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C.H. Robinson heralds initiatives focused on helping shippers reduce carbon emissions

With an eye on enabling shippers to further reduce carbon emissions, Minneapolis, Minn.-based global logistics services provider and freight forwarder C.H. Robinson announced today it has rolled out various offerings, for global shippers, with sustainability focuses.

The new offerings include:

  • EmissionsIQ, which it said will be the first free self-serve tool for customers that instantly shows a shipper’s carbon emissions across all forms of global transportation;
  • a collaboration with MIT and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which provides shippers with a standardized way to measure partial truckload emissions for the first time; and
  • access to what it called unparalleled data for shippers to benchmark their carbon data output to their respective industries as well as other shippers

In an interview, Angie Freeman, Chief Human Resources Officer and ESG Officer, C.H. Robinson, provided LM with an extensive over of today’s announcements, which is below.

Logistics Management (LM): What drove the need for CHR to roll out Emissions IQ? How long had it been planned/in the works?

Angie Freeman: It is our mission to improve the world’s supply chains, which is critical to creating a more sustainable future. We put our customers at the center of everything we do, and for decades, we’ve helped companies improve how they transport their goods—constantly looking to reduce waste, consolidate freight and eliminate empty miles. Climate change is a critical issue facing the world today, and transportation accounts for about a fifth of the world’s carbon emissions. 

We also know that companies are under more pressure than ever to tackle sustainability in their supply chains. Consumer behavior, government regulations and investor demands have heightened the expectation for shippers to reduce emissions. It is a problem no single company can solve on their own. But by bringing together our decades of supply chain expertise, our technology and innovation capabilities, and our data—we have the largest set of emissions benchmarking data in the world—we know we’re in a position to create a real impact on emissions now and into the future for our customers, our industry, and our planet. We see our tools and data as accelerators of change, at a scale that nobody else can match.

Tens of thousands of companies want to become more sustainable and bring that to their logistics and supply chains. But because of the complexity, they don’t know how to get started. 

Our own research revealed that sustainability is the second biggest shipper pain point for 2021, second only to capacity constraints in the midst of one of the most volatile markets in history. To put that into perspective, it means that next to dealing with issues such as the Suez Canal blockage, container shortages, port congestion, the impact of weather disruptions in Texas, and shrunken air capacity due to the pandemic, shippers are viewing sustainability as one of the other toughest challenges they are navigating this year.

As we’ve already seen, our technology built by and for supply chain experts can contribute to a significant reduction of emissions. We see our tools and data as accelerators of change, at a scale that nobody else can match. Looking at transportation data through the lens of sustainability can help identify opportunities to create a more efficient and resilient supply chain for the customer while also reducing their footprint. Our data and scale make us uniquely positioned to improve transparency into emissions across the industry. And our global suite of services gives us unique insight into our customers’ growing interest in, and expectation of, measuring environmental impacts.

We have helped companies improve how they transport their goods for decades – constantly looking to reduce waste and improve performance in the supply chain, and now we are delivering new innovation, like Emissions IQ, to take it a step further. In its pilot phase, it has already helped 125 companies, including Tempur Sealy, reduce their carbon emissions by a total of 350,000 metric tons of CO2 equivalents. That’s about as much carbon as 39 million gallons of gasoline would put out. 

LM: What led to the partnership with MIT and the US EPA?

Freeman: We have longstanding research collaboration with MIT’s Center for Transportation & Logistics and have been a member of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s SmartWay program since 2005. This collaboration is part of our ongoing relationship. We embarked upon this project to give companies a standard for measuring the emissions of their partial truckloads for the first time.

To help companies address the sustainability of less-than-truckload (LTL) shipments—which have skyrocketed because of the e-commerce boom—we funded a project with MIT’s Center for Transportation & Logistics. That became the basis for a collaboration with the EPA’s SmartWay program to establish a method specific to measuring those emissions.

LM: What are the biggest benefits of each of these respective offerings for CHR customers i.e. shippers?

Freeman: For Emissions IQ, it is to cut transportation emissions, companies first need to be able to measure them. Most aren’t equipped to do that easily across truck, rail, air and ocean transportation. Without the necessary tools and data, many companies haven’t been able to pursue carbon reduction at all or are investing a lot of time and effort that could be automated and eliminated.

Emissions IQ solves these issues by automatically calculating emissions and providing an easy visualization of a shipper’s carbon output, eliminating the time and effort of calculating emissions. It is accredited to use the Global Logistics Emissions Counsel (GLEC) framework, giving shippers data that’s trusted and universally accepted. The data can be used directly in their own sustainability reports or when reporting to a third-party survey, like CDP.

Emissions IQ customer benefits, in short:

  • Visibility to carbon footprint: See carbon output by mode, location, and retailer, and gain insights to focus reduction efforts; 
  • Benchmark performance: Understand how your customer’s carbon emissions trend over time and compare against their industry; and
  • Reduce emissions and increase efficiency: Partner with expert supply chain engineers to discover areas of opportunity such as consolidation, modal conversion, network mapping, and inventory reduction.

New LTL methodology benefits: To help companies address the sustainability of less-than-truckload (LTL) shipments – which have skyrocketed because of the e-commerce boom – we funded a project with MIT’s Center for Transportation & Logistics. That became the basis for a collaboration with the EPA’s SmartWay program to establish a method specific to measuring those emissions.

Accounting for the extra miles and higher fuel consumption of a truck making multiple pickups and deliveries, this methodology is more advanced and does a better job of accounting for the unique complexities of LTL. We are not only going to incorporate this into our own tools, such as Emissions IQ™, but we are also sharing this advanced data model with the EPA to incorporate into its online tools. Companies will be able to instantly get a calculation of their LTL emissions, which is increasingly important as this sector of the industry, and its environmental impact, continue to grow.

LM: What are the biggest competitive advantages of these announcements from a CHR perspective?

Freeman: It’s our mission to improve the world’s supply chains. We’ve been doing that for decades. We put our customers at the center of everything we do, helping them improve how they transport their goods – constantly looking to reduce waste, consolidate freight, eliminate empty miles. A more efficient supply chain is by nature a more sustainable one.

And we know our customers want and need our help with that. By sharing the technology and the data that will enable them to achieve their sustainability goals, that’s how we make the biggest and most meaningful impact. 

We have the largest set of benchmarking data in the industry. Once a company knows its carbon output, they want to know what it means. We have nearly 200,000 customers and contract carriers and visibility into 19 million shipments a year. With the largest data set in the industry, companies can benchmark against themselves, their industry and all our shippers.

About the Author

Jeff Berman, Group News Editor

Jeff Berman is Group News Editor for Logistics Management, Modern Materials Handling, and Supply Chain Management Review. Jeff works and lives in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, where he covers all aspects of the supply chain, logistics, freight transportation, and materials handling sectors on a daily basis. Contact Jeff Berman

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