Wood Is a Sustainable Choice for Packaging and Shipping Materials

Welcome Nature’s Packaging readers, in this blog post we’re going to be talking about the importance of sustainability in our world today and how wood plays a crucial role in it. We’ll be reviewing the benefits of wood as a renewable resource, and why it’s a great choice for packaging and shipping materials.

Trees are one of the most important resources in the world, providing countless benefits to people and the environment. Not only do trees provide oxygen and help to regulate climate change, but they can also be harvested as a renewable resource.

Trees have a wide range of uses for humans, from providing food and fuel to being used in construction and packaging among other things. Furthermore, trees are capable of regenerating themselves when properly managed, making them an excellent resource that is both sustainable and environmentally friendly.

So, what is a renewable resource? Well, a renewable resource is a resource that can be replenished or regenerated over time. Examples of renewable resources that are being utilized today include solar energy, wind energy, and, of course, wood.

One of the main advantages of wood as a renewable resource is that it can be replanted and regrown. In fact, in the United States alone, more than 1.9 billion trees are replanted every year. Trees are a renewable resource because they can be harvested and then replanted, making it a sustainable choice for packaging and shipping materials.

Unlike non-renewable resources like fossil fuels, wood is not a finite resource. It is a sustainable choice for packaging and shipping materials because it can be replenished, and when managed responsibly it can be re-used, and ultimately recycled.

Another advantage of wood as a sustainable choice for packaging and shipping materials is that wood is biodegradable. This means that it can break down naturally in the environment, unlike plastic or metal alternatives which can take hundreds of years to decompose.

Biodegradability is defined as the process of organic matter breaking down over time, until it is completely decomposed by microorganisms in its environment. The length of time for biodegradation of wood depends on several factors like the species of the wood, whether the material is left whole, or turned into chips by mulching.

Wood is also a cost-effective choice for packaging and shipping materials. Its cost-effectiveness, durability, and availability make it a popular choice among businesses and consumers alike.

As a natural material, wood has been used in packaging since ancient times due to its ability to protect goods during transportation. In the modern age, wood has been adapted to meet changing needs of consumers and businesses while remaining cost-effective, making it the ideal choice for supply chain and warehouse operations.

Wood is a renewable resource that can be replanted and regrown, making it a sustainable choice for packaging and shipping materials. It is biodegradable, cost-effective, and widely available. By choosing wood as a packaging and shipping material, companies can help reduce the environmental impact of supply chain operations and contribute to a more sustainable future.

Why Wood Pallets are the Best Choice for Supply Chain Sustainability

Wood pallets are the modern equivalent of the Swiss army knife in supply chain operations. Pallets function as protection, transportation, and storage unit for countless numbers of items that ship all over the world, every day. Their versatility in design and ease of construction is unmatched by any other piece of material handling equipment in the daily operations of logistics and shipping.

Beyond their functional ability, wood pallets are seen as a best choice for companies when they want to achieve sustainability measures in their supply chains. Wood pallets have a number of key factors that make them the best choice in this regard.

In this Nature’s Packaging series over the next few weeks, we’ll dive deeper and take a focused look at what makes the wood pallet such a great choice when it comes to sustainability goals.

Below are the 5 key factors that will be discussed in the upcoming blog posts here in NP. Feel free to incorporate these into your messaging and help your customers understand why wood pallets are the best choice to help them achieve their supply chain sustainability goals.

  1. Renewable resource: Wood is a renewable resource, meaning it can be replanted and regrown, making it a sustainable choice for packaging and shipping materials.
  2. Recyclable and biodegradable: Wood pallets can be recycled or broken down naturally, unlike plastic or metal alternatives. This reduces the environmental impact of the pallets at the end of their useful life.
  3. Durable and reusable: Wood pallets are durable and can be used multiple times, reducing the need for constant replacement, and minimizing waste.
  4. Cost-effective: Wood pallets are often less expensive than other materials, making them a cost-effective choice for businesses looking to reduce their environmental impact.
  5. Widely available: Wood pallets are widely available, making them easy to source and implement in supply chain operations.

Wood pallets offer a sustainable, cost-effective, and widely available solution for businesses looking to reduce their environmental impact and achieve their supply chain sustainability goals. Join us next week for a look at wood as a renewable resource. See you there.

The Wood Pallet Specification-A Quick Review

A wood pallet specification is a document that outlines the design, construction, and performance requirements for wooden pallets used in the transportation and storage of goods.

These specifications are critical for ensuring that pallets meet the necessary safety and performance standards, as well as facilitating efficient logistics and supply chain operations.

What are the key elements of a wood pallet specification?

  • The size and weight of the pallet, including both overall dimensions and the size of individual components such as deck boards and stringers.
  • The type of wood used in the construction of the pallet, including both the species and grade of wood.
  • The type of fasteners used to assemble the pallet, including both the size and material of the fasteners.
  • The load-bearing capacity of the pallet, including both the maximum weight and volume that the pallet can safely support.
  • The type of forklift and handling equipment that the pallet is designed for, as well as any special handling or storage requirements.

The type of protection required for the pallet, for example if it needs to be heat treated for export outside the country.

In addition to outlining these technical requirements, a wood pallet specification should also provide guidance on quality control, testing and inspection procedures, and any relevant safety and regulatory standards.

Why is a pallet specification useful for both the customer and supplier?

  1. It provides a clear and consistent set of standards for the design and construction of wooden pallets, which can improve safety and performance.
  2. It allows manufacturers and suppliers to understand and meet the specific needs of their customers. This can lead to more efficient logistics and supply chain operations.
  3. It also facilitates better communication between different parties involved in the supply chain including warehouse operators, transportation providers, and end-users.

The responsibility for creating a wood pallet specification typically falls on the manufacturer or supplier of the pallets. This can be done individually or collectively with industry associations, regulatory bodies, and other stakeholders.

A wood pallet specification should be updated regularly, as industry standards and regulations change over time, as well as keeping up with the new technology and advancements in the field. It is also important to consider updating it in response to any changes in customer or industry needs.

Wood pallet specifications are critical for ensuring the safety and performance of wooden pallets used in transportation and storage. They should include key elements such as size and weight, type of wood, fasteners, load-bearing capacity, handling equipment, and protection requirements. The manufacturer or supplier should create these specifications and update them regularly to ensure they meet the latest standards and customer needs.

Sustainable Forest Management and Wood Pallets

The wooden pallet and container industry has embraced sustainability as both a core practice within the operating processes of the industry, and as a key value add to our customers in helping them achieve their own sustainability goals in their supply chain.

As more and more companies in this industry utilize data to provide insight and tell a story about their commitment to sustainable practices; the knowledge, data, and practices have a trickle-down effect from the largest companies in the industry to the small mom and pop pallet yards that are the backbone of the industry.

As a whole, we realize that the benefits of sustainability go beyond merely integrating into our customer’s goals, data, and marketing. There is real potential to be a leading light in the reduction of emissions and the science of carbon sequestration.

These topics can have real financial consequences for our bottom lines that will have a profound effect on our industry. And rest assured, if it becomes clear that our business processes are fully in line with the economic benefits of carbon capture and carbon credits, then our industry will be transformed by investments from some very large companies.

The industry is now witnessing the effects of attention from investment groups that realized how critical the pallet industry is to the supply chain and have begun consolidating assets to gain an edge.

But let’s take a step away from industry affairs for a moment and focus on another aspect of sustainability and how it can affect our industry. Most of the time, we are focused on the “downstream” effect of our sustainable practices and the value added by them. In this particular Nature’s Packaging post, we want to look “upstream” at sustainable practices in a critical area of the forest and forest products realm that adds value to our industry.

Sustainable forest management has been covered by Nature’s Packaging in previous posts, so we won’t delve into it as it benefits a forest itself. In this NP post, we want to summarize how sustainable forest management benefits the wood pallet industry in particular.

As we move forward globally with initiatives designed to save and manage forest from a more ecological and holistic perspective, the ability to source raw materials will change. With that change will come a change in our core products, the wood pallet and container, as well. As an industry, we must be ready for changes in policy and regulation that will inevitably be a part of that process.

The benefits of sustainable forest management must be weighed against the ability for our industry to do business in a meaningful way and remain profitable.

To that end, let’s review some of the ways sustainable forest management benefits the wood pallet industry:

  1. Ensures a steady supply of wood:  Sustainable forest management practices aim to maintain or increase the health and productivity of forest ecosystems over the long term. This helps to ensure that there is a continuous supply of wood available for the wood pallet industry.
  2. Reduces costs:  Sustainably managed forests are typically more efficient and cost-effective to log than forests that are not managed sustainably. For example, selective logging practices, which involve removing only certain trees from a forest rather than clear-cutting the entire area, can help to reduce costs and minimize waste.
  3. Enhances the reputation of the industry:  Sustainably managed forests are generally seen as more environmentally friendly, and the wood pallet industry can benefit from this positive reputation. Using sustainably sourced wood can help to attract customers who are concerned about the environmental impact of their purchasing decisions.
  4. Protects against future risks:  Climate change and other environmental pressures pose significant risks to the wood pallet industry. Sustainably managed forests are more resilient to these risks, as they are better able to adapt to changing conditions and continue to provide a reliable source of wood.

These are succinct points that offer a broad perspective to you as a reader. Essentially, they address supply, costs, marketing, and the environment as it relates to the pallet industry. It is your challenge to contemplate the implications of each of these points and decide where (and when) your company, and the industry, need to focus.

Sustainable forest management offers a range of benefits for the wood pallet industry, how will you add those benefits and create value for your business and the industry?

The Circular Economy-New Idea, Re-Modeled

The definition of a circular economy is straightforward but transitioning to the new model remains challenging. Consumers and business leaders have grown accustomed to a wasteful, linear product lifecycle. Manufacturers fabricate goods, ship them to retail outlets, and people buy the items they believe provide the most significant value. But what happens afterward? Most people discard old or broken products without a second thought. Yet, a circular economy breaks the cycle of wastefulness, providing an alternative to the current system and a way to fight climate change.

The Circular Economy – The New Idea

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, a circular economy “keeps materials, products, and services in circulation for as long as possible.” The typical product lifecycle entails fabricating new items from raw materials, sometimes natural resources, but there is little emphasis on sustainability. If there’s a choice between saving money on production or operating with sustainability, most choose the easy route.

A circular economy takes a different perspective. There is a concerted effort to eliminate waste at a fundamental, systemic level. Products manufactured in the current linear economic structure will not be returned to the manufacturer and recycled.

In a circular economic model, they would. The manufacturer can repair, reproduce, or recycle products using re-fabricated parts, creating a return-loop that promotes and operates with less waste – and lower manufacturing costs. The most vital concept is to be as efficient as possible while maintaining sustainability, including (if possible) using renewable energy.

Circular Economy-Recovered and Recycled

A circular economy isn’t a theoretical framework because real-world examples exist. The difference is that the global economy has yet to shift to a new model. Still, businesses continue to demonstrate how to accomplish the feat and push back on climate change.

Supply Chain

Many international companies in consumer facing industries, like automotive or electronics, are implementing closed loop-reverse logistics programs to capture savings in their manufacturing processes. These businesses enabled a “reverse logistics” system in coordination with partners and suppliers. These organizations gather and reassemble disused components and re-sell them via their reverse logistics supply chain. The result is greater efficiency since reassembled parts cost significantly less than new components. Those savings get passed to consumers, and all parties’ benefit. These industries have renovated hundreds of thousands of parts and components that meet similar specifications as new components.

Wood Pallets

Companies in the wood pallet industry have adopted similar systems, where new products are recycled and re-manufactured from existing pallets. Circular economics in this sector have spawned businesses that recover wood in the form of used pallets and other wood waste and re-purpose it as viable products all the way through the end and beyond of its own product lifecycle. The recycled pallets have the same functionality despite being reused in the supply chain more than once. If waste byproducts occur, those byproducts get used in other ways, such as using leftover wood for compost, or even wood pellets. This way, every ounce of recycled wood has a purpose and reduces the number of trees required to meet demand.

Why is It Important?

Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle seem aimed at a personal level of responsibility to start and that is great. However, a circular economy model offers a different path forward. It allows businesses and consumers to participate in a healthy economic system that protects the environment and fights climate change. The assumption that circular economics introduces unnecessary costs is inaccurate because real-world examples prove it’s possible. The next step is the widespread deployment of circular economic principles, and that’s where the global economy stands today. There’s a clear choice between conducting business as usual or moving on to a sustainable system.

Circular Design – How Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle Can Be Part of Product Design

The principles of circular design are integral to the concept of a circular economy, a new economic model that values sustainability and efficiency. Many products don’t return to the manufacturer in today’s linear economy, nor would they arrive in a recyclable condition. Sustainability wasn’t a priority when mass consumption became the norm, and many products were never designed for systematic reuse. The economic system today follows the “make, take, discard” product lifecycle, but circular design provides an opening for a sustainable economy.

Circular Design – A Definition

Circular design entails a fundamental shift from wastefulness toward sustainability from the product’s conception to its fabrication. Everything is designed for reuse multiple times instead of designing for failure or obsolescence. It’s a change that maximizes economic efficiency since products and their components are recycled instead of thrown away. Circular design enables innovation in ways that the linear economy can’t provide and entails the following principles.

Circular Design Principles

According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, the four principles of circular design are:

  • Understand
  • Define
  • Make
  • Release

The result is a new product lifecycle designed for sustainability with each iteration. It incorporates the three “R’s” principles – reduce, reuse, and recycle – and supports the creation and manufacturing of products that can be reused time and again.

Understand

The first principle is to understand where the most significant opportunities are ready and available. Not every product or service lends itself to circular design because the business doesn’t operate on a sustainable model.

Understanding the current product design, its shortcomings, and its lifecycle gives business leaders a direction when adopting circular design. The idea is to construct products and processes that are regenerative and restorative instead of destructive and wasteful. Changes in the model can include a more robust connection from fabrication to services where downstream recycling is regenerative and/or restorative and maintains a viable product (read: pallets) that is reusable throughout its lifecycle.

Define

The defining principle articulates the specific business processes that can benefit from circular design. The supply chain is a perfect example. The challenges in supply chain operations may differ from company to company, yet they aren’t insurmountable.

It takes a multi-disciplinary, collaborative effort between provider and customer to identify processes and transition to a more sustainable design that includes the materials used to make the products. The definition of success must be clear and attainable because the following principle relies upon clarity. If the purpose seems elusive, the proper course is to return to narrowing down and understanding the opportunity.

Make

Here is where businesses can take action and prioritize which products and/or processes are likely to succeed according to clearly defined sustainability objectives and which ones need further development. One strategy is to test concepts with rapid prototyping and to embed feedback mechanisms to optimize the design.

An easy low-hanging fruit to pluck is re-examining the raw materials that go into a product. Is it feasible to make the item with biodegradable materials, or is it a better candidate for recycling? Can it incorporate both into production? The answers boil down to what the user needs. Many times, different versions of the same product may be necessary to test and achieve circularity since the design requires innovation and creativity. This is where research and development take place, literally and figuratively. Think of the purpose of facilities like the Virginia Tech – Center for Packaging and Unit Load Design.

Release

The last principle is launching the new design, but it doesn’t stop there. Circular design demands continuous improvement and a constant focus on efficiency. That’s why it’s best to launch and learn, releasing products to redesign and refine processes, with the ultimate goal of creating a circular product lifecycle. Creating a circular economic system demands no less than a concerted, multi-pronged approach.

Circular Design and the Wood Pallet Industry

The question is: do real-world examples of circular design exist? And the answer is yes. The wood pallet industry is a prime example of how design can enable circular economics to the company’s benefit. Wood pallets don’t require new raw materials each time. Manufacturers can produce them from sustainably sourced wood, recycled wood components, or a combination of both. Another example is a pooled pallet rental system which many large enterprises rely upon in transporting their finished goods.

Either way, the pallets, and components are designed to be used multiple times, bolstering the product lifecycle with increased sustainability. The pallet industry leverages its natural advantage in sustainable processes, and companies can legitimately validate forward-thinking sustainability goals and demonstrate genuine positive action for environmental concerns. The old wasteful business model is transformed into a circular system, and companies establish trust with their customer.

Conclusion

Efficient design processes focusing on reuse can lower material costs end to end. A circular-designed product doesn’t have a single lifecycle but rather several. The overarching concept is to battle climate change by reimagining how products reach consumers, starting at the design level. The four principles of circular design provide guidance, but it’s incumbent upon business leaders to commit to the new paradigm.

The Forests of Gabon

Forest products play a crucial role in many countries and their available resources. In the African nation of Gabon, forest products are pointing the way forward in a country that finds itself winding down its oil production and needing to find alternate sources of investment and resources.

NP readers know that we at Nature’s Packaging support sustainably sourced wood from sustainably managed forests. Wood is a multifaceted medium that is utilized in everything from buildings (mass timber), to furniture, to the wooden pallet and crate.

The government of this small African nation understand that their forests are an opportunity to open new markets and create jobs for its citizens.

Join Nature’s Packaging as we take look how the country is working to balance its need for new revenue and to sustainably manage its abundant forest land.

The Eden of Africa

Known as the “Eden of Africa”, the nation of Gabon is rich with forestland (it covers about 90% of the country) and has one of the largest elephant herds in the world.  For decades though, it has relied on its oil production to fuel the economy. The oil producing sector has shielded the country’s economy from the larger fluctuations in Africa’s overall economic woes at various times in history.

However, as their calculated oil reserves begin to dwindle the government has turned to its forests to make the transition from oil as its main economic driver to a diversity of forest products. The challenge is to balance the need to extract these resources with the preservation of its precious forests and the climate change conditions happening around the world.

To maintain that balance, Gabonese officials have implemented strict rules regarding logging that keeps the majority trees standing and developing into old-growth timber. In fact, those strict rules limit logging to two trees per hectare every 25 years. Additionally, to combat illegal logging they have developed a program to track logs via bar code markings.

In the past, Gabon exported the majority of its raw timber product to other countries for them to finish. That has changed through government legislation that forbid selling the raw materials directly to other countries (France was a big customer). Now, the government is working to create industrial economic zones that provide tax breaks and other incentives to have businesses build factories and facilities that provide finished forest products right on their own. These include:

  • Furniture
  • Plywood products
  • Veneers from exotic tree species

To assess the interior forestland and track toward sustainable management of such a large area, Gabon officials built a satellite research station to track and create a database of the areas most degraded from industrial activity. This has led directly to a decline in illegal logging and deforestation overall. Some of the areas that were degraded previously were then re-purposed to more industrial agriculture services like palm oil.

This conservation and active sustainable management has led to a boom in the elephant population as well. In the 1990’s, the elephant population in Gabon numbered around 60,000. Now the population has grown to over 95,000. It is said that elephants are a sign of a thriving forest and certainly the elephants in Gabon are thriving.

Gabon and Forest Products

Gabon’s booming veneer business has made it the largest producer of exotic veneers in Africa. Their rich resource of exotic woods has made them a much sought after medium for crafting fine furniture and wood materials. And they are actively developing plywood manufacturing sectors through the grant of special economic zones that are located strategically close to resources and populations in need of employment.

The timber industry in Gabon is responsible for more than 30,000 jobs and this number is projected to increase as workers in the oil and gas sectors transition to forest based jobs. That 30,000 already represents about 7% of their total available workforce.

Gabon and Carbon

As the second largest reservoir of carbon sequestered through forestland (the Amazon is the largest), the burgeoning worldwide carbon credit market has created new opportunities for Gabon to utilize the natural carbon sequestration of its forest for profit in the CC market. It has sought and received carbon offset certifications from independent auditors.

Though this has not come without controversy as Gabonese officials chose to re-evaluate their credit calculation method and have since quadrupled their available carbon credits into the tens of millions of dollars. The concern is the market being flooded with these credits and thus driving down prices overall and the veracity of the credits themselves. Government officials have pointed to the initiative as a model for using new markets to fund the conservation of their forestland.

While Gabon’s story around forest products as a resource continues to play out over time. The model that they have provided to other African nations has prompted other to develop the same type of resources where available. However, the challenge becomes whether or not these other nations will adhere to principles of sustainable management of forestland and the need for economic opportunity. Time will tell.

What are the Montreal Process Criteria and Indicators?

The forest products industry is truly an ecosystem of industries that are symbiotic to each other by virtue of one common product:

Wood.

As one of our greatest resources, countries of the world have recognized that wood represents our ingenuity in building, shaping, and experimenting to build new structures and technologies.

They have also recognized the value of forests, and that managing those forest sustainably is an important part of climate change and our survival. To that end, one of the most recent tools developed to monitor forest health and conservation are the Montreal Process Criteria and Indicators.

In this Nature’s packaging blog post we’ll take a look at the Montreal C and I and learn a little about their origin and what they are utilized for as tools.

The Origin of the Montreal Process

The official title is the Montreal Process Working Group on Criteria and Indicators for the Conservation and Sustainable Management of Temperate and Boreal Forests, and they were derived from the Rio Forest Principles which was developed by the United Nations in 1992 as a non-legally binding document that made recommendations on sustainable forestry management and conservation.

These principles and their view of sustainable practices as being vital to forest preservation around the world were some of the first to tackle what countries were experiencing with deforestation and over-logging.

They became the catalyst for the working group that began to codify what sustainable management was, and how it would be monitored through the Montreal Process Criteria and Indicators.

In 1995, these criteria and indicators were formally agreed to by these ten countries:

  • Argentina
  • Australia
  • Canada
  • Chile
  • China
  • Japan
  • Korea
  • Mexico
  • New Zealand
  • The Russian Federation
  • United States
  • Uruguay

It has been determined that these countries account for:

  • 90% of temperate and boreal forest (including tropical) of the world
  • 58% of the planted forests of the world
  • 49% of the world’s forest overall
  • 49% of the production of roundwood in the world
  • 31% of the population.

The Criteria and their Purpose

As mentioned, the criteria were designed as tools to evaluate the important components of sustainable forest management and provide a structure to quantify and qualify the value and conditions of forests worldwide.

Their core premise is to view forests as ecosystems that provide a complex framework of environmental and socio-economic benefits for people around the world. The criteria and their subsequent indicators act as guidelines for monitoring and assessing national trends in forest conditions and management.

There are seven criteria that form the basis of the process:

  • Conservation of biological diversity
  • Maintenance of productive capacity of forest ecosystems
  • Maintenance of forest ecosystem health and vitality
  • Conservation and maintenance of soil and water resources
  • Maintenance of forest contribution to global carbon cycles
  • Maintenance and enhancement of long-term multiple socioeconomic benefits to meet the needs of societies
  • Legal, institutional, and economic framework for forest conservation and sustainable management

and each of these criteria have several indicators that measure or describe the criteria, which can include quantitative and/or descriptive practices like forest planning or investment in natural resources by countries.

In the beginning there were actually seven criteria and sixty-seven indicators, but over the years, the process, criteria, and indicators get reviewed to ensure they remain relevant and/or updated to new factors in sustainable forest management. This is important as the Montreal Process and Criteria are not standards or regulations that are binding and must allow for common interpretation.

They were not created to measure whether sustainability has been achieved. They were created to provide a common framework for countries to have effective discussions about how each of the participating country can work together to accomplish the common goals of sustainable forest management.

The Value Driven, Green Supply Chain

The whole world is more aware of the supply chain than they have ever been before. Pandemic-induced disruptions brought attention to the complexity of supply chains. Most people didn’t realize the impact of conditions in faraway places on the products they buy.

Climate change brought more attention to the sustainability and environmental impact of supply chains. The combination brought worldwide scrutiny to this historically overlooked essential underpinning of the global economy.

As we face a change in the methodology of supply chain operations and the increasing demand for more sustainable practices, businesses are looking at greening the supply chain. But what exactly does that mean?

Greening the Supply Chain

The phrase, “greening the supply chain”, often refers to practices that reduce the environmental impact of each step in a supply chain. But it can also encompass health and safety, societal impacts, and quality-of-life issues.

The degree to which sustainability programs and practices could be applied in a supply chain were originally thought to be based on the complexity of operations and where astute management could enable a more hands-on approach. However, the reality is that supply chains are a collaborative effort and no one company can lay claim to a singular approach that functions effectively.

The Green Supply Chain

A greener supply chain isn’t only about environmental impact. It’s also about saving resources and money for your business. And it’s about fortifying weak links in the chain to encourage more resilience in the face of external disruption.

Consumers are demanding greater environmental responsibility from corporations. Using sustainable practices at a company headquarters is a beginning step, but suppliers and partners have to be involved and invested in the practice as well. Some industries that work in the supply chain operations are automatically inclined to increase sustainability practices through their business model. The wooden pallet industry is a prime example of an industry that incorporates productive recycling practices that are absolutely in line with sustainability principles.

Many companies fail to realize the financial impact of waste in the supply chain. These costs tend to be hidden compared to upfront savings offered by suppliers. A closer look can reveal numerous processes where cost savings are negated. Disposing of excess packaging, paying for wasted water and energy, and costly shutdowns due to poor conditions can end up costing far more than those initial savings.

Taking the time to audit and eliminate wasteful practices at each step in the supply chain can result in lower costs. More importantly, it can also result in stronger, more resilient processes.

Companies can work directly with suppliers to reduce waste, decrease environmental impact, and improve working conditions. Each of these steps forges stronger relationships between companies and suppliers.

Those relationships allow all parts of the supply chain to work toward the common goal of business having a positive impact on the community. It doesn’t matter if that community is in the United States, Bangladesh, or France. Local impact is global impact.

Complex Supply Chains and Environmental Responsibility

As mentioned previously, a challenge for companies that want to green their supply chain is that they often do not directly control key parts of the chain. Factories and producers in developed countries generally have to abide by environmental regulations.

An effort to work with suppliers to exceed local regulations benefits their workers and their communities. Those suppliers become less fragile and prone to disruption and the supply chain grows stronger.

Those suppliers are also less likely to create environmental damage. Companies that knowingly use suppliers that are harming the environment may find themselves paying for portions of costly cleanup.

This can feel like an impossible task for many businesses. Even multi-national corporations struggle with the complexity of their supply chains. There may be hundreds of steps involved in creating a single product.

Everyone wants to be environmentally responsible, but where do you start? What are some basic green supply chain practices and what are some reasonable first steps?

Made From Trees-Forest Products Move Markets

Every day, many of the items used in daily life were made possible by forest products industries. The type of forest products in demand the most are various types of lumber. Used to make everything from furniture to home construction to wood pallets and containers; lumber is vital to many industries.

The transportation and logistics industries use wood pallets to move nearly everything. 1.8 billion pallets are in use every day, shipping 90% of the world’s goods. 90% of those pallets are made of wood, making them some of the most important forest product-derived items in the world.

Forest Products and Processes Add Sustainability

Forest products play a major role in the supply chain. Within the subject of climate change and the impact to the environment, the supply chain is under pressure to increase sustainability and reduce carbon emissions. The forest products industry is at the forefront of harvesting and creating renewable resources and products that are reusable and recyclable.

As part of that process, modern logging practices are incorporating sustainable principles to help forests remain healthy and productive. Well-managed forests generate some of the most valuable resources for mitigating climate change and provide useful products that positively impact daily life.

Wood Packaging Logistics and the Supply Chain

Wood packaging used in the supply chain includes pallets, boxes, crates used to transport goods. Well-designed wood packaging keeps goods from being damaged during transit. When heat treated and stamp-certified according to international standards like ISPM-15, wood packaging ensures that goods move seamlessly between countries and facilitates international trade.

Wood Pallets in the Supply Chain

Wood pallets are a core component of the supply chain. Their functionality makes them easy to load and unload via forklifts and pallet jacks. Their durability helps protect items shipped and their design makes them easy to store for reuse.

Wood pallets set the standard for supply chain strength, resilience, and sustainability. 95% of wood pallets are recycled and reused multiple times throughout their lifecycle. Pallets, as a crucial link in the supply chain, are leading the way toward a circular supply chain that eliminates waste.

They are also increasingly popular with consumers for DIY projects as the public recognizes their versatility. When they do reach the end of their useful lifespan, wood pallets are often down-cycled into other useful products like mulch, wood pellet fuel or craft wood.

A current challenge for wood pallets in the supply chain is availability. A consistent supply of quality pallets has always been in demand. When the pandemic hit, so did a broad increase in products shipped via e-commerce. As shipping has rebounded from those initial lock-downs, demand for pallets has exceeded supply.

At the same time, delays in other parts of the supply chain were causing the price of lumber to increase. Industries that use pallets to ship products began to appreciate the wood pallet as a principal component of a stable supply chain.

Forest Products-Above and Beyond

A relatively new arrival in the world of sustainable forest products is mass timber. Mass timber is an engineered product made up of multiple pieces and layers of wood sandwiched together. The result is an incredibly strong and resilient building material that is used in the construction of large buildings that were once built with steel or concrete alone. Mass timber technology is being used to build in Canada and Europe, and is now beginning to launch significantly in U.S. building construction.

Wood Fuel Powering Industry

Burning wood for fuel is nothing new. But the processes used for this age-old forest product are changing. Rather than using traditional firewood for heat in homes, people are turning to pellet stoves.

The pellets used in these stoves are commonly made from compressing wood byproducts that would otherwise go to waste. Wood pellets contain very little water, making them light and easy to handle and transport. They burn hot and clean and are considered to be carbon neutral.

The same pellets can be used to produce steam and electricity.

Biomass consisting of wood and plant products is finding a place as a clean energy option. It can be burned directly or processed into gas or liquid fuels. While not as clean as solar or wind energy, it is vastly cleaner than fossil fuel use and is renewable.

Residential buildings and industries are turning to biomass and other renewable sources for their energy needs.

Forest products surround us in our everyday lives. Renewable forestry practices have created an industry that leads the way in a world rightly focused on sustainability and net zero carbon emissions.

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