Jonathan Morris, Associate, Advisory Services, BSR

Note: This is the second in a series of blogs on collaboration. The first blog focused on the power of collaboration.

Up until recently, it might have been seen as counterproductive for a company to set logistic supply chain goals based on improving its environmental performance. But examples of today’s leading companies have revealed a change in the business climate. Companies like Heineken that broadly embed sustainability in their supply chains, extending to include transportation providers such as Maersk Line, are seeing clear benefits—in both reputation and cost management, as well as in their ability to respond to new regulations.

Increasingly, key stakeholders are watching corporate sustainability efforts and reacting accordingly. One important stakeholder—the customer—has turned a corner regarding sustainability practices. According to the Carbon Trust in the UK, up to 45 percent of shoppers would stop buying their favorite brands if they refused to commit to measuring their product carbon footprint—doubling over the past year. Additionally, 56 percent of people would be more loyal to a brand they knew was working to reduce its carbon footprint. Heineken has responded to this rise in consumer pressure by setting aggressive transparent reduction targets.

Upcoming environmental regulation only stands to raise the stakes on Heineken’s environmental performance. The European Union has stated its intentions to implement a measurement, reporting, and verification scheme in 2013 and will pursue a future carbon tax (or similar mechanism) on container ships coming into and out of European ports—a cost that shipping companies will likely have to share with their customers. If Heineken was not already working on embedding sustainability within its supply chain, it would only be a matter of time before the company faced steep costs for failing to keep pace.

This begs the question: How is a company like Heineken or a transport provider like Maersk Line keeping up? The answer turns out to be rather easy: through collaboration. Both companies are active members of the Clean Cargo Working Group, a global business-to-business initiative, made up of leading cargo carriers and their customers, dedicated to environmental performance improvement in marine container transport through measurement, evaluation, and reporting. By collaborating with their peers, Heineken and Maersk Line are setting themselves up to meet customer pressures and new regulations, and they are interested in sharing their experiences with others.

Join us for an upcoming webinar on January 24, 2013 at 4 p.m. GMT to learn more about Clean Cargo and to hear from Heineken and Maersk Line themselves. Register here.

This blog post first appeared on 2degrees.