Toward greener supply chains: A critical assessment of a multimodal, multinational freight supply chain of a Fortune 50 retailer

This is one of the first studies to incorporate technology research, operational best practices, and emissions accounting methodologies in an in-depth assessment of a real-world supply chain. It highlights how analyzing real-world data need not compromise business confidentiality.  

Using data from The Home Depot (THD) and the EPA’s SmartWay program, the authors assessed a trade route from China to the United States. They constructed three scenarios: (1) the Conventional scenario models business as usual and excludes green strategies already adopted by THD; (2) the impacts of THD’s existing green strategies are represented in the Green scenario, which also serves as an industry benchmark; and (3) the Green Plus scenario builds upon the Green and is a future, hypothetical supply chain with additional improvements evaluated in the short, medium, and long term.

The Green scenario shows substantially better environmental performance than the Conventional scenario. By adopting current best practices, savings of nearly 30% for energy use and CO2 emissions and 23%–25% for local pollutants (NOx and PM) are possible. Additionally, the long-term potential exists to reduce the Conventional supply chain’s energy use and CO2 emissions by more than 60%. Regarding health impacts from the land-based modes of transport specifically, local pollutants NOx and PM2.5 could be reduced by more than 80%.