Logistics News

Calculating carbon for a more sustainable logistics industry

Transport and logistics remain a large contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions. The industry is currently in the process of slowly transitioning to clean energy alternatives, in the meantime data can be used to help companies minimise their emissions.

Freight management software and transport systems company Cario considers itself a forward-thinking tech company that is always looking for opportunities in other markets and in emerging technology. 

Cario director Fiona Marshall says this is how the company first became interested in calculating Scope 3 carbon emissions. 

“We wanted a way to accurately measure carbon emissions associated with freight movements, so we reached out to Swinburne university. Swinburne developed a project with data science students for a basic carbon calculator.

“We have extensive experience moving freight for market-leading companies based in Europe that are much more focused on the carbon emissions attached to their business operations, compared to Australia. So, we were already familiar with the idea that carbon calculating could be a valuable business service,” Marshall says. 

And so, working with Cario Swinburne put together a team that worked to create a basic algorithm that could calculate the amount of carbon emitted for a freight task.

The initial app was very rudimentary and limited, however Cairo saw potential and decided to hire one of the students to work for them and further develop a proper calculator prototype. 

Marshall says the initial idea was about encouraging more holistic business thinking. 

“The aim was to give businesses the ability to accurately calculate their scope 3 emissions so they could be aware of the environmental implications of their freight movements. 

“The tool is already very popular with European clients who have reporting requirements within the EU around their emissions,” Marshall says. 

Fiona Marshall if the Director at Cario

Scope 3 emissions are emissions from sources not directly under a company’s control, such as carbon emitted from activities that a company outsources. 

The end goal is for clients to be able to calculate emissions at the level of consignment and for emissions to eventually become as important a deciding factor as price when deciding which carrier and service to go with. 

Marshall concedes that at the moment this is unfortunately not the case.

“Some companies do take carbon emissions very seriously but for others it isn’t yet an important deciding factor.” 

“At the end of the day we just provide them with the information, it is at their discretion which carrier they choose and the amount of carbon emissions they become responsible for,” Marshall says. We are firmly of the belief, what we can measure, that we can manage. 

Cario has been able to gain some interesting insights into industry emissions after developing the calculator. One example is that air freight is a very large polluter, in some cases it produces 28 times the number of emissions as rail freight. 

With air freight being such a big polluter, Cario’s calculator allows it to advise clients to consider opting for land freight instead, or to simply make fewer air freight deliveries. 

Marshall says the government needs to step in and provide more guidance and incentives for businesses to reduce their carbon footprint. 

“The implications for the industry and for the environment are that businesses will have a greater understanding of the effects of their actions and have quantifiable numbers to understand them.”

A powerful way to disseminate this sort of data is to provide equivalent analogies to explain the numbers, for example the tool can tell their clients how many trees would need to be planted to offset the emissions of their freight task. 

Swinburne University’s lead professor on the project, Associate Professor Hadi Ghaderi says one of the biggest challenges early on was incorporating all the different ways freight can travel into their calculations.

“Tools that benefit from published indicators are not able to provide accurate emission levels, as every vehicle and operator is different. For example, vehicle age or driving behaviour could have significant impacts on the level of emission. 

“These tools, however, are still helpful to educate the industry and provide them with insights to make informed decisions related to their sustainability practices,” Ghaderi says. 

While tools like the one developed by Cario cannot always be completely accurate, they are still very useful to the transport and logistics industry in helping them to make more informed sustainability decisions.  

The development of Cario’s calculator was initially a joint project with Swinburne University and Associate Professor Ghaderi says collaborations like this one are always a strong focus for their programs.

Dr Hadi Ghaderi is an Associate Professor and the Major Discipline Coordinator for Logistics and Supply Chain Management at Swinburne Business School.

“Having an industry partner, like Cario, involved with projects like these is in the DNA of the program. Projects and programs like these develop and strengthen linkages with industry and deliver industry-ready graduates. 

“One of the key takeaways from this project and the impact on the industry is helping build the logistics and freight leaders of tomorrow.

“For the students, it’s the real-world experience, new technical and soft skills, and chances to meet potential employers. We are happy to see our industry partner has taken this proof of concept to a more developed stage,” Ghaderi says. 

The tool provides a simple and informative mechanism for both freight operators and shippers when deciding on their freight sustainability decisions. Specifically, the tool allows for a better understanding of the environmental impacts of freight transport and related emission levels, which is critical information for the transition towards Net Zero.  

Cario’s calculator is one tool available to private businesses to help them better understand their emissions. However, if real progress is to be made towards Net Zero, many commentators and industry leaders believe the government will need to take more of a leading role. 

Ghaderi says any amount of progress is good progress until there can be more uptake of emission free heavy vehicles in Australia.

“Transitioning towards Net Zero is a journey and it will not happen quickly. While we are seeing zero emission heavy vehicles entering the market, such vehicles only account for just 0.1 percent of total new truck sales, with available models mainly suitable for metro-distribution applications. 

“Therefore, any effort to minimise emission is one step forward, including digital tools that could support smarter and more sustainable transport management decision making. 

“For example, collaboration and data sharing among freight operators or through supply chain orchestrators for resource sharing, joint route planning and load utilisation is a viable and sustainable approach,” Ghaderi says.

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