READING, Pa., April 22, 2010 – Penske Logistics, Dr. Robert C. Lieb, Professor of Supply Chain Management at Northeastern University and Dr. Kristin J. Lieb, Assistant Professor of Marketing Communication, Emerson College, today issued the "Third Party Logistics Sustainability Report" in commemoration of Earth Day. The report reveals that despite the global recession of 2008 and 2009, many large third-party logistics (3PL) companies increased their respective commitments to developing greener practices and building environmental sustainability programs during that time. The report is based on key findings from the 2008 and 2009 "3PL Provider CEO Perspective" surveys, which interviewed 35 third-party logistics company CEOs across North America, Europe and Asia-Pacific whose companies were responsible for generating approximately $60 billion in revenue each year.

The report, authored by Dr. Robert Lieb and sponsored by Penske Logistics, indicated that "a corporate desire to do the right thing" was by far the most important reason to commit to sustainability initiatives; "pressure from customers" ranked second. According to the surveys, CEOs were not only dedicated to providing customers with more environmentally-friendly services, but also to applying such practices internally within their organizations, employing a variety of tactics; from reducing company-printed materials to using windmills at distribution centers for electric-power generation.

Corporate dedication to sustainability programs yielded overwhelmingly positive results for 28 out of the 35 CEOs surveyed, including reduced operating expenses, positive impacts on company employees, substantial savings in fuel costs, and even reduced fuel costs by 40 percent, as noted by one CEO. Six CEOs reported that company sustainability efforts led to increased business with both existing and new customers. However, despite these investments, most CEOs noted that sustainability was very infrequently a determining factor in either extending existing contracts, or securing new 3PL business.

"Compared with other industries, 3PL service providers are ahead of the game," commented Dr. Robert Lieb. "They appear to be planning for the long-term by recognizing emerging customer preferences and providing services consistent with them, even in the current market downturn."

"Penske is committed to identifying ways to drive the industry toward greater sustainability in anticipation that it will be a major area of focus that customers must consider in the future," said Vince Hartnett, President of Penske Logistics. "Our investments in this area include EPA’s SmartWay program, for which Penske Logistics has attained a rating of 1.25, and implementing technologies such as dynamic routing, fuel management and flexible asset management."

The "Third Party Logistics Sustainability Report" is available upon request.

Further insights into this year’s research findings are outlined in additional detail below:

Reasons for Establishing Sustainability Programs

The 2008 survey sought to determine the most important reasons the 3PLs had established sustainability programs by asking the CEOs to indicate the three most important reasons for doing so.

  • "A corporate desire to do the right thing" was by far the most important reason to establish sustainability programs, with 24 out of 39 CEOs ranking it as the primary reason
  • Ranking second was "pressure from customers," with seven out of 39 CEOs ranking it as the primary reason
  • Other reasons cited for establishing sustainability programs were "a desire to enhance the company’s image," "a desire to attract green customers" and "competitive pressures"

Importance of Sustainability Issues in the Sales Process

The 2008 survey attempted to determine how often existing or potential customers raised sustainability requirements in their contract discussions with 3PLs.

  • CEOs stated that on average 21 percent of existing customers and 20 percent of potential customers raised sustainability issues in their discussions with the 3PLs
  • Three CEOs said these sustainability issues were frequently a major determining factor in contract discussions with 3PLs
  • 36 CEOs indicated that sustainability issues were very infrequently a major determining factor in contract discussions with 3PLs
  • CEOs were also asked what percentage of their companies’ existing contracts included sustainability performance metrics; the average response was 2.5 percent

Continued 3PL Commitment to Sustainability

  • None of the CEOs involved in the 2009 survey had scaled back their company’s commitment to sustainability goals as a result of the recession
  • 63 percent of CEOs surveyed reported expanding the existing sustainability programs during the previous year
  • 71 percent of CEOs surveyed indicated they had launched completely new sustainability initiatives during the same time frame

Table 1

Most Important Short-Term Sustainability Challenges Faced by 3PLs

Sustainability challenge Total Weighted Points*
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