Sustainability has quickly become a central topic in discussions about supply chain operations and logistics. Driven by a desire to cut back on waste and increase eco-friendly options, warehouse managers are looking for new ways to boost sustainability.
There are many different strategies available for managers who want to make their warehouses greener. One of the easiest to implement and most surprisingly effective is LED lighting.
Here, we’ll break down the growing demand for sustainability in warehousing and logistics, plus how LEDs can boost sustainability.
The Growing Importance of Sustainability in the Supply Chain
Over the past few years, sustainability has become a significant topic in almost every industry. As unethical and irresponsible behavior has started to damage business reputations, several major corporations have made public commitments to sustainable practices. Some of these companies, wary of guilt by association, have even pledged to only work with suppliers that meet certain environmental and social standards.
As the discussion around sustainability has grown, it’s naturally become much more relevant to the logistics and distribution industries. Pressure from businesses, consumers and regulatory bodies has pushed organizations across the supply chain to make themselves more eco-friendly. At the same time, warehouse managers have become more aware of the business benefits that improved sustainability can offer.
For warehouses, there are three major benefits of adopting sustainable practices — increased operational efficiency, reduced environmental impact and improved business reputation.
In the same way that lean factories can reduce spending by making more efficient use of resources, sustainable warehouses are similarly able to cut back on costs. Finding ways to more efficiently use energy, water and goods can reduce operational expenses at a time when the supply chain is under serious pressure to boost efficiency and cut back on waste.
Increased efficiency, in turn, reduces the effect warehouses have on the environment. Other sustainable practices — like the use of eco-friendly materials — can reduce that environmental impact even further.
Sustainability can also seriously boost a warehouse’s reputation and ability to make partnerships with other businesses. There is a growing demand among consumers for increased environmental-friendliness in logistics — especially from younger generations that are difficult to reach with traditional marketing strategies.
About 68% of U.S. internet users say they consider sustainability when making purchasing decisions. While warehouses don’t market directly to consumers, they do build partnerships with brands that want to prove their sustainability commitment to customers. These brands may be more likely to work with eco-friendly warehousing operations — or might only work with brands that meet certain environmental standards.
How LED Lights Make Warehouse Lighting More Efficient
There are a few different advantages that LEDs offer over traditional bulbs when it comes to environmental friendliness, as well as their ability to save money.
LEDs are up to 80% more energy-efficient than fluorescent bulbs. They convert 95% of the energy they draw into light, and just 5% becomes heat. By comparison, 5% of the energy used by fluorescent bulbs is converted into light, while 95% is lost to heat.
LED lighting, as a result, puts out more light than incandescent and fluorescent bulbs of comparable wattage. It’s possible to light the same amount of space with fewer bulbs, or with bulbs that draw less power overall.
Switching to LEDs will also allow warehouses to cut back on how often lightbulbs are replaced — meaning that warehouses can save on replacement bulbs as well as the labor needed for lighting upkeep. LEDs can last up to 25 times longer than conventional bulbs. A traditional 60-watt incandescent bulb will last about 1,000 hours — a little more than one and a half months of continuous function. LEDs, on the other hand, can last for as long as 25,000 hours — or nearly three years.
Other Benefits of LED Lights
Longer bulb lifespans can also help warehouses reduce the frequency of lighting failures. These outages can cause serious downtime and wasted labor hours as employees temporarily avoid certain areas of the warehouse or are forced to work in limited visibility.
Better and more consistent lighting has also been found to improve productivity and reduce the risk of accidents. LED bulbs also provide instant brightness the second they’re turned on, unlike HID bulbs, which are notorious for taking a long time to reach full power.
LEDs are also more sustainably constructed than other lighting options. Fluorescent bulbs — which are often used as a cheaper alternative to LED lighting — contain toxic elements, like mercury. If they aren’t recycled, they’re likely to be thrown into a compactor or sent to a landfill. When this happens, the mercury can easily escape — damaging the environment or even negatively impacting worker health.
LED lights contain no mercury. While there are some environmental concerns about the materials used by LEDs, they’re typically around more easily managed elements, like copper and nickel.
How LED Lighting Can Boost Warehouse Sustainability
Sustainability is likely to become an even more important trend in the future. Awareness of the impact non-sustainable sourcing can have on the environment is expected to grow. At the same time, consumers from younger generations, who are more likely to demand eco-friendly options, will steadily gain greater purchasing power.
As a result, sustainability will probably continue to be a good goal for most warehouse managers to strive for. Switching to LED lighting can help operations reduce energy consumption and improve lighting lifespan — greatly improving the environmental impact of warehouses.