Photo: Walmart China
I am just back from a week in Beijing, where Environmental Defense Fund was part of Walmart’s announcement of a new goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in its China supply chain. Had I not been there in person, I’m not sure I could have accurately comprehended how essential that this goal – a 50 million metric ton (MMT) reduction by 2030 – must be followed by swift implementation.
That’s because every day in Beijing felt like the worst day in San Francisco, my home, when last year’s horrific wildfires made our eyes and lungs burn. “Normal” in Beijing means not being able to see down to the end of the block, and sharing the crowded streets with commuters, parents and children all covered by facemasks.
McDonald’s – the world’s largest restaurant company – recently announced new climate goals, which were quickly followed by many comments like this one, from Axios:
"These are concrete targets, but they’re not as of yet backed up with specific plans of how to get there."
Axios is right. These are concrete targets (and they’ve been approved by the Science-Based Targets Initiative). Here are the details: by 2030, McDonald’s is pledging to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from their restaurants and offices by 36 percent, and reduce their emissions intensity (per metric ton of food and packaging) across their supply chain by 31 percent. The company estimates these reductions will prevent 150 million metric tons of C02 equivalents (CO2e) from being released into the atmosphere. That’s huge – it’s the equivalent of removing 32 million cars from the road for one year.
But I want to challenge Axios in saying that the company has “no specific plans" to get there.
Do your freight transportation metrics include measures for sustainability?
With freight accounting for 16 percent of corporate greenhouse gas emissions, establishing green freight practices is becoming a greater priority for large shippers.
To learn more about how to establish freight sustainability metrics, check out Chapter 2 in EDF’s Green Freight Handbook – a practical guide to the strategies companies are using to reduce their freight operations’ impact on overall greenhouse gas emissions.
Establishing baseline metrics is the logical starting point for your green freight efforts. Freight sustainability metrics provide clarity, and keep transportation teams focused on the goal of achieving emissions reductions that are measurable, and therefore meaningful.
Your baseline will include both broad corporate freight sustainability metrics and more specific freight efficiency metrics.
At a corporate level, the three most popular metrics to gauge freight sustainability , are:
- Emissions per ton-mile – the average emissions associated with moving one ton of freight for one mile.
- Absolute freight emissions – the total greenhouse gas emissions generated by transporting freight.
- Total fuel consumption – the fuel used by direct freight operations and by third-partly logistics companies (3pl) and carriers in the transport of products.
Our Green Freight Handbook offers advice and formulas to determine all these numbers.
At a specific level, other freight efficiency metrics –such as average emissions per shipment, percentage of ton-miles by mode, and average miles traveled per shipment – link to specific strategies that, taken together, will ultimately drive the results you see in your corporate freight sustainability metrics.
In Emissions Reduction, Activity Doesn’t Always Equal Achievement
Real progress in freight sustainability can only be measured in numbers. That’s why starting with a baseline is so crucial. If your strategies don’t shift the numbers in a positive direction, they are clearly not the right strategies.