How One of the World’s Most Sustainable Businesses Is Using Technology to Create a Circular Economy

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How One of the World’s Most Sustainable Businesses is Using Technology to Create a Circular Economy

As organizations strive to meet growing customer demand while reducing costs, many are taking a closer look at packaging in the supply chain. From pallets and boxes to plastic containers, packaging can add billions in annual cost and contribute tons of waste to landfills.

Leveraging circular economy principles with a platform to support visibility and planning, one supply chain company is making a positive environmental impact while also saving costs for its customers.

Pioneering reuse and reshare

Named by Dow Jones in 2020 as the world’s most sustainable organization, supply chain logistics company Brambles is making a significant dent in packaging waste. Its main supply chain and pallet brand, CHEP is leading sustainability through a “circular economy,” a concept that aims to eliminate waste and minimize the consumption of resources through continual reuse.

Nearly 70 years ago, the company pioneered one of the world’s first share and reuse models through its reusable packaging program. CHEP now works with a network of a half-million delivery points across the globe to share more than 345 million reusable pallets, crates, and containers. This enables the company to minimize its environmental impact while also serving customers and reducing costs. Each year, CHEP’s innovative model saves an average of 1.8 million trees, 2 million tons of CO2, and more than 660 million gallons (2,500 megaliters) of water.

In 2019, Brambles launched Zero Waste World. This initiative aims to bring together many of the world's top producers and distributors to meet three main challenges: eliminating packaging and food waste, eradicating empty transport miles, and cutting out inefficiency. As a new collaborative working model, it enables the world’s leading companies to grow and meet consumer demands while also creating value for society as a whole.

The levers of sustainability

Since 2015, CHEP’s efforts have saved more than 155 million miles (250 million kilometers) in truck transport and more than 550 million pounds (250 kilotons) in CO2 emissions. During that time, a total of 246 customers have participated in collaborative projects. CHEP also set and achieved many ambitious goals in 2020, including using entirely sustainably sourced timber in its pallet production, reducing CO2 emissions by 33%, and reducing all wood and nearly all plastic waste to landfills.

CHEP accomplishes this by using several levers to optimize the efficiency of its supply chain. This includes:

  • Reducing distances goods must travel
  • Reducing inventory
  • Eliminating the repositioning of assets and “empty” miles
  • Reducing lead times and turnaround times for reuse
  • Reducing packaging and waste

Key to CHEP’s support of the circular economy is its visibility, technology, and its network scale. The company uses Life Cycle Assessment studies to compare reusable solutions to single-use alternatives, which can help determine environmental benefits throughout their customer’s supply chains. CHEP has looked to technology to achieve these ambitious environmental goals, helping them to produce raw materials, optimize their supply chain, and reduce waste.

Collaboration has also been key to CHEP’s success in creating a circular economy. For customers, the end-to-end supply chain solutions deliver operational, financial, and environmental efficiencies they would otherwise not find in one-way, single-use alternatives. It’s a great example of leveraging the power of community and how we’re all smarter and more efficient when we work together.

To support all of this, the Plant Network Optimization (PNO) team reviews asset flows between manufacturers, retailers, and service centers to identify high-volume channels. For each return flow scenario, it then determines the options that reduce the frequency and distance traveled to recover and reuse the assets. PNO leverages CHEP’s extensive network, gives the customer a convenient location for transfer or returns, and eliminates disposal costs and complications from single use.

Visibility and planning

As a long-term Coupa customer, CHEP has relied upon the supply chain design and planning software to reduce waste, engage in strategic planning, save costs, and create circularity.

Key to supporting this has been “flow optimization” strategies to implement and assess the most efficient and environmentally-friendly transport modes and routes. With strategic planning, they can also envision what their network will look like in three to five years to best select new sites for expansion.

While many companies set ambitious sustainability goals, they don’t often know how to achieve them. Coupa helps businesses use their spend to positively impact the world while also boosting their bottom line. Through Sustainable Business Spend Management (BSM), organizations can ensure they are making the best use of every dollar of spend. Coupa’s platform enables businesses to use a mix of artificial intelligence and digital twins to model scenarios, optimize operations, and make more impactful decisions. For example, a business can optimize vehicle routing to reduce miles traveled and use Coupa to set optimal inventory levels to prevent unnecessary stock repositioning. It can also support better water consumption, reduce use of single-use materials, improve recycling, and ensure inventory management optimization.

Coupa’s inaugural Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) Report highlights Coupa’s approach to advancing ESG and how it is empowering a global community to deliver ESG impact through BSM. With thousands of customers, millions of suppliers, and trillions of dollars of business spend under management, Coupa can influence spend decisions at scale. This enables our customers to save money, reduce risk, and have a positive environmental impact across global supply chains.