Reducing carbon footprints in supply chain operations is essential to supply chain leaders and increasingly to consumers. In November 2021, the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) was held in Glasgow, Scotland, drawing delegates from 200 countries. The COP26 conference focused on accelerating efforts towards a sustainable future, including the decarbonization of road transport and achieving zero-emission vehicles by 2040.
The Ripple Effects of COP26 in Supply Chain Delivery
As consumers rapidly shift to online purchases in the post-pandemic world, transport decarbonization is a growing challenge. Transport decarbonization affects all aspects of delivery, including first, mid and last-mile operations. According to an International Energy Agency 2018 report, cargo moved globally by trucks, planes, ships and trains makes up 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions, and up to 11% if warehouses and ports are included.
While multi-modal logistics is a part of the broader supply chain ecosystem, road transport handles the bulk of the goods movement. Consumer-facing sectors like retail, e-commerce, big & bulky, courier express and parcels, and those heavily dependent on last-mile delivery, usually by road, will face the most significant impact due to decarbonization goals.
Sustainability and Measuring Carbon Footprints
While some 3PL carriers associated with top-tier brands and in-house logistics teams of global brands have access to tools to measure CO2 emissions accurately, most enterprises lack the systems to capture carbon emission readings of their fleets. The situation gets trickier if the movement of goods involves both inbound and outbound logistics with multi-modal transportation.
How will brands create and measure sustainable goals to reduce their carbon footprints across all delivery phases?
Enterprises need to seek technology solutions that can help them track and measure their carbon emissions and retrieve data on CO2 emissions per trip and shipments. Analytics can help identify routes with the most negligible emissions and third-party carriers with the lowest carbon footprints.
Three Ways Businesses Can Reduce Their Carbon Footprints
Enterprises who transport goods and products can achieve immediate opportunities to accelerate sustainability efforts using the methods outlined below.
- Reduce Route Deviation Through Planning
Long-haul trucks moving across cities, covering first and mid-mile delivery, release significant amounts of CO2 in the atmosphere. According to Visual Capitalist, heavy-duty trucks will contribute 41% of road transport CO2 emissions by 2030. Planning long-haul multi-day truck routes allows carriers to design optimal routes to reach the delivery location. Key parameters to be considered in long-haul planning include anticipated roadblocks and deviations, weather, truckload capacity utilization and entry and exit timing for trucks within city limits.
Route planning for green vehicles also helps brands reduce their delivery carbon footprints. E-cargo bikes, bicycles and foot-delivery are recent additions to fleets. Utilizing green vehicles allows companies, especially in busy lanes of global cities, to achieve on-time delivery of shipments with a zero-carbon footprint.
With hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars going into shipment delivery, carriers and shippers last need is non-adherence to planned routes. These behaviors lead to increased fuel costs due to roundabout routing. Keeping route deviations to a minimum helps increase sustainability in delivery fleets.
- Increase First Attempt Deliveries Through Scheduling
Every consumer-facing brand prioritizes increasing the successful percentage of first-attempt deliveries. Booking an appointment for a delivery is a smart way to ensure deliveries won't fail due to customer non-availability. When customers choose delivery time slots, there is no doubling of effort in replanning failed deliveries. An increased amount of successful first-attempt deliveries keep costs under control, operations are more efficient, and deliveries are more sustainable.
- Reduce Empty Miles Through Optimized Routing
With more trucks on the road to meet the consumer demand, we start to see an increase in empty miles and the possible negative impact on our environment. Empty miles, or dead-head miles, are a significant concern for the logistics industry these days. The share of total miles that truckers drive empty has been consistently stuck around 35% since at least the late 1990s.
One way to optimize trips for vehicles is to synchronize returns or pickups when vehicles are returning after deliveries. Automating returns in the last mile will drive efficiency and help reduce costs. Predictive SaaS logistics platforms can manage the returns process by integrating returns with the delivery process, reducing the amount of extra trips for return pickups. This improvement significantly reduces empty trips and ensures that the job is complete while the same distance is covered, increasing fuel efficiency and contributing towards a reduced carbon footprint.
Moving Towards a Greener Future
The world is moving towards building a greener future. State institutions, investors, business leaders, and consumers are all aligned to address climate change issues. The supply chain industry is at the center of this green transition. Enterprises that proactively optimize supply chain operations to reduce carbon emissions will have a significant competitive advantage to attract new investments and gain the goodwill of new-age consumers.