EDF’s Five Rules for More Carbon-Efficient Freight Supply Chain

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  1. Choose the most carbon-efficient mode possible.
    When it comes to carbon emissions per ton-mile, planes emit 47 times more than container ships and trucks emit six times more than trains. Clearly differentiating cargo that needs to be expedited from that which doesn’t is step one; other options include vendor-managed inventory and even moving final assembly closer to the client. 
  2. Collaborate with other shippers.
    Are there opportunities to merge your warehouses and distribution assets with other companies? Ship products directly to the client and avoid warehousing altogether? Match “back-haul” lanes with other shippers to improve efficiency? All of these strategies are being used successfully.
  3. Redesign your own network for efficiency.
    New logistics tools can help to optimize warehouse locations, shipping routes and modal connections.
  4. Get the most out of each move.
    Set goals for trailer utilization, look for new ways to combine loads and use the best new software to optimize orders. Redesigning and consolidating packaging can also increase utilization while decreasing damage.
  5. Increase energy efficiency in distribution centers.
    These vital links account for 11 percent of the carbon footprint of goods movement. Changes to HVAC, lighting, motor controls and refrigeration can be quick payback ways to save energy and emissions.  

Rail has the least environmental impact of any land mode, using only one gallon of diesel fuel for moving one ton of freight over 480 miles. Many organizations are taking advantage of the benefits of rail, including the US Postal Service (USPS). A 2012 study found that the USPS could save $100 million annually by shifting only a portion of their mail volume to rail; even more if processes and transport networks are strategically realigned to favor trains.

“The problem with rail historically,” according to an industry expert, “is that it is less predictable; there are delays. Having that kind of variability can kill you. In more recent years the rail companies have done a much better job of providing a more consistent and reliable service, which has made companies more comfortable with long-haul shipments.”