Is the logistics sector doing enough to reduce its carbon footprint?

By Damian Brett

The last couple of years have undoubtedly seen the air cargo and wider logistics industry ramp up green initiatives that aim to reduce companies’ impact on the environment.

In the last week alone DHL Global Forwarding announced that it would join United Cargo’s sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) programme, while Air France KLM Martinair Cargo announced that two new forwarders would join its SAF initiative.

But is enough being done across the entire logistics sector to improve its environmental impact?

A recently published survey by the Foundation for Future Supply Chain (FFSC) and consultant Transport Intelligence (TI) has certainly called into question whether companies could do more.

The survey found that of the 184 large logistics companies that took part, “just” 57% – 105 companies – measure and publish their carbon emissions data.

FFSC and TI say that if companies don’t measure carbon emissions, then they can’t improve them.

“Given that the transport industry’s success in reducing emissions will be critical to meeting governmental net-zero targets, the fact that such a large proportion of industry leaders have yet to start measuring their emissions is of major concern,” FFSC said.

TI chief executive and FFSC founder John Manners-Bell said: “Until companies start measuring emissions, it is impossible to initiate greenhouse gas reduction programmes.

“Given that the logistics industry’s success in reducing emissions will be critical to meeting governmental net-zero targets, that such a large proportion of industry leaders have yet to start measuring their emissions is of major concern.”

The survey included road freight, forwarders, contract logistics, express, postal and shipping companies and revealed discrepancies across the various sectors.

Almost all shipping (93%) and postal operators (100%) were found to disclose their carbon emissions while road freight companies (28%) were less likely to measure or publish data.

FFSC said that the shipping and postal sectors were characterised by large players, with many companies nationalized or listed on stock exchanges.

“This typically means that not only are they likely to have strong governance but also that many are compelled to publish data by government regulation,” the group said.

Road freight companies were comparatively smaller and more likely to be privately owned.

Around 63% of forwarders surveyed said they measured and reported their carbon footprint, express and parcel reached 68% and contract logistics was at 47%.

However, there was some good news from the survey: in 2016 just 34% of companies surveyed were publishing carbon data so there has been a 34 percentage point improvement over the last five years.

This along with the range of initiatives launched over the last year give the industry some hope, although there is a long way to go.

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