How sustainable supply chains can change the world and what role transportation plays in it

Supply chain sustainability can help decarbonize our economy and transportation is a key element of it

How sustainable supply chains can change the world and what role transportation plays in it

The freight industry is hitting new records every year. In the light of recent events, we are realizing again: We are very much dependent on this industry to run perfectly. While current freight prices are skyrocketing and companies dealing with physical goods are worried about whether and when their products will arrive on time – or even at all – we at Tracks are more concerned with another factor of freight transportation: sustainability. 

Trucks on the road to net zero 

The main emitter in the transportation sector, road freight vehicles, rely heavily on fossil fuels. For a long time, freight transport was not included in sustainability efforts, as they are often out of sight for end-consumers and out of scope for businesses without end-consumers. But with very ambitious global climate commitments, transportation emissions need to be reduced by 20 % in order to be aligned with sustainability targets for 2030. The big challenge? Infrastructure for low-emissions to no-emissions vehicles does not exist. Extending needed Rail improvements as an alternative has failed to keep up with the rising freight transport demand. The pandemic has even fostered the need for suitable options as online purchases are driving international freight up too. 

Images showing 4 modes of freight transport


Optimized supply chain management as the key sustainability facilitator 

And what does all of this have to do with supply chain management? A transition to sustainable transportation options will take time, but action is required urgently. So, we need to rethink the way global freight transportation networks are interconnected and how to manage shipping on a global level. If it is not possible to stop using those heavy trucks and start using electric ones, then we need to find new solutions to use what we have more effectively, ultimately reducing the footprint of each single product being shipped. While it is unclear how much emissions such efforts might reduce exactly, the estimations are astonishing: simply improved routing or changing the way trucks are loaded, selecting drivers based on their driving style and implementing supporting technologies can improve fuel efficiency by 87 percent and therefore reduce emissions immensely! Considering that fuel is the main emitter in trucking, these impacts are great and even better: They can be done now. 

Emissions reduction opportunities don’t only exist in road freight. Other modes of transport will see changes too. Ocean and air freight are working on sustainable fueling as well as route optimization. 

One factor that helps no matter the mode of transport are partnerships. Sharing expertise accelerates the speed at which change happens and at the same time several companies benefit from it. Overall, there are many great opportunities for transportation emissions reduction out there. If every player in the sector would reduce their emissions even just a little bit, we could easily reach the 2030 goal of 20% of emissions reduction without a need for huge monetary investments! Now this is great news, isn’t it? 

Photos by:
Sam LaRussa from Unsplash
Denys Nevozhai from Unsplash 
Eilis Garvey from Unsplash 
Mitchell Luo from Unsplash 
Alexandre Debiève from Unsplash