Getting CO2 emissions calculations right for freight procurement



The first step to meaningful emissions reductions is proper measurement. This blog post covers the current state of emissions calculation for freight procurement activities, with a particular focus on choosing the right calculation solution for your company.


The stakes for emissions reductions could not be higher

“It is unequivocal that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, ocean and land.”

That quotation comes from the latest United Nations report on climate action. When one examines this report – and others from the EU and independent researchers – the situation is very clear: reduce CO2 emissions now or face an uninhabitable planet.

So what does this mean for the logistics sector and freight procurement in particular?

Logistics activities are responsible for 8% of global CO2 emissions (a fraction of the 21% for which ‘transport,’ bears responsibility).

A reduction of CO2 emissions across the logistics sector could have a significant positive impact globally. But before addressing the question of specific strategies for reduction (more on that in a later blog post), freight procurement stakeholders must first address a much more essential question:

What’s the best way to calculate CO2 emissions?  


There is no improvement without measurement

When it comes to current industry standard in emissions calculations, there’s good news and bad news.

The good news: there are plenty of options for calculation and plenty of easy calculator tools. Many are free (such as this one from EcoTransit).

The bad news: industry stakeholders can’t seem to agree on the best tool. Or the proper protocols.

Indeed there remain many questions for logistics stakeholders seeking to properly measure their emissions. Am I doing this correctly? What are the current standards and best practices? When I stack my numbers up against others in the industry, am I comparing apples to apples?


Emissions calculation today: noteworthy resources and protocols  

The clearest protocols for effective emissions calculation can be found through non-profit and government-funded organizations. 

For a useful high-level entry point, try the article Creating Common Measures for Logistics Emissions. “Managers can’t improve what they can’t measure,” writes Dr. Susana Val in the article. “In logistics, the absence of a uniform measurement system coupled with a lack of knowledge about evaluating carbon footprints, makes it difficult to develop effective programs for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”

Dr. Val’s article was part of an European Commission-funded program: The Logistics Emissions Accounting and Reduction Network (LEARN). LEARN can provide helpful resources for logistics stakeholders seeking guidance in measuring emissions; though the funding course is now finished, the protocols the program established will likely continue to have a ripple effect in shaping policy.

If you’re seeking a more comprehensive view of the role of technology in reducing greenhouse gases, this paper from Gartner®[i] is a worthwhile read. It outlines how the latest technologies in logistics contribute to calculating and reducing emissions. It also outlines the coalition approach, whereby companies join coalitions to agree on emissions calculation standards and protocols.

Lastly, this comprehensive report from Greenhouse Gas Protocol can help you take a deeper dive into establishing the proper emissions calculation protocols for your company. The guidance included in the report, broken down by scope of activity, makes calculating emissions across the value chain fairly straightforward. There are clearly delineated procedures for freight activities within the guidelines.


Challenge anyone who claims they have all the answers

Given the wealth of free resources out there to establish your own emissions calculation protocols and best practices, it’s hard to imagine why any company operating in the freight tech space would claim to have all the answers on emissions. But some do. Marketing campaigns around emissions (and emissions calculation) often make the claim that one given method is the best.

At TenderEasy, we challenge that mode of thinking – indeed, we challenge anyone who claims they have all the answers about emissions calculation.

To understand why, let’s look at the situation with TenderEasy’s own clients. Many of our clients are increasingly focused on sustainability, and one reason they choose our tool is because they can use their own method of emissions calculation – and seamlessly integrate and leverage these calculation methods within the RFQ and scenario building process. They  bring their own industry expertise to the emissions calculation process, instead of being boxed in to a one-size-fits-all emissions calculator (as happens with some other companies in the freight tech space).

Companies that are thinking strategically about these vital issues likely wouldn’t select a generic, one-size-fits-all emissions calculator. Instead, they’re gravitating toward calculators set up for their particular logistics activities. We strongly support this choice, even if it makes it harder for the industry, as a whole, to agree on one calculator for all. Simply put, the tool isn’t out there yet. 

We trust companies to decide on the best practices in emissions calculations. Of course, we can advise – and certainly our solutions can adapt to many emissions calculator tools – but ultimately we respect the fact that companies know more about their own needs in emissions calculations than we do.


Flexibility is key

TenderEasy plans to keep a close eye on the evolving conversation around emission calculations. For now, we support the idea of flexibility for companies seeking to bring their own emissions calculation methods to the TenderEasy platform. And we plan to continue to make that process as easy as possible.

For more information on how TenderEasy can help your business with emissions calculation during the freight procurement process, please get in touch.


[i] Source Gartner, “Apply Technology to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions in Logistics”, Bart De Muynck, 3 June 2021. GARTNER is a registered trademark and service mark of Gartner, Inc. and/or its affiliates in the U.S. and internationally and is used herein with permission