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It is one thing to report CO2 emissions and claims of signifi cant reductions, but not everyone is inclined to believe you. This article looks at how a recently introduced industry-initiative helps establish greater trust in the results through the introduction of an independent platform, that helps companies gain a better understanding of their freight transport emissions in relation to their business and to others. The platform also offers networking opportunities across Europe to help companies fi nd practical and proven solutions for reducing green house gas emissions. The industry-led initiative, launched in March 2012, has already gained the trust and the support from the European Commission, and is becoming widely recognised internationally as a model for others to emulate.

The pressure is on business to reduce emissions from transport

Climate change is high on the political agenda. Business is under pressure to reduce its emissions of green house gases. The spotlight in recent years has fallen on the transport sector to cut its share of emissions. The numbers are well known but worth reminding ourselves: Trucks account for 3% of the vehicles on the roads but up to 25% of the emissions and around 6% of global CO2. It is arguable that truck fuel efficiency has not significantly improved since the early 1990s and that the advent of the Euro engines, whilst improving the release of other pollutants such as NOx and particulates, has had at best only a marginal benefi t in lowering CO2 emissions.

Many initiatives have been taken by different companies to reduce their emissions: sometimes unilaterally and sometimes across sectors. But how do we know if they are making any difference? How do they compare with each other? Which is better? The pressure for further and more rapid cuts in emissions remains relentless. This pressure is compounded by expectations from the public that more must be done; and the general public will not stand for any pretence or “green wash” over claimed reductions.

With so many schemes being implemented and claims of reduced green house gas emissions, mostly unverified, the general public, like many industry observers, would be forgiven for being confused and untrusting of industry and its claims. A degree of transparency is required to instil trust in the results. Enter GREEN FREIGHT EUROPE.

Simplifying and building trust

Green Freight Europe offers a platform for companies to input data about their road freight transport, whether as operators of that transport or contractors, whether, carriers, logistics service providers or shippers. That data is used to calculate their emissions of the key green house gasses. There is nothing novel in this, except that for the first time it provides a single methodology (compliant with European and international standards) and a single format for reporting results.

Results are not just total CO2e emissions but given also as CO2e / tonne-km (or parcel-km for the parcels sector). Companies, and any others with whom the results are shared, gain an assurance that the methodology used to calculate the CO2e emissions is internationally recognised and transparent. Furthermore, results from any part of the business, with any other company using the platform are directly comparable; and one can easily begin to identify the worst performing parts of the business as a measure of their road freight CO2e emissions.

There is considerable simplifi cation too. Instead of receiving requests from many different clients for emissions reports in many different formats, sometimes using different methodologies, and not always measuring the same thing, one merely uses the single platform, the single approach and single well understood and transparent methodology; and clients too, gain from the same simplifi cation, gaining more confi dence in what the reports are measuring, and what they are saying. Once there is confi dence in the results and benchmarking is possible, trust follows; and trust is the foundation stone for collaboration with others in the supply chain to seek ways and means to reduce emissions, and target those areas of an operation that are shown to be most polluting.

All you need to do is to be able to identify for given parts of your operations or supply chain the tonnage carried, the distance travelled, the type of vehicle(s) used, and the fuel type(s) used. If you have access to the actual fuel consumption data then that is even better, but not essential. If you are not completely sure about such things as the vehicle type or fuel type, then that doesn’t matter either, because the calculation will provide defaults and more general categories of vehicle to choose from, so that you get a result whatever. It is important to note that every result will come with a ‘score’ that refl ects how many default values have had to be used, how much (as a percentage) of the business the report refl ects and, of course, the CO2e emissions performance result by comparison with the benchmarked performance. That way you will know which result is better than another: no more trying to make comparisons between ‘apples and pears’, far less likelihood for ‘green wash’.

A platform to suit all types of operations

The Green Freight Europe Programme has over 150 companies in membership, many with large fl eets of vehicles or with large volumes of freight being shipped around Europe. However, the platform works just as well for small and medium sized operations and businesses, whether operating in one country, one region, or internationally. The more companies that use the platform, the more reliable will be the benchmarks; but the real prize for companies will be the transparency gained on the emissions performance of the different parts of their own operations.

They might want to organise their data input in a way that will show which route or customer has the lowest emissions per tonne-km; or perhaps which truck type or even which driver achieves the lowest emissions; or perhaps you might want to scale things up and identify which country-operation is performing best, or which carrier and 3rd party logistics service provider has the best performance in terms of CO2e emissions.

The choice is yours, and you can start with just a small part of the business and expand it over time to as much of the business as you think appropriate. The challenge is not the calculation but organising the data and collecting the data to put into the platform. What one does next is perhaps even more important. There is no point measuring ones carbon footprint if not then choosing to reduce it. The Green Freight Europe programme helps here too.

By offering a network of members, and with a group of Knowledge Partners – experts in their particular fi eld of sustainability in freight transport, a knowledge base is slowly evolving whereby Green Freight Europe hopes to be able to identify those best practices, technologies and services that are more likely to work for you and your particular operational characteristics: specific solutions are by no means suited to all operations. By being a European-wide enterprise, it is hoped that special fi nance terms and rates might also be offered in due course to users of the platform; discussions are ongoing in this regard.

Multimodal Expansion

Of course, many logistics operations may involve other modes, and not just road freight. Green Freight Europe is currently seeking engagement with carbon measuring and reporting programmes in the rail freight, sea freight (including inland shipping) and air freight sectors to investigate how we might marry the different platforms so that one ends up with a truly multimodal CO2e measurement and reporting facility. It is likely to be a complex task, given that each initiative will have its own cost structures, membership, and be designed for specific players’ needs in each mode. Nevertheless, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts, and the multimodal end goal is well worth pursuing.

 Time to act is now

Climate change appears to be a real threat to business and society globally. The public are demanding greater action from governments and business to reduce the threat of global warming; legislation, like it or not, is coming, the only question is when. Corporate responsibility towards their impact on the environment is growing as a consequence of the aforementioned pressures; but one thing is absolutely clear, right here, right now: carbon emissions are directly related to fuel consumption, a major cost in any business. By measuring such emissions, by identifying which parts of the business emit more in proportion to the volumes and distances travelled, by increasing visibility, the business case for calculating emissions is self-evident.

Rather than wait for the external pressures to build or to be ordered to measure by company directors, shareholders or by legislation and regulation, there are major commercial benefi ts to be had now, today, from calculating and reporting emissions from the freight transport used. Understand what your emissions are today, set targets for reducing it tomorrow, and see costs evaporate, performance enhance and more business come your way.

By Dr. Dr Andrew Traill (Green Freight Europe)


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