Sustainability in Freight Forwarding: How Shipping Companies Are Working to Minimize Their Environmental Impact
As the Earth’s population continues to grow and trade volumes increase, shipping companies are faced with pressure to adopt sustainability practices and minimize their environmental impact. European freight forwarders and IFA members, in particular, have an important role to play in a variety of initiatives aimed at promoting sustainability in their operations. Prominent examples are green freight initiatives, optimizing supply chain operations, using intermodal transport, and making warehousing and other facilities more environmentally friendly.
European and international freight forwarding companies are increasingly joining green initiatives to reduce their emissions. These initiatives include setting targets, measuring and reporting, and implementing measures such as using low-emission vehicles, minimizing idling time, optimizing routes, and others. There are also examples of EU-level initiatives such as Connecting Europe Facility, the European Modular System, and Clean Power for Transport. Connecting Europe Facility, for example, is a program facilitating the building of infrastructure for digital devices, energy, and transportation.
Supply Chain Operations
Freight forwarders are working to optimize their supply chain operations by using more reusable materials, minimizing packaging waste, and adopting advanced technologies for route optimization. Route planning enables shippers to reduce the number of vehicles in use and the distance travelled. The use of eco-friendly packagings such as reusable containers, recycled paper, and biodegradable plastics also helps reduce environmental impact.
Furthermore, shipping companies are increasingly using automated systems for real-time updates, inventory management, and tracking of the movement of cargo. They also use technologies like EDI, EFID, barcoding, and GPS tracking to improve the tracking of goods and their overall efficiency.
Intermodal transport in Europe involves multiple modes, including ships, trucks, and trains to ship cargo from one destination to another. This practice helps freight forwarders to optimize routes, reduce fuel consumption, and use different modes of transport more efficiently. Also, shipping freight by train moves it off the roads and highways, thus reducing congestion and emissions from trucks idling in traffic.
Using Green Facilities
Many freight forwarders have taken steps to make their facilities more environmentally friendly. Examples include green walls and roofs, energy-efficient lighting, and waste reduction measures such as composting and recycling. Shippers are also investing in more efficient HVAC systems, including energy recovery ventilation and geothermal heating.
Water conservation measures and the use of renewable energy sources also enable shippers to reduce their environmental print. Examples of water conservation measures include greywater recycling, low-flow faucets and toilets, rainwater harvesting, and leakage detection systems. The use of renewable energy sources such as fuel cells, biomass energy, and hydropower also has a positive effect on carbon emissions. In addition, geothermal, wind, and solar power are commonly used by shippers looking to reduce their reliance on gas, coal, and other fossil fuels.
Lastly, inventory management enables shippers to improve their energy efficiency. Optimizing design and layout and implementing efficient storage systems help reduce the energy needed for warehousing operations.