The law regulations set that, and the market also asks for it: companies must commit themselves to reduce their carbon footprint more and more, in particular as regards freight transport. But making production and distribution more sustainable can also be an opportunity of increasing efficiency and reducing costs.
The carbon footprint of transportation is certainly one of the deepest on Earth. The sector is currently responsible for the fastest growth in CO2 emissions globally. The Tracking Transport 2020 Annual Report by IEA confirms that transportation still contributes to almost a quarter of all CO2 emissions directly generated by fuel combustion globally. Particularly, the road transportation of both passengers and goods takes the lion share by far, accounting for nearly three-quarters of total emissions. The freight transportation alone contributes to about 70% of the GHG (greenhouses gases) emissions by logistic activities.
These above exceptional figures are not going to shrink on their own. Economic globalization, higher living standards, and recently the “boom” of e-commerce have increased transportation volumes since the end of the 20th century. According to the ITF Transport Outlook 2019, both freight and passenger transportation volumes will triple between 2015 and 2050 if current trends in demand will go on. And, unfortunately, the same could happen for CO2 emissions over the coming years. In the current scenario, where specific mitigation policies are implemented, the worldwide transport CO2 emissions are expected to grow by 60% within 2050, anyway.
Today more than ever, companies are called to do their part to downsize these figures and bring the accounts back into balance, reducing the carbon footprint of their business. The push to follow this path rises from international law regulations and initiatives – such as the Paris Climate Agreement - as well as from the market too. Almost all around the world, consumers are asking for production and distribution processes that would be more and more environmentally sustainable. A new greener asset of values is at the base of their purchasing choices. But making business more sustainable, especially regarding the transport of goods, also contributes to enhance energy efficiency and therefore to optimize costs.
Therefore, what options do companies have to make their business more sustainable? First of all, they can focus on shorter supply routes and local sources, thus increasing the visibility of the supply chain and therefore the possibilities of identifying better solutions in terms of production and distribution, but also optimizing the transport, and reducing times and movements.
For what about the long-haul routes particularly, intermodality can also play a key role, reducing the share of road transport in favour, when possible, of less impactful modalities such as the railway.
If excluding road transport is not possible, investing in a "green" fleet of electric, hybrid, CNG or LNG vehicles can certainly help cut emissions very much. The contribution from the implementation of fleet management is not negligible too. Companies can reduce the consumption of fossil fuels and CO2 emissions due to the better use of vehicles, the reduction of unladen kilometres, and the waiting time during loading and unloading operations. Many digital tools assist in these operations, such as fleet management systems.
Careful management of the vehicle and all its parts contributes to increasing sustainability. For example, tyres are responsible for 20-30% of a vehicle's fuel consumption. Using more efficient and constantly under control tyres not only increases comfort and safety but also reduces consumption and so emissions.
Digital logistic platforms are also available and useful: putting together the offer and demand of freight transportation, these tools contribute to making it more efficient and "greener", reducing empty journeys. Then, digital platforms for booking managing the load-unload slots allow optimize traffic and reduce downtime.
Finally, in order to increase the sustainability business, companies are asked to constantly measure the emissions produced by all assets. For what about road transportation, the general rule is based on the calculation of fuel consumption per kilometre. The European standard CEN-EN-16258 provides a standardized methodology to calculate and declare energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) for all transport services (goods, passengers, or both) based on general principles, definitions, calculation methods, distribution rules, and data recommendations.
“ITF Tranport Outlook 2019”, OECD Publishing, 2019
“Tracking Transport 2020”, IEA, May 2020