The transportation and logistics industry is one of the most important areas of the German economy, second only in economic terms to the automotive industry and health care. Given this, considering how this industry operates in terms of energy efficiency and sustainability – especially as a sector dominated by small and mediumsized enterprises – it is clear that there are still many areas that need closer examination, not only to tackle practice within individual companies but also to get workers more actively involved. The Steinbeis Innovation Center for Logistics and Sustainability is demonstrating how this could work in practice.
Against the backdrop of recent climate change and globalization, it is crucial that energy efficiency and sustainability are given greater priority, especially considering how much attention is given to these topics in the transportation and logistics industry. Sustainable thinking should become an established part of business practice in the future; it should be valued and perceived as “a matter of course.” It will be particularly important for energy efficiency and sustainability to be conveyed to people in the market in such a way that they not only understand why it is important, but are also motivated to act. A term commonly used in the transportation and logistics industry that’s more or less synonymous with “energy efficiency” and “sustainability” is “green logistics.”
Green logistics can be understood to mean “a long-term and systematic process of measuring and reducing resource use and emissions resulting from transportation and logistics process within and between companies” (Wittenbrink, 2011). The aim of green logistics is thus to cut pollution and emissions caused by logistical activities – especially greenhouse gas emissions – and thus contribute to climate and environmental protection. Whereas the focus with green logistics lies in the pillars of the economy and ecology, with energy efficiency and sustainability the focus lies in a holistic view of business activities with respect to commercial, ecological, and social aspects. Implementation measures aimed at achieving energy efficiency also play an essential role and these are especially important given the current developments as part of the “energy transition” in Germany.
The core competences of the Sinsheim-based Steinbeis Innovation Center for Logistics and Sustainability (SLN) have been focused on the fields of energy efficiency and sustainability. The center is already working on delivering a variety of projects with partners in these areas of industry. The main emphasis of these projects lies in training people to work as instructors, lecturers, and apprentices in order to improve energy efficiency in the transportation and logistics sector. The underlying concept is partly to ensure that their sustainable know-how is bolstered in the long-term, affecting not just the people involved at vocational colleges but also in business overall. It is also about making a contribution towards sensitizing up-and-coming managers for topics relating to sustainability. Drawing on a variety of training measures and techniques, the aim is to develop sustainable know-how both within companies and within training establishments. “As in the past, we’re finding that there is still so much development potential among workers and apprentices when it comes to energy and sustainability in the transportation and logistics sector. The first step must be to unlock this potential and then it will need continual reinforcement,” explains Jens-Jochen Roth, director of the Steinbeis Innovation Center for Logistics and Sustainability (SLN) from Sinsheim. SLN focuses on professional and systematic analysis in developing made- to-measure solutions for business and logistical challenges. Most projects have an environmental or sustainability angle. Going by the principle of “working with those in the field, working for those in the field,” the project partners work together to develop sustainable concepts and implement specific measures. The SLN primarily works on business tasks and sees itself as the lynchpin between transportation science and the transportation industry.
Jens-Jochen Roth is the director of the Steinbeis Innovations Center for Logistics and Sustainability. His philosophy of “shaping the future, taking responsibility” guides the work done at the Steinbeis Enterprise, driven by a commitment to sustainable innovation in the field of vocational training – for people working in transportation, logistics, and manufacturing. The focus here lies in providing qualifications and raising awareness of sustainability issues among people who work in business.