Virtual Environmental and Humanitarian Adviser Tool – (VEHA Tool) is a tool
to easily integrate environmental considerations in humanitarian response. Field Implementation guidances are useful for the design and execution of humanitarian activities in the field.

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VEHA - Field Implementation Guidance

Transport operations
Load and packaging for distribution and shipping

Load and packaging for distribution and shipping


Environmental factors causing/contributing to the needs and affecting the humanitarian activity

Packaging represents one of the greatest challenges to environmentally friendly logistics while at the same time is vital in shipping and storage.

Packaging has consequences for transportation, storage methods, and space requirements of a given space. Packaging can increase the unit cost if it hinders optimisation of storage space. Many industries have developed forms of packaging that can withstand the stresses of transport but do not justify the expense of returning them to the point of origin, being used once and then discarded.

Gender, age, disability and HIV/AIDS implications

Promote equality of opportunity and inclusion for drivers, technicians, and logisticians including minorities and people living with disabilities.


Environmental impact categories

Air pollution
Soil pollution
Water pollution
Climate change

Summary of Impacts
Summary of potential environmental impacts

· Vehicle greenhouse gas emissions
· Soil and water pollution
· Wear and tear/erosion of roads, especially unpaved roads
· Waste and pollution

Impact detail
Detailed potential environmental impact information

Much of the environmental impact of the humanitarian sector can be attributed to logistics, such as through carbon (and other) emissions linked to the transport of goods and personnel, the manufacturing of relief items, and waste generated through their packaging.


Summary of environmental activities

Better consolidation of loads
Pool the LTL cargo of small shippers
Consolidate and streamline distribution to reduce transportation needs.
Ship items in bulk
Risk analysis.
Minimise packaging
Reusable/returnable /recylable/repurposable/compostable/biodegradable/lightweight packaging.
Recover packing materials
Identify and mitigate hazards.

Detailed guidance for implementing suggested environmental activities

Physical distribution ensures that the mobility of freight-related to logistics operations is performed in a sustainable and environmentally friendly manner.
Better consolidation of loads

Pool the LTL cargo of small shippers

Consolidating and streamlining distribution can reduce transportation needs, improve warehousing efficiency, and ultimately reduce the quantity of packaging used.

Shipping items in bulk is another opportunity to reduce waste.

Risk analysis to reduce potential losses.

Minimum required packaging to prevent loss; ban use of expanded polyurethane packaging; Reusable/returnable/recyclable/repurposable/compostable/biodegradable/lightweight packaging. Plan for biodegradable overpacking such as cardboard cartons.

Promote the use of biodegradable fill chips/foam packaging.

When possible, plan for recovering packing materials, recycling them locally, or even returning them to the vendor for re-use. Suppliers and buyers should seek to recover and recycle or effectively dispose of the packaging. Reduce the size of packing, requiring less space to store and less fuel to transport.

Where packing cannot be made from bio-degradable material or material reduced, consider kitting and repackaging into sustainable packing before the last mile of distribution to avoid uncontrolled disbursement of wasteful materials.

Identify and mitigate hazards.

Lessons Learnt
Lessons from past experiences

In 2012, ICRC removed the plastic bags that wrapped each individual item in kitchen sets and any plastic products, reducing the number of plastic packaging kits. This saves about 53 metric tons per year.

WFP ships supplies in bulk and then packages at the port of discharge for distribution, with the objectives of reducing surplus packaging and ensuring recipients, receive the appropriate amount of a given commodity.

Activity Measurement
Environmental indicators/monitoring examples

# of goods where packaging has been reduced versus goods lost

Activity Status
Main Focus
Focus of suggested activities

Prevention of environmental damage

Resource implications (physical assets, time, effort)

Time and resources for consolidating and streamlining distribution

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