Apr. 29, 2021

Chasing Net Zero Emissions: Start Here to Limit Climate Change

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The environmental impact of shipping is significant—but could also be your organization’s greatest opportunity to help create a more sustainable future.

Getting your shipping to net zero emissions is doable. And if preventing the destruction of the planet isn’t enough, you may be able to find a business case for your efforts, too.

What Is Net Zero Emissions?

Net zero is the latest buzzword in sustainability, but it’s an important one. Essentially, to reach net zero, humanity needs to reduce and remove greenhouse gases we cause. Think of it as cleaning up our own mess.

For shippers, there are competing interests. Moving cargo quickly and reliably is key to the health of your business. But there’s no such thing as carbon-free shipping yet.

Fortunately, many organizations are taking action to reduce their impact. Climate change strategy group GreenBiz reports net zero commitments tripled in less than a year between 2019 and 2020. Some companies are looking across all operations. Measures include switching to renewable energy or finding sustainable material alternatives.

But, for companies that rely on freight forwarding, reducing and neutralizing shipping emissions is the critical one.

Getting Ready for Net Zero

Flexport’s sustainability and social impact team, Flexport.org, identifies three steps to set the stage for net zero shipping emissions.

  • Calculate your emissions. This data is available in real-time for Flexport users in every quote and shipment, and in analytics. For non-Flexport shipments, you can assess your emissions per shipment by using our free calculator via an API or contact Flexport.org to get a log-in to upload CSV reports.
  • Formulate a plan. Each company is different, so look at short, medium, and long-term changes you can make, using industry resources and standards as guideposts. Weave agility into your thinking, so you can adjust your goals as you nail down the specifics. Consider that technology may advance or regulations may narrow options as you progress.
  • Get leadership on board. Create company-wide interest and executive buy-in by building the business case. This takes scenario planning, something every employee can do with help from a partner like Flexport.

Scenario Planning and Action

You can make powerful changes towards net zero by parsing the details of your company’s shipment scenarios. At this stage, you’re in planning mode, comparing your transport options against your company’s business needs.

Flexport can help model the data for you to make the best decisions. Here are a few ways it could play out for you:

Compare emissions across routes. For example, shipping from Asia into Portland versus Seattle may barely change ocean emissions, but once you add trucking to a warehouse in Idaho, one route could be a much better choice than the other. This may also shorten transit times or include immediate cost benefits.

Shift transport modes over time. A move from air to ocean could halve your emissions in some cases. But if it’s at the expense of a drop in speed, it could create inventory gaps. Instead, you might shift part of your inventory at a time, extending product cycles as you go. Look for additional wins while you’re at it—maybe it’s longer-term confidence in your order management. Confirming your POs against your sustainability goals could strengthen your supplier relationships and help inform financial outlooks.

Improve your container utilization. Flexport research from 2018 found that approximately two-thirds of containers don’t ship full. This is obviously inefficient, not to mention container availability has been tight for months. But with services like LCL shipping or OceanMatch, you can optimize for speed, cost, and sustainability.

For more ways to work towards and achieve net zero shipping emissions for your company, email carbon@flexport.com.

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