- C.H. Robinson has released a tool to help shippers track carrier emissions globally across modes, the company announced Thursday. Called Emissions IQ, the self-serve tool is free to C.H. Robinson customers, according to the release.
- A product of the company's tech incubator, the tool automatically calculates emissions and provides a visualization of a shipper’s carbon output, according to the release. It also gives suggestions for mitigation, such as converting OTR trucking to intermodal.
- Emissions IQ also scans for opportunities to optimize LTL shipments, said Tim Gagnon, C.H. Robinson's vice president of analytics and data science.
Scope 3 emissions, including pollution from purchased transport, are difficult to tackle. Much of it depends on the resources third-party providers invest toward sustainability, over which shippers have no direct control. But access to data is key to tackling sustainability goals.
"You can only change what you can measure,” C.H. Robinson’s Chief Human Resources and Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance Officer Angie Freeman said in the release. "Even companies committed to sustainability have struggled to capture their emissions across complex, multi-faceted supply chains."
One sustainability tactic is shifting TL freight to intermodal. Schneider put intermodal as one of the centerpieces of its sustainability plan. The company wants to double its intermodal size by 2030, which it said would reduce emissions by an additional 700 million pounds per year.
"Intermodal emissions usage is a fraction of a truckload shipment," Gagnon said. "And, often times, [there is] material savings from a pricing perspective, as well."
In LTL, optimizing usage can help further sustainability goals. Though it's difficult to get a pinpoint-accurate number, trucks are about 80% utilized, on average, across all shipments in the U.S., Gagnon said.
When a shipper has a priority shipment, and it's taken by a truck that's half full, emissions is one of many ways that shipment is not optimized, he said.
If a truck is running a lane four days a week, Emissions IQ might prompt the user to adjust inventory management to make it possible to turn that into a three-day run, Gagnon said. Or maybe another shipper's freight could be added to that truck.
Though the ability to measure emissions isn't new to C.H. Robinson, Emissions IQ updates and standardizes the methods, said Gagnon. Emissions IQ is based on the Global Logistics Emissions Counsel framework, which C.H. Robinson said is universally accepted.
Current methodology tends to vary across modes and across carriers, and it's relatively immature in the LTL space, Gagnon said.
The company worked with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Environmental Protection Agency's SmartWay program to provide a standardized way to measure LTL emissions, which C.H. Robinson said is a "first." The model accounts for extra miles and higher fuel consumption related to multiple pickups and deliveries, according to the announcement.
Measuring transport emissions is an area of supply chain that continues to evolve. There's room for modeling to become more granular, particularly when it comes to LTL. Data from C.H. Robinson and most other places, Gagnon said, doesn't reflect newer types of equipment, such as electric vehicles or more aerodynamic trucks.
While Emissions IQ offers standardized and accepted measurements, it's lacking in detail. "And that is absolutely something that we've got to invest [in] as an industry," Gangnon said.
In the meantime, shippers are looking to make operations greener now, and C.H. Robinson considers Emissions IQ an accomplishment in scaling capabilities to meet customer demand for this type of emissions tracking.
Transportation accounts for about 20% of the world's global emissions, and there are tens of thousands of companies that want to make their logistics more sustainable, Freeman said in an interview.
C.H. Robinson said a recent customer study showed sustainability is shippers' second-biggest pain point in 2021. And the number of companies planning to take action to reduce their carbon footprint has doubled since last year.
"But it's really hard to get started, and it's very complex," Freeman said. "That is a big reason why we wanted to tackle this."