Study: What is the environmental impact of humanitarian logistics?

CHORD project volunteers

How do humanitarian aid projects affect the environment? A new quantitative research study aims at measuring the environmental impact along the supply chain and evaluates the effectiveness of existing and potential solutions to reduce that impact. The study is run by the Center for Humanitarian Logistics and Regional Development (CHORD), a joint initiative of KLU and HELP Logistics.

The study will be building upon the findings of a previous qualitative analysis (carried out by the Hanken School of Economics’ HUMLOG Institute) which provided an overview of the waste streams, drivers of sustainability initiatives, current activities in waste management, and constraints faced with the increased focus on sustainability activities in humanitarian logistics. The study is part of the environmental sustainability in the humanitarian logistics project WREC.

“Climate change strongly contributes to the growing humanitarian needs around the world. Humanitarian actors have to intensify their efforts in reducing the environmental impact of their operations. CHORD is proud to support those efforts by providing empirical evidence through our rigorous research work, “ says Jonas Stumpf, Program Manager, CHORD.

The WREC Project seeks to reduce the adverse environmental consequences of humanitarian logistics through awareness, practical guidance, and real-time environmental expertise. The project is coordinated by the Global Logistics Cluster and supported by a coalition of humanitarian organizations – the Danish Refugee Council (DRC), the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), Save the Children International, and the World Food Programme of the United Nations – with input from all Logistics Cluster partners, other humanitarian clusters, the private sector, and academic partners.

The Project pursues the following goals:

  • The humanitarian logistics community is aware of the sector’s environmental impact and adopts a coordinated, scalable, and sustainable approach to measure and reduce that impact.
  • Humanitarian logistics practitioners are supported to reduce their environmental impacts from waste and transport, not only while their operations are underway but also before they have begun and after they have ended.

Further CHORD projects in the field of environmental sustainability

Over the past two years and in close collaboration with KLU’s Center for Sustainable Logistics and Supply Chains (CSLS), CHORD has been working alongside many different humanitarian organizations to make their life-saving operations more environmentally sustainable.

For example, CHORD has been supporting Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) Climate Smart project that aims at decreasing the organization’s negative environmental impacts without compromising on the effectiveness of its aid programs. One concrete project deliverable is an interactive dashboard that maps and displays greenhouse gas emissions caused by global freight transportation.

CHORD also advises the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and a group of humanitarian organizations on the development of a carbon accounting tool. In several other projects such as with United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and Fleet Forum, CHORD is applying the Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) methodology to measure the environmental footprint of products (or services) considering their entire life cycle — from raw materials extraction to the use and disposal of the product itself — across multiple environmental dimensions — e.g., global warming, land use, terrestrial acidification, freshwater eutrophication.

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