ILoNa: Making logistics more sustainable

Logistics is the third largest economic sector in Germany and accounts for a substantial percentage of CO2 emissions and resource consumption. The social trend towards more sustainability and digitilisation generates further growth in the industry and presents companies with new challenges. The processes involved and services offered need to be closely examined – also in terms of exploiting the associated climate protection potential. This is where the IloNa project comes in: it examines the sector in depth and shows where steps can be taken to achieve a climate-friendly future.

Supply and demand determine the market and influence each other – and the logistics sector is no exception. Here, it is the lifestyles of customers in particular that has a great impact on logistics services. Above all, this includes the evolution of online shopping, the fast-moving nature of fashion and technical trends and the increased demand for despatch and return options that this involves. But the organisation of logistics – from procurement and warehousing right up to transport and marketing – can also have an influence on customer behaviour. The interdisciplinary project “ILoNa – Innovative Logistik für Nachhaltige Lebensstile” (innovative logistics for a sustainable lifestyle), run by the Centre for Logistics and Traffic at the University of Duisburg-Essen, is conducting research into this hitherto little-explored area of interaction. In the process, the researchers aim to increase sustainability within the sector, thereby making it more climate-friendly.

Engine for progress:

  • Comprehensive analysis of the overlap between logistics and lifestyles
  • Innovation platform creates dynamism
  • Area of high climate protection potential and growth
  • Tool kit for logistics companies

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graphic: Martina Rinkens

ILoNa examines the overlap of sustainable logistics services and sustainable lifestyles, which are expressed as demands for the logistics sector. The key question is how companies can exploit this great potential for climate protection?

Potential for increased sustainability

In order to tap into the full potential of the logistics sector, social considerations are given the same priority as the economic and ecological factors that usually dominate the industry. The brick and mortar business model, internet trading and also new forms of the sharing economy and the broad field of the supply chain are analysed from the start of a production process to the delivery of the product to the consumer. The main demographic and spatial trends and the influences of digitalisation form the framework of the research.

Not only did the project team investigate the status quo using a number of consumer and company surveys, but it also mapped out the future challenges for the industry. One result, for example, was that customers pay close attention to sustainability in the area where the subject is evident at first sight: in the packaging. At the same time, however, high figures for returned items and the possibility of an order being delivered in several consignments present a particular problem in terms of sustainability. Appropriate responses are needed in this area in order to meet the needs of the customer and those of climate protection. In addition, the optimisation of transport routes offers a great deal of potential. Numerous companies are already working on finding solutions in this area, based on the use of new technologies and which, in some cases, make new business models possible.

An innovation platform for the logistics sector

The logistics industry was involved in the project by holding regular workshops to give an opportunity for mutual exchange and to provide an “innovation platform” for expressing ideas and finding solutions. As well as presenting company-specific challenges, the purpose of these workshops was to discuss the results of the surveys from a practical perspective and to produce possible courses of action, thereby providing direct support and ideas for the approx. 60 companies taking part.

Comprehensive approach, flexible tools

As a result of the research project, the logistics companies now have a collection of tools at their disposal, in both digital format and hard copy, which enable them to organise their own companies in a more sustainable way. The collection comprises not so much concrete suggestions for action, but tools for self-analysis, for assessment of impact, for individual analysis of the systemic interrelationships involved and for scenario analysis. The publication also presents examples of best practice. “ILoNa” aims to point out real systemic effects and create a better general awareness of the overlap between the areas of sustainable logistics, production and consumption. The identification of criteria and their interrelationships in the analysis also demonstrate areas of potential political intervention, which are set out in a white paper and presented to policy-makers.

Photo: Albert Hölzle

There are clear interdependencies between individual lifestyles and modern logistics services in terms of sustainability issues, since consumers also bear responsibility for the eco-system. Their purchase decisions, giving priority to more sustainable products and using sustainable logistics providers in a targeted way, promote the development of more sustainable and innovative logistics concepts. We aim to demonstrate the potential for sustainable logistics concepts to consumers and companies alike, thereby paving the way for an ecological realignment of the business sector and society.

Dr Ani Melkonyan, Project Coordinator of ILoNa, Board Member of the Centre for Logistics and Traffic at the University of Duisburg-Essen

Partners and sponsors

  • Collaborating Centre on Sustainable Consumption and Production
  • Universität Witten/Herdecke, Zentrum für Nachhaltige Unternehmensführung
  • Universität Duisburg-Essen, Transportsysteme und Logistik
  • Universität Duisburg-Essen, Allgemeine Psychologie: Kognition
  • Effizienzcluster Logistik Ruhr
  • Center for Media & Health
  • Schachinger Logistik
  • Fiege Logistik
  • Universität Duisburg-Essen, Zentrum für Logistik und Verkehr
  • Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung (BMBF)

Further reading & downloads