Companies Ready to Decarbonize Freight at VERGE 2019

23 October 2019 - How can we accelerate the movement to decarbonize freight shipping across modes, meeting Paris climate goals and making this work for business too? That was the key question at the VERGE conference tutorial organized by BSR and Smart Freight Centre in Oakland.

VERGE Conference

We started out with a Firestarter, a panel discussion with companies led by Katie Fehrenbacher from Greenbiz and a tutorial by BSR and Smart Freight Centre on how to Report, Reduce and Collaborate. We then broke out into 5 groups to figure out:

  • What it will take for all companies to integrate environmental metrics into their core business systems?

  • The majority of road freight in the US to be zero emissions?

  • Double shippers’ access to rail freight and mode switching?

  • Get zero emission ocean vessels on the sea by 2030?

  • The majority of retailers to push the shipping supply chain to decarbonize?

Here’s what some of the companies, speakers and other participants said:

Eric Olson, Senior Vice President, BSR: The investors community is giving significant attention to exposure to climate risks. The market is taking off, and companies must respond. The partnership between BSR and Smart Freight Centre is about making decarbonizing freight a lot easier for companies.

Mads Stensen, Senior Sustainability Developer, Maersk: Technology to decarbonize ocean shipping is out there but not yet scalable. We need our customers and investors help us to do this. Helping customers understand the added value is important, for example, how much emission reductions biofuels can deliver.

Kathrin Brost, VP GoGreen, DP-DHL: Emissions data needs to be good enough to take decisions on what technologies and solutions work and track progress. This means that CO2 metrics must be integrated into business systems and processes and a company’s annual report alongside financial data.

Chelsea Mozen, Director of Sustainability, Etsy: We know customers care, for example, packaging is a big issue. It takes them a while to understand emissions from freight shipping, because right now this is not made very transparent to consumers. Consumer awareness is key.

Nathan Loftice, Director Planning, Permitting and Sustainability, BNSF Railway: Getting to the lowest-emissions combination of modes is all about forward planning. There is a difference between a strategic sourcing professional – who is pro-active and thinks ahead – and a logistics purchaser.

Patrick Browne, Director of Global Sustainability, UPS: Getting to near-zero emissions for road freight is possible. But we’ll need a mix of solutions to get there. Think of new energy solutions and zero-emissions vehicles, better infrastructure, connected/autonomous vehicles, increasing loading capacity to name a few.

Sophie Punte, Executive Director, Smart Freight Centre: It’s urgent! But companies can act on freight and climate by making their emissions transparent using the GLEC Framework. Then it becomes easier to set Science-Based Targets. And depending on whether you are a buyer or supplier of freight you can pick emission reduction solutions that work best for you.

Angie Farrag-Thibault, Director Transport & Logistics and Collaboration, BSR: Companies can’t act alone. One program companies can join is Clean Cargo that covers 80% of ocean container shipping. It helps more than 60 companies to report emissions data from ocean shipping, share best practices and collaborate through pilots on biofuels and other solutions.

One smaller company said: It can be intimidating for smaller companies who don’t have the weight to throw around to find a way to make decarbonizing freight work for them too. Multinationals may lead the way, but how do we make sure that we get the entire sector to come along?

Well said!