulated trailers equipped to maintain specific temperatures throughout transport. Heated facilities throughout the network, such as overhead radiant heaters at service centers, are also crucial. Without these measures, prolonged exposure to extreme cold could harm water-based freight.

To understand the importance of considering the logistics side of protecting products prone to freezing during transit, companies need only look at the impact of the big chill of 2019. Logistics software provider Convey Inc. analyzed data for the last two weeks of January of this year in the coldest states and found the percent of retail shipment exceptions (deliveries having an issue in transit) spiked 191 percent in those weeks in the Northeast and Midwest, with the inclement weather during this time frame accounting for 45 percent of retail shipment claim exceptions nationally. The potential for compromising the integrity of freight makes it critically important that companies understand the freezing point of their products and prepare for moving temperature sensitive freight through cold climates.

Companies will continue to manufacture green products with new chemical profiles to better meet consumer demand and to remain compliant with growing state and federal regulations. As consumers, we all want the products and services which improve our lives. What we don’t want—and what green chemistry technology seeks to allay—are the detrimental elements of those products on our environment. With green chemistry technology making significant strides in the research and development of new products, and logistics partners providing solutions for their safe transportation and distribution, a solid framework has been built for a cleaner, greener future in the chemical tech space. 

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