How to Slash Carbon Emissions via Electronic Data Interchange

By Molly Goad

My 10-year-old’s new year’s resolution is to find more ways to recycle. My heart swelled with pride when she stated this goal, as environmental concerns weren’t on my mind when I was her age. (Remembering the amount of aerosol hairspray I doused on my bangs makes me cringe.) 

Today, recycling bins are commonplace at home, in parks, and other public spaces. In addition, corporations have made pledges and instilled sustainability initiatives. A recent TIME Magazine article by Vivienne Walt said of the 2,000 companies analyzed by Net Zero Tracker, 682 have clear deadlines for zeroing out their carbon emissions.

“Brands like Coca-Cola and McDonald’s have vowed to cut plastic waste, and automakers like GM and Volkswagen say they aim to end the production of fossil-fuel cars within the near future,” Walt writes. 

Small- and medium-sized businesses are making progress in this realm too, and if you’re reading this article, you probably fall into that category. So, if you’d like to give your operation an environmental makeover, electronic data interchange (EDI) is an excellent place to begin. (What’s EDI? See this electronic data interchange primer to learn the basics.)

EDI and Carbon Footprint Reduction

You can see a big impact from small, repetitive changes. Here are eight ways EDI helps make your supply chain more sustainable. 

1. Save trees. I’ll start with the obvious — exchanging documents electronically eliminates the paper trail. ‘Nuff said on that point.

2. Eliminate printer supplies. True, printer cartridges can be recycled, but that process involves taking the empties to a store or mailing them back to the retailer. (Which also costs money and uses packing materials.) 

3. Improved inventory forecasting. EDI gives you a whole slew of valuable data at your fingertips, and this information can be used to reduce carbon emissions. The analytics help discern areas where production can be scaled back. Producing a more accurate count of what’s needed uses less resources and saves space in landfills. (This is a biggie in clothing/fashion — roughly 85% of all textiles that are tossed end up in the landfill or incinerated. Not good.) 

4. Reduce even further with VMI or JIT. Vendor-managed inventory and just-in-time manufacturing business models are two ways to cut down on overproduction. The EDI data procured enables businesses to make the switch to either of these programs. If this is the route your company desires, consider an EDI solution. 

5. Fewer errors = less waste. EDI eliminates the human error associated with manual processes. Those errors often lead to reorders when, say, the wrong item or incorrect quantity was shipped. The replacement order is sent and a second set of packaging waste goes out into the world. This situation is commonplace with manual processes, and nonexistent when the EDI system is up and running. 

6. Sustainable shipping packaging. EDI allows the shipping department to consolidate packages, thus reducing the waste, time, and money it takes to ship two (or more) deliveries to the same location. 

7. Find partners who practice sustainability. You may practice corporate social responsibility, but the suppliers and partners in your chain may not have the same guidelines in place. Think about ways to properly vet new suppliers, asking questions to learn if their environmental sustainability goals align with yours. Find out if partners are following fair labor practices. Also, you can take advantage of all the EDI data at your fingertips to evaluate existing partners and discern where there may be a weak spot in the chain. 

8. Put less fuel emissions out there. The data EDI provides allows one to take a close look at transportation routes and fix inefficiencies.

If you need to invest in an EDI solution, but aren’t sure where to begin, we offer a three-month trial. Additionally, we offer an EDI-compliant shipping module called DES. Contact us to learn more: call 844-265-3777 or email

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