Centrality of humanitarian logistics.
Only through collaborative and complementary action, can humanitarian logisticians ensure that the life-saving activities of today do not have impacts that need cleaning up tomorrow. Athalie Mayo, Global Logistics Cluster Coordinator
Recent studies on environment in humanitarian action have consistently identified logistics as a stage of the supply chain where the risk of unintended impacts is high, and where there is a need to embed environmental expertise to support the identification of scalable solutions and increase the knowledge base for humanitarian practitioners.
The humanitarian logistics community is responsible for the procurement, transport, receipt, and inventory of relief items as well as for operational support tasks including premises, waste, and fleet management.
As such, logistics and logisticians are not only crucial enablers of humanitarian action, but they can also be pivotal drivers of its environmental outcomes.
The challenges of waste management and pollution prevention are cross cutting. No single actor can solve them alone. But if the challenges are great, current initiatives show that the potential for improvement is also within our grasp. Locally developed solutions, founded in operational realities, might have the potential to be replicated elsewhere and will serve as proof of existing commitment to take local action.
What are the most significant environmental impacts of humanitarian logistics?
Two specific areas of environmental impact result directly from logistics activities: the waste generated by humanitarian operations and greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) and pollution from the transport of humanitarian supplies.
Humanitarian logistics and supply chain can induce waste: plastics and packaging required to safeguard the quality of the relief items, hazardous materials from organisations’ vehicle fleets like used tyres, motor oils and lubricants, batteries, and end-of-life vehicles, not to mention dangerous fumes from the burning of waste, truck convoys, and generators. These by-products of humanitarian action not only have a negative impact on local human and ecological health, but they also occur in contexts where sustainable waste management systems do not exist. Yet, once the rush of the emergency support is over, it is mostly local communities that are left to deal with the unintended repercussions of a well-intended action.
Life-saving humanitarian action can have unintended environmental impacts, which can hamper the effectiveness of relief, recovery, and sustainable development efforts. Christian Grønnerød, Danish Refugee Council
What is the WREC in simple words?
The Environmental Sustainability in Humanitarian Logistics project aims to reduce and manage the harmful consequences of humanitarian logistics and supply chain induced waste and pollution in a focused and sustained manner over an initial period of two years, starting from February 2021. The project seeks to do so through the application of circular economy principles related to logistics-induced waste and pollution, including both relief items as well as pollution caused by humanitarian presence. In other words, we want to make sure that we are looking at the lifespan of relief items and the by-products of humanitarian action, ensuring that as humanitarians we are embedding environmental sustainability measures in our logistics and procurement actions. With regards to relief items, we aim to ensure that we are choosing manufacturers who produce and supply relief goods and products which are designed to be reusable before introducing these products into the humanitarian supply chain.
Leveraging the Logistics Cluster’s network of over 500 partners and mobilising the shared commitments of the coalition and institutional donors, the project brings dedicated environmental expertise into the humanitarian logistics community to:
Raise awareness and assemble, develop, and make up-to-date guidance and training on environmentally sustainable logistics and supply chain activities widely available to the humanitarian community.
Initiate action to support humanitarian logistics practitioners to reduce their environmental impacts from waste and transport and adopt good environmental practices.
This knowledge sharing and cross-sector collaboration will help build efficiencies across operational decision-making and create a safer, less polluted environment for crisis-affected communities.
Who will benefit from this partnership?
The thousands of humanitarian logistics professionals supported by the Global Logistics Cluster, the coalition partner organisations, and local communities will be the primary groups to benefit from this project.
Reducing or avoiding the environmental impacts of humanitarian actions can in the long term reduce the requirement for humanitarian intervention, strengthen local resilience, and ultimately lower the costs of humanitarian responses.
The WREC is coordinated by the Global Logistics Cluster and supported by a coalition of humanitarian organisations, including 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 who, together, offer a uniquely wide operational reach.
Beyond its direct impact on humanitarian supply chain professionals, the project’s stakeholders also include donors, humanitarian organisations, host governments, the private sector, research institutes, and crisis-affected populations.
The project will work alongside complementary initiatives such as Phase II of the USAID Joint Initiative for sustainable humanitarian packaging waste management, the Global Plan of Action for Sustainable Energy Solutions in Situations of Displacement, and related initiatives in the Environment in Humanitarian Action (EHA) Network. It will also collaborate with other experts within the humanitarian supply chain field, including in the commercial and academic sectors.
We are committed to elevating social, economic and environmental sustainability to the core of our and our suppliers’ ways of working and decision making. Susan Hodgson, Save the Children International