Covenant’s Matt McLelland, vice president of sustainability and innovation, shared his thoughts during a “Sustainability Innovations: Perspectives from Different Roles in the Supply Chain” panel, which premiered during the Supply Chain Management Professionals (CSCMP)’s EDGE Supply Chain Conference & Exhibition in Nashville earlier this month. The panel provided McLelland with a platform to share how Covenant embraces sustainability while navigating business needs, costs, and other external factors. In his role at Covenant, McLelland is responsible for leading the sustainability, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), and Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) initiatives for the enterprise.
During the panel discussion, McLelland touched on three key areas:
1. Companies must take responsibility for prioritizing researching, testing, and adopting emerging sustainable technologies and solutions.
McLelland said that companies must invest in and prioritize sustainability if they want to see a shift towards more environmentally friendly operations. In his focused role at Covenant, McLelland takes on researching industry trends and technologies, and evaluates emerging “green” start-ups in the logistics space to consider their applicability to Covenant. He is also heavily involved in learning about and testing products that may allow for the eventual decarbonization of freight, autonomous vehicles, and alternative fuels.
Because Covenant has invested in these areas, he said that as of today, 4 of the company’s trucks are now testing environmentally friendly renewable diesel and they are also working on rolling out the use of innovative EAPU (Electric Auxiliary Power Unit) to the entire fleet to help to cut down on idle time. He also pointed out that the company is currently testing alternative hydrogen fuels and trailing an electric truck to collect data for informed future decision making.
Read about Covenant’s sustainability activities in the company’s recently released 2021 CSR Report here.
2. The government has a role to play in encouraging businesses to make sustainable choices.
McLelland recognized the delicate balance between capitalism and the industry’s need for government regulations to encourage sustainability. “Regulation has its place,” he said, noting that the government has the power to incentivize private businesses to “kick-start” sustainability practices. He also called out the need for greater government investment in a national infrastructure that supports electric vehicles, especially along interstates and other high-traffic areas. “As long as the fuel used to power the electric grid is renewable,” he added.
3. Industry collaboration is required.
McLelland acknowledged that a single company can’t be a changemaker alone. He referenced the need to collaborate as an industry, which often requires competitors to work together for the common good. “When we band together, our collective voice has greater impact,” he said. “It’s less about sales numbers at that point and more about doing the noble thing, which is to do right by our environment and health.”
Participating in the panel session alongside McLelland included Rebecca McCord, associate director of global strategic sourcing, Sonoco Products Company, and Isaac Shweky, president, Reverse Solutions.
Learn more about Covenant’s culture of sustainability here.