Opportunities for reducing supply chain emissions

Logistics and transportation activities contribute approximately 5% of the 50,000 mega-tonnes of carbon-dioxide emissions generated by all human activity annually.

That is the finding of a report, Supply Chain Decarbonization — a comprehensive review of the scale of the logistics and transport sector's carbon footprint, and the principal opportunities for near-term reduction of the sector's emissions.

The report was produced by the World Economic Forum, an independent international organization committed to improving the state of the world by engaging leaders in partnerships to shape global, regional, and industry agendas; and Accenture, a global management consulting, technology services, and outsourcing company.

This report reviews 13 commercially viable opportunities for reducing supply-chain carbon emissions within the logistics and transport sector, as well as across the extended supply chain, and assesses them according to carbon-dioxide abatement potential and feasibility to implement.

The five opportunities found to be most promising in addressing emissions that originate within the logistics and transport sector were:

  • Clean-vehicle technologies (175 mega-tonnes CO2 abatement potential).

  • De-speeding the supply chain (171 mega-tonnes).

  • Packaging design initiatives (132 mega-tonnes).

  • Optimized networks (124 mega-tonnes).

  • Energy-efficient buildings (93 mega-tonnes).

The report also provides a number of recommendations for logistics and transport providers, as well as for shippers and buyers, to de-carbonize the extended supply chain. For logistics and transport providers, the report suggested:

  • Adopting new technologies industrywide.

  • Improving training and communication industrywide.

  • Switching modes where possible.

  • Developing recycling offerings.

  • Developing home-delivery offerings.

  • Promoting carbon offsetting of shipments.

Recommendations for shippers and buyers included:

  • Understanding and reducing the carbon impact of manufacturing through alternative sourcing.

  • Better planning to allow slower and better optimized transport.

  • Reducing packaging materials.

  • Improving carbon labeling, standards, and auditing tools.

  • Increasing shared loading.

“This report makes clear the need to look strategically at the end-to-end supply chain to include all aspects of the product lifecycle, from raw materials to product disposal, when approaching the supply-chain decarbonization challenge,” said Sean Doherty, head of Logistics & Transport at the World Economic Forum.

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