Towards zero emissions logistics – where should companies start?

11 December 2019 - Today the Alliance for Logistics Innovation and Collaboration in Europe (ALICE) launches the Roadmap towards Zero Emissions Logistics 2050, and our Executive Director Sophie Punte offers companies a concrete tool to respond to the Paris Agreement and EU Green deal.

If you’ve missed the news that we’ve got roughly ten years to drastically cut greenhouse gas emissions or risk runaway climate change, you must be living on a different planet. And if you’ve missed the news that the EU is serious about cutting logistics emissions under its new European Green Deal, then just read today’s newspaper. The sense of urgency to act on climate change is sinking in with multinationals. And they also realize that they can’t stop at their company boundaries but must look at their supply chain too. Freight transportation and logistics is part of that, and is important, because it generates 8% of global CO2 emissions according to the International Transport Forum.

But it’s difficult. Often, multinationals outsource the transportation of their products to a third-party. This makes it hard for companies to have complete oversight, let alone control, over emissions. It’s no wonder that they often find themselves looking for outside expertise: “I’m convinced that I need to act”, they say, “but where do I start?”

First of all: you can’t do this alone. Freight and logistics is so complex that only a concerted effort between companies, governments, research institutes and civil society is going to work. To get everyone pulling in the same direction, the Alliance for Logistics Innovation and Collaboration in Europe (ALICE) developed a Roadmap towards Zero Emissions Logistics 2050. Simply put, the roadmap details the various solutions available to decarbonize, the roles of different stakeholders, and where collaboration between them will make the transition to zero emissions logistics possible.

What’s different from the many roadmaps that already exist (and which are listed in the report) is that this one is more actionable. It explains the solutions available for companies looking to decarbonize freight and then sorts these based on their emission-reduction potential as well as on whether they can be adopted at scale in the next three, 10 or 30 years. For example, companies which operate in urban environments can already switch to using electric vans in cities . But it will take longer for heavy-duty trucks to fully switch to electricity or other low carbon fuels.

Similarly, marine carriers can lower the ships’ speed today to reduce fuel, but it will take longer to replace the current fleets with zero-emissions vessels. The roadmap also helps governments, for example, it gives concrete policy recommendations to make emissions accounting and reporting easier for business. This makes it easier for companies and governments alike to determine what can be done now, and what they need to plan for.

Sophie Punte — Executive Director of Smart Freight Centre and Chair of Sustainable Supply Chains at ALICE — co-authored this roadmap which received input from more than 100 stakeholders. For ALICE, the next step is to organize workshops to bring together the four stakeholders groups in Europe to work out how solutions are put into practice. The first one will be held around June and focus on low emissions fuels and vehicles.

She is also determined that Smart Freight Centre will now take the next step and guide companies in creating their own roadmap. Companies can sign up for a 10-session training course in webinar format that will help them to develop their own Sustainable Logistics Roadmap in four steps:

Where are we now? This is about understanding what developments and drivers are important to you – what is the business case really? Map what you’re already doing both at head-office and locally. And most importantly calculate your emissions baseline and report your logistics emissions. Our GLEC Framework can be of help here.

Where are we going?
Make clear how logistics fits within your company’s overall sustainability vision and goals. Then set targets for logistics emission reductions that are in line with the Paris Agreement to limit the temperature rise to a maximum of 1.5-2°C. There are separate SBTI guidelines that we will explain.

How do we get there?
Select which solutions to reduce emissions are applicable to you. The ALICE Roadmap lists these, covering freight demand, transport modes, fleets and assets use, fleets and assets efficiency and energy sources. For a quick explanation, watch a presentation Sophie gave recently, and we’ll do more work on zero emissions freight vehicles. Your Action Plan will indicate which ones you’ll investigate and implement in the next 3, 10 or 30 years.

What do we need?
Emissions reduction won’t happen by itself. So, first determine what you need from within your company: staff, communication support, engaging local offices, etc. Looking at your entire supply chain, work out who you need to collaborate with — for instance, suppliers, initiatives and government agencies. We’ll help you to identify which initiatives and organizations can help you with your specific needs. You can ask your subcontracted road freight carriers to develop their own action plans. You can also link up with peers in your sector, as we’ve seen in the fashion industry. And by joining the Global Logistics Emissions Council you’ll be sure not to miss out on future developments and project opportunities.

So, where should companies start? First, find out from the Roadmap to Zero Emissions Logistics 2050 what solutions exist and what your role is as compared to government, research institutes and civil society. Second, start right now with developing (or improving) your own company roadmap, and don’t be afraid to ask for help!

Develop your Sustainable Logistics Roadmap

Sign up to register for a 10-session e-training course to develop your company’s own roadmap.