ACT Shipper-Carrier Connect: Partnerships Needed for Sustainability

May 28, 2024

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Three things have dramatically accelerated sustainable logistics in North America in the past decade: zero-emission regulations, the proliferation of available clean transportation technologies, and the growing number of shippers prioritizing sustainability to reduce impacts from freight operations. This year’s inaugural ACT Shipper-Carrier Connect united and educate shippers, carriers, logistics partners, and solution providers on the crucial role of partnerships to achieve shared goals for economic and environmental sustainability. 

Starting Now on GHG Reductions by Building on Decades of Groundwork  

The sentiment shared by all speakers at the ACT Shipper-Carrier Connect was that it takes the entire industry — and each company setting their own goals — to reduce the effect of transportation on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. According to Dr. Alan Lewis, chief technical officer with the Smart Freight Centre, the transport sector accounts for 23% of the world’s energy-related CO2 emissions, with freight transport producing 35% of that total. These numbers are rising, and there is increasing pressure to act given global goals like the Paris Agreement of 2015 and new emission-reducing regulations like California’s Advanced Clean Trucks and Advanced Clean Fleets rules. 

It’s important to note that the EPA and California have been regulating vehicles to reduce harmful effects of air pollution for almost half a century and two of the first voluntary initiatives between shippers and carriers to measure and promote improvements in greenhouse gas emissions, Clean Cargo for ocean shipping and SmartWay for road freight, were launched in the early 2000s. Additionally, attention was given to working conditions in other countries as supply chains globalized in the 80s and 90s brought with them a wave of codes of conduct by shippers that carriers routinely agree to in order to do business with the world’s leading brands. 

“Shippers have, by and large, been at the forefront of these initiatives setting their own goals and asking the same of their supply chain partners. In today’s ever-evolving goods movement or transportation industries, you can no longer get by without a plan, because the world is not going back to the way it was,” offered Nate Springer, vice president, market development at TRC.     
Attendees heard expert discussions amongst leading shippers, carriers, and 3PLs like Unilever, J.B. Hunt Transport Services, Inc., IKEA, eBay, and more, on their approach to accounting for GHG emissions reductions, the process to evaluate and set science-based targets for businesses, and how collaboration is critical to making sustainable progress in transportation, setting up GHG frameworks, and achieving emission reduction wins at local levels while working on larger, global projects. 

Some of the GHG targets shippers and carriers shared included:  

  • PepsiCo: 40% emissions reduction by 2030 and net zero emissions by 2040 
  • Unilever: Net zero emissions across its value chain by 2039  
  • EBay: Reduce value chain emissions 20% by 2030 
  • J.B. Hunt Transport Services, Inc.: Reduce environmental impact 32% by 2034 
  • Martin Brower: Reduce operational emissions 50% and supplier emissions 30% by 2030 
  • NFI: Reduce emissions by >10% with company owned tractors year over year 

Kara Fulcher, director of sustainability, North America, Michelin, closed her keynote presentation saying, “I think that change — if you’ll allow me to use a kind of western metaphor — it’s not like a jack rabbit that’s going off in a new direction with every hop, but it’s a little bit more like a wild mustang that is progressing from a trot to a gallop with ever greater clarity and intent, because the solutions exist today. They’re not perfect, but they exist. And so, I encourage you to engage before yesterday’s business as usual and tomorrow’s table stakes grow so far apart that they become unbridgeable.” 

Developing Crucial Partnerships with Transportation Providers and Customers 

For companies like eBay and IKEA, partnerships and collaboration are especially important to make progress on sustainability in transportation since they do not directly control transportation fleets.  

While the examples above demonstrate commitment and planning by individual companies, shippers and carriers must partner in new ways to build trust and reliability and encourage investment in sustainable practices. 

“This all comes down to commitment,” said Ben Schill, CEO, Paper Transport. “A gentleman earlier said, ‘this is such a transactional industry,’ but you’re not going to get the benefits by behaving transactionally. We must have longer-term agreements with our shippers. They work both ways, trust me. But we need longer-term commitments in order to make those investments, and we can do that together.”  

During a fireside chat with PepsiCo, Foodliner, and Biagi Bros Inc., Jeff Simon, transportation capacity and procurement manager at PepsiCo, reiterated that they cannot achieve their ambitions without working with their transportation partners to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions across the value chain, including their partners’ operations. Simon also noted that questions inviting carriers to highlight their use of cleaner fuels and vehicles in requests for proposals are now a part of the procurement process for transportation business by PepsiCo.  

With numerous dependencies, such as vehicle and infrastructure cost, reliability, and availability, new partnerships are needed to take advantage of the solutions that already exist. Throughout the day, experts from Microsoft, Uber Freight, C.H. Robinson, Unilever, Martin Brower, Lazer Logistics, J.B. Hunt Transport Services, Inc., etc., all expressed how vital partnerships are because they allow for shared resources and expertise. Shippers can leverage carriers’ knowledge of efficient transportation practices, route optimization, and emission reduction strategies. In turn, carriers benefit from shippers’ insights into supply chain dynamics and customer demands. Working together also allows for enhanced supply chain efficiencies to reduce empty miles and minimize fuel consumption, leading to cost savings for all parties and lower environmental impact. 

Ultimately, these new partnerships can create a win-win situation for shippers and carriers, enabling them to grow their business together, drive sustainability, reduce emissions, and contribute to a greener future.