Handle with Care: The Green Case for Pallet Pooling
Be sure to check out this story in August's issue of Supply Chain Digital. Trust us, it's way cooler!
With an ever-growing boom in global commercialism, the transportation of more and more goods around the world is an inevitable by-product, which has its own negative impact on the environment.
However, while it would be foolish to think that we could reverse this process, there are still ways that companies who are involved in transporting these goods can play their part to help reduce their impact.
One of the seemingly small ways they could do this is by addressing both the type of pallets or crates they use, and the way they use them.
Traditionally, companies have transported goods using timber pallets. Timber pallets are very cheap and easy to produce, which is what has led to their dominance.
However, ‘cheap and easy’ for companies has come at a cost to the environment.
Timber pallets are naturally fragile and regularly need replacing. This leads to two problems. There is a demand to build more and more pallets to replace the losses, and the wood left over from the damaged pallets has very little use for recycling, and is often burnt.
Secondly, timber pallets are relatively heavy themselves, so when multiplied on large shipments of goods, they can considerably add to the fuel needed to transport those goods.
Plastic pallets can last much longer. This means that they do not need to be produced in as big numbers compared to timber pallets.
Secondly, plastic pallets, once damaged, can easily be recycled to create the new pallets, rather than having to be disposed of in less environmentally friendly ways.
Plastic pallets are also generally lighter than timber pallets, and so their combined weight when transporting large numbers of goods means that less fuel is required.
Despite the belief in the sustainability of natural materials like timber, the use of plastic in the pallet industry could prove to be a smarter move, but there is another area that companies can help decrease their environmental impact even more. Companies could employ a pallet pooling service, rather than running their own fleet of pallets.
Traditionally, companies have bought and owned their own pallet fleets, which leads to its own environmental problems; this model of ownership means that more and more pallets need to be produced so each company can have their own fleet. It can also often lead to an over production of pallets as a company may not need to use its full fleet throughout the year.
This problem has led to the development of pallet pooling companies. These services rent out pallets on a long or short-term basis to companies involved with transporting goods. This leads to a much more efficient use of a finite number of pallets, compared to each company expanding their own stocks.
Although it is only a small contribution to the environmental issue as a whole, how companies think about their pallets and how they use them can help cut the overall impact that the transportation industry has on the planet as a whole.
Google and NIST Address Supply Chain Cybersecurity
As high-level supply chain attacks hit the news, Google and the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have both developed proposals for how to address software supply chain security. This isn’t a new field, unfortunately. Since supply chains are a critical part of business resilience, criminals have no qualms about targeting its software. That’s why identifying, assessing, and mitigating cyber supply chain risks (C-SCRM) is at the top of Google and NIST’s respective agendas.
High-Profile Supply Chain Attacks
According to Google, no comprehensive end-to-end framework exists to mitigate threats across the software supply chain. [Yet] ‘there is an urgent need for a solution in the face of the eye-opening, multi-billion-dollar attacks in recent months...some of which could have been prevented or made more difficult’.
Here are several of the largest cybersecurity failures in recent months:
- SolarWinds. Alleged Russian hackers slipped malicious code into a routine software update, which they then used as a Trojan horse for a massive cyberattack.
- Codecov. Attackers used automation to collect credentials and raid ‘additional resources’, such as data from other software development vendors.
- Malicious attacks on open-source repositories. Out of 1,000 GitHub accounts, more than one in five contained at least one dependency confusion-related misconfiguration.
As a result of these attacks and Biden’s recent cybersecurity mandate, NIST and Google took action. NIST held a 1,400-person workshop and published 150 papers worth of recommendations from Microsoft, Synopsys, The Linux Foundation, and other software experts; Google will work with popular source, build, and packaging platforms to help companies implement and excel at their SLSA framework.
What Are Their Recommendations?
Here’s a quick recap: NIST has grouped together recommendations to create federal standards; Google has developed an end-to-end framework called Supply Chain Levels for Software Artifacts (SLSA)—pronounced “Salsa”. Both address software procurement and security.
Now, here’s the slightly more in-depth version:
- NIST. The organisation wants more ‘rigorous and predictable’ ways to secure critical software. They suggest that firms use vulnerability disclosure programmes (VDP) and software bills of materials (SBOM), consider simplifying their software and give at least one developer per project security training.
- Google. The company thinks that SLSA will encompass the source-build-publish software workflow. Essentially, the four-level framework helps businesses make informed choices about the security of the software they use, with SLSA 4 representing an ideal end state.
If this all sounds very abstract, consider the recent SolarWinds attack. The attacker compromised the build platform, installed an implant, and injected malicious behaviour during each build. According to Google, higher SLSA levels would have required stronger security controls for the build platform, making it more difficult for the attacker to succeed.
How Do The Proposals Differ?
As Brian Fox, the co-founder and CTO at Sonatype, sees it, NIST and Google have created proposals that complement each other. ‘The NIST [version] is focused on defining minimum requirements for software sold to the government’, he explained, while Google ‘goes [further] and proposes a specific model for scoring the supply chain. NIST is currently focused on the “what”. Google, along with other industry leaders, is grappling with the “how”’.