Conclusions and recommendations based on Research


This chapter will present the conclusions and recommendations which are obtained during the research findings. The conclusions will be presented by the four different research questions that were answered in the previous chapter.

The second part of this chapter consists of the recommendations which are derived from the research findings and conclusion explained in the previous and current chapter.

Conclusions of first research question

The main motives to invest in sustainability can be derived into economic, social and environmental reasons.

The most important economic reasons to invest in sustainability have to do with generating more profit. If a company can be successful in working more efficiently than costs can be saved which generates more profit. In this case of working more efficiently also environmentally motives are being addressed.

If a company works more efficiently than is does not need as many resources, or it can reduce transportation time which are beneficial for the environment. When a company succeeds to reduce its CO2 emissions it does not only benefit the environment but also saves money. In this way less rights have to be bought for the emissions of CO2 gasses.

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Social motives are a bit different than the two motives stated above. Companies feel it as their obligation to invest in social motives. You work with people so you also have to take care for them. Looking to the case of DHL than this is a nice example. They provide their knowledge of setting up logistic activities in disaster areas. They have setup the logistics activities after the hurricane Katrina and the earthquake in Haiti. They only do this because they feel it as their moral obligation.

Conclusions of the second research question

The role of sustainability divers per branch in the logistics sector. A study by the Florida International University College of Business Administration revealed that in the transportation and logistics sector 85% of the companies are either in the early stage or do not have a green strategy yet. This reveals that the role of sustainability does not play an important role in logistics. However, the interviews I had with the leader firms did not give such a black scenario. A lot of firms do have a green strategy, although one firm operates more sustainable than the other. Within the logistics sector the transportation companies are the most behind when it come to a sustainable strategy. Most of these firms do not have a green strategy and when they do have it than it is in a lot of times obliged by the paying customer which is the shipping company.

There are some very big shipping companies who have because of their size and market position the power to oblige their transporters to have a sustainable strategy. They do this mainly because these companies feel it is their duty. If you are a leader firm than you should give the right example and motivate others.

In some other cases the government or other external factor can convince a company to develop a sustainable strategy. In the case of ECT, the Port of Rotterdam has setup goals to make us of more inter-modal transportation. Without the commitment of the ECT they would not have received the right to open a new terminal on the Maasvlakte 2.

Conclusions of the third research question

The most commonly accepted definition of sustainability national as well as international is the definition stated at the World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED) in 1987. The WCED was a commission of the United Nations. This definition is commonly known as the Brundtland definition and most of the governments world wide accept this as the definition of sustainability. One of these governments is the Netherlands, but also the European Union (EU) accepts this as the general definition of sustainability.

However, the leader firms indicated that the Brundtland definition is not specific enough. They feel the definition does not encompass the three dimensions of sustainability.

The basic concept of sustainability can be divided into three aspects; economic, environmental and social aspects. Some organisations prefer to call it the three P’s, People, Planet and Profit. But there is no difference between it, only an other name.

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Economic sustainability or profit, concerns as the ability to generate incomes and employment to sustain the populations. It should pinpoint out what the organisations economic impacts are at local, national and global levels.

Environmental sustainability or planet, concerns the organisations impacts on the living and non-living natural systems.

Finally the last the dimension is the social sustainability or people. This dimensions encompasses topics like human rights, labour rights and corporate governance.

The most commonly accepted sustainable indicators are provided by the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI). The GRI is a guideline for companies who want report about their sustainable activities. These different indicators are divided into the three dimensions of sustainability.

Conclusions of the fourth research question

The different components of sustainability in the logistic chain differ from branch to branch. The author has made a distinguishing between shipping companies, transporters, trans-shipment companies and forwarders/logistics service companies.

The shipping companies focus to sustainability in how they can improve the production of the products. Furthermore, some of these companies are leader firms and because of their size they have the power to oblige transporters to work according to a sustainable strategy. The transporters themselves do not have the motivation to invest in sustainability unless it is required by the paying customer (shipping company), or it is obliged by the government and therefore they can avoid fines and bad reputation.

The trans-shipment companies are normally in a position where it is difficult to oblige their customers to work more sustainable. So they work more sustainable themselves by for instance working more efficiently what is both beneficial for the profitability of the company and is also better for the environment. Is some cases sustainable companies have a lead compared to other companies when it comes to the designation of new terminals.

The forwarders/logistics service companies are more or less in the same position as the transporters. In many cases they are obliged to have a sustainable strategy because the paying customer demands it. In some cases it is a distinctive factor. In this way they can show their awareness and hopes to attract more customers.

Additional conclusions

These recommendations are based on the interviews held with the leader firms, the meeting with the expert group at Connekt in Delft and the symposia attended in June and July.

In the expert meeting with Connekt the importance of a pilot period was mentioned. The scan should be extensively tested to eliminate errors. This is absolutely vital in order to make the scan successful.

On the symposia sustainable mobility I attended in July I have spoken with students who developed an emission scan. They developed an emission scan which can calculate the emissions of trucks. The scan takes several factors into account like the amount of traffic lights. This can give a very clear illustration of a companies emission. The scan they developed is very specifically aimed at one part of sustainability, the environmental sustainability.


Recommendations regarding the first research question

In the literature part it was described what sustainability is. It can be divided into three dimensions; economic sustainability, social sustainability and environmental sustainability. The interviews I had with the leader firms it was not so obvious that the social dimension should be included.

Therefore I recommend adding questions in the scan about how a company thinks about sustainability. In this way the knowledge centre receives information about what the companies think sustainability is. This could mean for instance that if companies indicate that social sustainability is not important is could mean that Rotterdam University should adapt its programmes about sustainability. In other words; the outcome of the scan is input for the educational programmes of the Rotterdam University.

Recommendations regarding the second research question

As mentioned in the previous chapter, research findings, 85% of the companies in the Transportation & Logistics sector are either in the early stage or do not have a green strategy yet. When this is compared by the Manufacturing & Retail sector 60% of the companies already past the early stage of going green.

The scan that is developed should give insight if this study is correct. It should therefore include questions about the current situation regarded to sustainability inside the company. This outcomes of the scan can than be compared with other sectors. In this way it can be proven if the sector is behind compared with others.

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It is not only important to measure the current situation, but also the ambition level should be measured. The logistics sector has had some very difficult years due to the economic crisis. For a lot of companies this was a reason not to invest in sustainability, although maybe some companies understand the need and benefit of investing in sustainability, they just do not have the money for it.

The scan should include an ambition level. It could be that a lot of companies are waiting to invest in sustainability till when the loses are transformed into profits. To measure this an ambition level should be included into the scan. Questions regarding to the future should be asked. This should be in a time scale of 5 to 10 years.

Recommendations regarding the third research question

The World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED)formulated in 1987 a definition about sustainability that is accepted by a majority of the governments world wide. Since this definition is so widely accepted by governments around the world it should be included in the scan.

The basic concept of sustainability can be divided into three dimensions. Economic sustainability, social sustainability and environmental sustainability. These three dimensions are also known as the triple P; People, Planet and Profit. Furthermore, the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) recommends companies to report about sustainability on the basis of these three dimensions.

Since the concept of sustainability is so clearly defined into these three themes I recommend to develop around the three dimensions. This means that questions should be asked in the field of economic, social and environmental sustainability.

The GRI has set up per dimension several indicators that should be covered when a company reports about sustainability. A majority of the themes of the indicators are relevant to ask in the scan and should therefore be included in the scan.

Recommendations regarding the fourth research question

In the interviews that were held with leader firms several different definitions of sustainability were raised. The interviewer asked the companies representative witch definition they though is the most complete definition of sustainability. The sources of the definitions were not addressed. Non of the companies indicted the Brundtland definition was the best definition stated. Therefore, I recommend to include questions in the scan how sustainability can be defined.

Furthermore, an other outcome of the interviews was that the opinion to include the social sustainability is not the most important. Some of the companies indicated not to see the importance of the social aspect. Since in the literature it is stated that social sustainability is one of the three aspects as well as the GRI indicates it, I recommend to include questions about social sustainability in the scan and to analyse the outcome to research the importance of social sustainability.

Additional recommendations

These recommendations are based on the interviews held with the leader firms, the meeting with the expert group at Connekt in Delft and the symposia attended in June and July.

The symposium sustainable mobility I attended on 2 July, I have spoken with students from the automotive programme. Some students of this programme developed an emission scan. This emission scan takes several conditions into account to calculate the total emission. It can be a value to include some aspects of the emission scan into the sustainability scan. In this way the knowledge to calculate a companies emission can be improved.

Furthermore, the community of Rotterdam has the ambition to reduce 50% of its CO2 emissions in 2025 compared to 1990. This is ambition is know as the Rotterdam Climate Initiative (RCI). For the RCI the outcomes of the scan can be interesting to understand if the logistic companies are on track to reduce its CO2 emissions. Therefore, it is recommended that Transurban informs RCI about the activities that are performed regarding to the scan and investigates if there are possibilities to collaborate between Transurban and RCI.

An important aspect in the success of the scan lies in the pilot period. The scan should be tested and the outcomes should be analysed. Important in this is that the scan should be tested at companies from who is very clear what they do in the field of sustainability. In this way the outcomes of the scan can be compared to the information that was known on forehand. Furthermore, the pilot version should be performed in the logistics sector in general, so from shipping companies to forwarders/logistics service companies.

A good way in bringing up a test version is by using students from the study programmes Logistics & Economics and Logistics & Transport Engineering. Second year students have the ability in block 2 to participate in an external project. This external project is worth 5 ECTS, which is 5 X 28 = 140 hours. This is quite some time for the student to study the topic of sustainability and to understand the scan. In this way the student can explain the companies, if necessary, some of the theoretical questions which are included in the scan. Furthermore, the students are participating in a relevant topic and have the ability meet the some interesting companies in the sector.

The Knowledge centre Transurban should further investigate the abilities to collaborate with Connekt. Connekt is searching for 250 “front-runners” in the field of sustainable logistics. During the pilot version Transurban can identify relevant companies that can be identified as front-runner. This information can be passed on to Connekt. In addition, it can be interesting for Connekt to attend some of the interviews that will be done during the pilot period. On the other side, Transurban can make us of the network of Connekt. Transurban can visit some of the front-runners identified by Connekt. These companies have indicated that they want to reduce their CO2 emissions with at least 20% by 2012. These companies should have a sustainable strategy and when filling out the scan the outcome should also indicate this.