Dutch operator DSV has begun an investigation into how it can reduce emissions both from its own business activities and from the road freight movements it makes on behalf of customers.
The company is looking to reduce emissions from its offices and warehouses by making them more energy efficient. It also wants to show customers how much carbon they have emitted to encourage them to make fewer journeys and run fuller loads. ‘We are all concerned about the environment,’ says René Falch Olesen, deputy managing director of DSV Road. ‘You can’t open a paper today without reading about green issues. Some of us, like me, have a conscience about it.’
DSV plans to develop software that will calculate the amount of carbon clients have created each month. It will then operate a voluntary scheme that could see clients donating an agreed sum – perhaps between €7 and €12 for each ton of carbon they have created – to charity.
Software for calculating carbon emissions is already on the market. Consultancy Radical, which sells the CAST logistics network modelling system, has added a module to its package called CAST-FE which models the carbon emissions generated by proposed logistics activities. Organisations have the option of reducing their carbon footprint by looking at new supply chain strategies, or buying carbon offset products with the aim of becoming carbon neutral.
If schemes such as DSV’s are widely adopted, logistics companies could have an important role in advising smaller firms how to make use of the carbon production data. However, Falch Olesen warns against being naive over measures to cut carbon emissions. ‘We must still be competitive in the market,’ he maintains.
The pressure is already on third party logistics companies such as DSV from major retailers committed to being greener. In the UK, both Tesco and Marks & Spencer have been trumpeting their green credentials.Tesco is looking to cut down its use of air freight and increase the amount of goods that are carried by rail and sea. Marks & Spencer has set aside €300m to spend on becoming carbon neutral within five years. The company is already talking to suppliers about green measures.
Both companies intend to increase local sourcing to cut the amount of transport they use and to begin labelling products carried by air. The retailers have also pledged further efforts to cut packaging and to do more recycyling.
Efforts to curb overall carbon emissions from freight transport in the UK over the past decade have not been hugely successful. As the economy has expanded, so has the amount of freight.
And it is now carried in bigger vehicles; trucks with five or more axels now account for some 40 per cent of heavy goods traffic. At the same time there has been little improvement in fuel consumption by diesel engines.
Attempts to reduce carbon emissions by making fuel more expensive through taxes such as the fuel duty escalator have not worked either.
‘There appears to be no link between the imposition of the escalator and fuel efficiency improvements in the sector,’ concluded the UK Freight Transport Association in evidence to the House of Commons last year. The association has called on the UK government to establish a methodology that would rank CO2 emissions from alternative power trains and in different driving conditions.
‘This would enable a consistent approach to be developed in assessing the impact of carbon dioxide emissions on different policy and technology scenarios,’ says the association.
Some logistics companies are already taking action. CEVA Logistics and TNT recently introduced two Newton electric vehicles at their depots in Essex in a trial to see how effective they are in an urban environment. The 7.5 tonne Newton is powered by four batteries which give the vehicle a top speed of 50mph.
The industry is beginning to take capping rising carbon emissions seriously, but there is still a long and inevitably bumpy road yet to travel.
John Lamb is a former editor of Computer Weekly, InformationWeek UK and Information Economics Journal