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How to Reduce the Carbon Footprint of Your Logistics

The carbon footprint resulting from logistical activities is a major concern in the current context of the climate crisis. For businesses, this entails rethinking some or all of their practices. What are the various strategies and effective tools for reducing the carbon footprint of your logistics? From measurement software to using low-carbon energy sources, as well as offsetting and insetting methods, let's explore the solutions that work.

The Importance of Reliable and Uniform Data

One of the initial solutions for reducing the carbon footprint of your logistics is to have unified and standardized transportation data. However, data is usually provided by multiple freight forwarders, making control and consolidation challenging. Thus, basic information such as gross weight, origin, destination, and mode of transport sometimes lack consistency.

Opting for Measurement Software

It's important to note that calculating carbon emissions is a downstream step, meaning it occurs after the transportation process. Nevertheless, it remains a priority and a source of consistent and accurate data needed for modeling and optimization.

In this regard, using a Transportation Management System (TMS) facilitates the collection and structuring of data, regardless of their source or format. With such a system, data becomes uniform and accessible, eliminating the need to search through scattered data from different freight forwarders.

Simultaneously, a TMS enables the use of a reliable methodology for calculating CO2 emissions and automates the integration of this calculation. In other words, the information preparation phase, necessary for the calculation, is already streamlined.

In the absence of a TMS, two scenarios arise:

  • Either the shipper consolidates transportation data and calculates their direct and indirect CO2 emissions, which are notably harder to obtain.
  • Or, freight forwarders provide emission data for their respective transportation activities.

In both cases, the risk of error is quite high. However, accuracy is essential to decrease carbon emissions.

Different Levels of Optimization

Carbon footprint optimization in logistics can be approached at three levels:

  1. Basic: by comparing transportation modes. This involves examining air, sea, and road transportation to automatically select the most environmentally friendly option in terms of CO2 emissions.
  2. Intermediate: the aim here is to reduce emissions by avoiding empty spaces during transportation. The TMS helps consolidate orders and deliveries based on various parameters such as volume, pickup date, product type, and truck or container types.
  3. Advanced: by combining the TMS with route optimization engines, shippers guide freight forwarders in selecting the best routes and can consider multimodal options right from the bidding phase.

Low-Carbon Energy Sources

Choosing low-carbon energy sources for vehicles and ships is crucial for reducing the logistics carbon footprint. This includes using:

  • Hydrogen trucks
  • Electric trucks
  • Biofuels for maritime transport
  • Sustainable aviation fuels, etc.

Regarding hydrogen-powered heavy trucks for long distances, industry experts predict commercialization between 2025 and 2027. The airplanes, on the other hand, are facing a significant problem; kerosene is three times cheaper than SAF.

Offsetting vs. Insetting

When it comes to reducing or offsetting carbon emissions generated by logistics, two distinct strategies can be implemented: offsetting and insetting. The choice between the two often depends on environmental goals and the priorities of the involved company.

Offsetting

This involves compensating for carbon emissions by investing in carbon sequestration projects such as reforestation, tree planting, carbon capture and storage, or other initiatives aimed at removing or reducing the amount of CO2 from the atmosphere.

Offsetting allows companies to take immediate measures to offset their carbon footprint, even if they are unable to directly reduce their emissions. However, questions can be raised about the actual effectiveness of some offsetting projects, as well as the sustainability and permanence of the achieved sequestrations.

Insetting

On the other hand, companies directly act on the carbon footprint within their transportation activities with insetting. Instead of merely compensating emissions, this approach aims to reduce them at the source by implementing more sustainable and eco-friendly practices.

This entails:

  • Choosing cleaner fuels
  • Optimizing routes to reduce distance traveled
  • Adopting more energy-efficient modes of transportation
  • Improving the energy efficiency of transport vehicles

Insetting, therefore, has a more immediate impact on emissions, contributing to long-term sustainability objectives.

Of course, the choice between offsetting and insetting depends on various factors, including available financial resources, environmental goals, operational constraints, etc. However, it's possible to combine both strategies to achieve short-term results through offsetting and long-term structural changes through insetting.

Faced with the climate urgency demanding significant efforts from companies, the logistics sector must find solutions. Among them, integrating a TMS that automates carbon emission calculations is crucial. With consolidated information, the reduction of CO2 emissions becomes a reality.