Interview with Olivier Corvez, our new Executive Director, on the future of Smart Freight Centre and the road ahead

Amsterdam, 6 September 2021 - Olivier Corvez recently joined as Executive Director at Smart Freight Centre (SFC). Prior to SFC, Olivier gained extensive experience as a sustainability consultant and auditor across multiple economic sectors in Europe, Africa, America, and Asia.

In his most recent role at SEMI in California, Olivier designed and launched a sustainability initiative targeting a vast and complex supply chain associated with the Electronic Industry. Olivier holds a Masters’ degree in Environmental Sciences and occasionally delivers sustainability lectures to MBA students attending universities including Harvard, Clark and Bentley.

What attracted you to Smart Freight Centre and its mission towards sustainable freight and logistics?

With sustainable development marked a global priority, SFC has a vital role to play in driving down CO2 emissions to reach the Paris Agreement targets. My extensive experience in data verification and work with fortune 500’s sizeable logistics programs, I feel, makes me well equipped to help continue making SFC a true catalyst for change in the freight and logistics sector. I understand the challenges faced, such as accurate data reporting (particularly on Scope 3 emissions), but SFC’s critical mission is of great importance and I’m very much enjoying the role so far.

Having been previously based in California, what are your first impressions of being back in Europe, here in Amsterdam, and of the SFC team?

While I grew up in West Africa, I’m French by birth meaning Europe is hardly foreign to me – you could say I'm back home. Having worked extensively with Dutch companies while I was with KPMG in Paris, I’ve always found the Dutch to have a strong work ethic associated with a global mindset. My first impressions of SFC are no different and I’m enjoying the experience, so far! The Netherlands, with a long history of shipping and trade, is the perfect base for SFC to engage with key players given the international environment and global outlook of the city.

Also, it’s fantastic to be a part of such an international team, all with such passion about the projects we deliver for members. We have a diverse group with a strong technical capacity that really shines when asked to arbitrate or guide discussions associated with the GLEC Framework or when designing guidelines. There’s an exciting future ahead for SFC and I’m pleased to have such an able and dedicated team with unrivaled technical acumen around me.

Where do you see Smart Freight Centre in the next 5 years?

I see SFC as the global center of excellence for everything tied to logistics. It’s currently an exciting period of growth and it’s vital we take the time to assess the direction and opportunities we want to take. To make informed and effective decisions, it is critical to establish a robust, collaborative relationship with our GLEC members and build a sustainable freight future with our partners. Our mission is a challenging one, with plenty of work to be done, but is achievable with dedication and unity.

What are the biggest challenges to decarbonization that multinational companies face today?

One of the biggest challenges is without a doubt the lack of visibility and control in the data coming from the supply chain. The maritime sector is consolidated somewhat and therefore it’s easier to collect reliable data and apply policy. In contrast, road transport can be fragmented and composed of many smaller shippers, some without an agenda associated with GHG (greenhouse gas).

Also, decarbonization solutions are appearing constantly and the multitude of options can be overwhelming to buyers. Each proposed solution must also, of course, go through testing, making implementation sometimes a slow process. SFC, among others, are in constant dialogue with partners about developing solutions to these problems to reduce disruption to meet global targets.

How can we best work together to accelerate decarbonization?

There is so much SFC can accomplish alone but we absolutely must strengthen collaboration with like-minded organizations. Building strong alliances with We Mean Business, BSR or the World Economic Forum as part of the SFBA (Sustainable Freight Buyers Alliance) is exactly the sort of collective, unified approach to tackling decarbonization needed to make the large-scale change required.

Centralizing and harmonizing methodologies will help minimize the danger of overlapping, duplicating efforts where resources could have been better used to pursue new and innovative projects. This is pivotal in building an open, collective and unified approach that will help us reach ambitious decarbonization targets towards a more sustainable future.

Having government policies more streamlined by regions of the world so we standardize the message, imposing that all companies disclose their GHG data and creating the necessary sense of urgency in the sector, for example, are all important areas that will support a unified approach going forward.

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What would you advise for companies who want to get started with reporting and reducing their emissions, but do not know where to start?

Allocating both financial and human resources towards data collection and verification is vital. A willingness to reduce emissions must be met with the necessary tools to make it happen. Also, support from a company’s leadership is important in making sustainability the priority it needs to be. It’s understandably a difficult mindset change for companies starting out and I would certainly recommend our Sustainable Logistics Roadmap training. The course will give you the resources, expert advice and practical tools to develop a plan unique to your company on how to get going. There is plenty of changes you can make, and this course is a great way to begin your journey towards net-zero emissions.

SFC’s current goal is  that 100+ multinationals reduce at least 30% of logistics emissions by 2030 compared to 2015 across their global logistics supply chains and reach net-zero emissions by 2050.With many partners already developing strong, science-based emission reduction plans, looking ahead and prioritizing sustainability is the best advice I can give.