The story behind Smart Freight Centre

How did I get the idea of setting up Smart Freight Centre as a dedicated global NGO on smarter freight and logistics? As often in life, it’s a mix of coincidence, a sparked interest and spotting the opportunity.

Mid 2008, when I headed Clean Air Asia, my colleague Sudhir Gota showed me his latest research: only one in ten vehicles in Asia is a truck, yet trucks cause more than half of transport’s CO2 and air pollution.  I was stunned. Not long after, I met Sharon Banks, then CEO of Cascade Sierra Solutions who helped truckers adopt fuel efficient technologies, and her enthusiasm was contagious. Could this work for Asia?  The 2010 Asian Games in Guangzhou was the trigger and World Bank gave us a chance. My China Director Yan Peng and I worked with Joel Smith (a former truck driver on Route 66!), USEPA and Tsinghua University to convince the Guangzhou municipality, transport and environment departments to start a technology pilot, and we got three excited nods. Three months later, 10 trucks were equipped with better tires, tire pressure monitors and aerodynamics equipment. Results were encouraging and a video helped show that trucking companies and the government both saw the benefits. This catalyzed the US$14 million Guangdong Green Trucks Demonstration Project and the Guangdong International Green Freight Fair.

But how to take this national? We had since learned about SmartWay, a successful public-private green freight program led by USEPA, and together with the Ministry of Transport and the China Road Transport Association we developed the China Green Freight Initiative that was launched early 2012. A next step was to engage the private sector, especially shippers (big brands who have their goods transported to consumers worldwide) and logistics providers (who organize freight transport for them). We helped incubate the Green Freight Asia network that became incorporated late 2013 with DHL, IKEA, Heineken, HP, Lenovo and UPS as founders. Its aim is to drive truck efficiency and reduce emissions through a label scheme, a best practice platform and cooperation with national programs. 

Now I needed to bring global experience to Asia to speed things up. But no one had a clear overview – incredible considering the sector generates almost 6% of global CO2 emissions! Shell Foundation bought into my idea that a global dedicated NGO could be a game changer in making the global freight supply chain more efficient and environmentally sustainable. The Smart Freight Centre was born.

We brought SmartWay, Green Freight Europe and several companies together to define Smart Freight Centre’s focus: create one global freight emissions methodology, remove market barriers for technology/solutions uptake, and get green freight programs to collaborate in driving industry leadership.

I started my first day on 1 August 2013 as SFC’s Executive Director at my sister’s kitchen table. Nearly 2 years later we have an international team of 7 with so much happening and our work is only expanding. Want to get an insider’s view in the world of smart freight? Keep your eye on this blog!

Sophie Punte, Executive Director




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