The air is green Featured

8:00pm EDT August 26, 2008

Like many other industries in today’s global economy, environmental responsibility is an issue that the entire supply chain has both progressively and collectively embraced.

In light of the financial fuel crisis currently crippling the industry, airlines have desperately been searching for ways to reduce their fuel consumption, and it’s no surprise that their efforts have led them to a greener doorstep.

“Going green has resulted in a double win for the forwarding community,” says Joseph Hoban, director of international air services for AIT Worldwide Logistics. “The airlines have significantly reduced fuel consumption, thereby drastically lowering operating costs while simultaneously supporting the industry’s need to reduce harmful emissions and preserve the environment.”

It is this mutually beneficial duality that has prompted all modes of transport — trucking, rail, ocean and air — to take proactive measures in minimizing the global supply chain’s collective impact on the environment.

Smart Business asked Hoban to discuss how the air cargo industry is playing its role in the eco-friendly movement with great, “green” gusto.

What factors contribute to the success of the ‘going green’ movement?

While there’s no precise moment in time or defining incident when the so-called ‘green light’ went off and the industry scrambled to become environmentally conscious, I am confident that the groundswell stemming from individual involvement is the driving force behind the movement’s phenomenal success.

Al Gore’s highly publicized, award-winning efforts in the movement undoubtedly brought about an increased level of visibility and heightened awareness among the general public. Sparked by insatiable interest, individuals brought the hot-button issue to work with them, initiating watercooler conversations centered on the topic, thus driving the ‘greening’ of their behaviors into their own homes and organizations.

Quite simply, this isn’t a corporate initiative being imposed on employees — rather, it’s been fueled by individuals who are feeling compelled enough to ask, ‘What can I do?’

Discuss the industry’s current ‘going green’ efforts.

Like IT improvements, ISO and other standards that customers demand, going green has quickly become the cost of doing business in today’s world. Because it has transformed into one of the minimum expectations of the global consumer marketplace, customers are inquiring what our industry is doing to decrease our carbon footprint. In looking at the supply chain as one green line from door-to-door, they are opting to partner with and support the companies who align themselves with green initiatives.

Whether it involves powering aircraft with fuel derived from algae, coordinating test flights using biofuels or purchasing carbon offsets to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, the airline industry is taking various measures, all in the name of ‘greening’ the operations of its business.

In addition to replacing planes with more fuel-efficient aircraft, the airlines have begun taking measures on a smaller scale, all contributing to the much larger picture: less fuel-burning holding patterns, using one engine to taxi the aircraft, towing from the gate and less idling, among a variety of other eco-friendly tactics.

Organizations have also implemented programs encouraging the industry’s ‘going green’ efforts. For example, the eFreight initiative introduced by IATA (International Air Transport Association) aims to free our industry processes of paper documents, while the SmartWay Transport Partnership led by the Environmental Protection Agency aims to reduce between 33 and 66 million metric tons of CO2 emissions and up to 200,000 tons of nitrogen dioxide emissions per year.

Are you encouraged or discouraged by the ‘going green’ trends you see in the industry today?

I am encouraged by the ‘going green’ trends I’ve closely examined and observed in this industry. These trends demonstrate that we are a vital component of the global village. Rather than standing on the sidelines and pointing fingers or playing the proverbial blame game, we are taking an active role in promoting the planet. Not only are we recognizing the fact that we’re depositing vapor trails and contributing to the harmful emissions lingering in the atmosphere, but we’re actually doing something about it.

I am, however, discouraged by the companies out there who are only greening their business for the sake of survival and profitability — their true heart is not vested in the cause. In a perfect world, these companies would be motivated by more altruistic intentions; however, the positive results and necessary progress remain consistent, regardless of their incentive to rally around the cause and receive the ‘green’ thumb of approval from their customers and counterparts.

JOSEPH HOBAN is director of international air services for AIT Worldwide Logistics, Inc., headquartered in Itasca, Illinois. Spanning numerous nationwide locations and an ever-increasing network of international partnerships, the global transportation and logistics provider delivers tailored solutions for a wide variety of vertical markets and industries. Reach him at jhoban@aitworldwide.com or (800) 669-4AIT (4248).