From design and manufacturing to final delivery and end-user experience, sustainability is at the core of everything we do. We’re constantly looking for ways we can improve, so we sat down with Kathleen Hegyesi, Program Manager at Flexport.org – a division of our longtime transportation partner Flexport – to talk about sustainability in our supply chains.
Companies like ROOM use Flexport to move freight all on one digital platform powered by technology, infrastructure and expertise. Flexport.org is a dedicated impact team within the company using logistics as a positive force for social and environmental impact. Below, Kathleen shares a little about how a company’s carbon footprint directly affects the atmosphere, sustainability efforts to look for, and other ways companies are making an impact through their dedicated supply chains.
Why should companies focus on transportation when thinking about sustainability?
Before goods make it to the end-user or buyer, companies need to transport those goods from where they are produced to where they are distributed from. For many companies that we work with at Flexport, emissions from international logistics (or transporting these goods) can amount to over 50% of their total carbon footprint. That’s why we strongly believe in transportation as a critical lever to pull in the fight against climate change. Left untouched, the freight industry is projected to quadruple by the year 2050, potentially generating 40% of global carbon emissions. It isn’t always straightforward for companies to set or achieve greenhouse gas reduction goals, so we’ve built tools to make it easy to calculate, reduce, and offset emissions from logistics.
What exactly is a carbon footprint from shipping? What are ways that shippers can reduce this?
A shipper’s footprint is caused by planes, trains, ocean vessels and trucks moving goods around the world: these vehicles burn fossil fuels that emit carbon dioxide (CO2), alongside other greenhouse gases such as nitrogen oxides (NOx), methane (CH4), and sulphur oxides (SOx). When released into the atmosphere, these gases create damaging imbalances. At Flexport, we believe the first step as a shipper is to understand your emissions: what are your shipments actually generating? We built a calculator in our platform to give all shippers free analytics for their emissions, where they can drill down by factors such as transport mode or destination, to find trends and opportunities for reduction. For example, on average, shipping goods by air can generate 47x more carbon emissions per ton-mile than shipping by ocean, so we work with shippers to utilize ocean shipping as much as possible.
But reduction isn’t the only solution: right now there aren’t emissions-free options for airplanes or ocean vessels. Because of this, we believe in carbon offsets to neutralize your footprint today, without waiting for technology to catch up. We’re proud to partner with ROOM in our carbon offset program: for every tonne of CO2e (or greenhouse gas equivalents) emitted from shipments, ROOM donates to offset these emissions through Carbonfund.org, our partner who creates renewable energy, energy efficiency, and forest protection projects around the world. We select only top quality projects where the impact is verified by rigorous third-party standards, such as preventing deforestation in the Amazon, a project protecting nearly 500,000 acres of rainforest and mitigating the release of over 12.5 million tonnes of CO2e in its lifetime. By participating, ROOM is investing in a better future for all of us by neutralizing their emissions from logistics.
What should consumers look for when evaluating companies’ sustainability efforts?
There are so many components of sustainability that companies can think about to ensure that the positive impact of their operations outweigh the negative. In supply chains alone, these components can include materials selection, packaging, resource use at production, products’ end-use, employee wellbeing and so much more. I think it’s impossible for a company to perfect all of these factors, so I look for companies that are innovative and thoughtful in their approach. For example, I love how ROOM sources materials for production: each booth uses soundproofing materials made from over 1,000 recycled plastic bottles. When I’m in their booths at our office, I like knowing that less virgin plastic was used to build them. In addition to materials and production, consumers should see if companies are addressing their environmental impact from transportation through carbon offsets.
What are other ways that companies can make an impact through their supply chains?
Sustainability isn’t just about environmental impact: communities are critical. Recently, we’ve seen companies of all industries and sizes activate for COVID-19 relief, whether through fundraising and awareness campaigns, or converting their supply chains for good. ROOM is the perfect example of this. COVID-19 has resulted in a global shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE), putting frontline responders and medical workers at severe risk when treating patients. So when we found out that ROOM converted one of their domestic manufacturers to design and produce a new Test Booth—which is their phone booth reimagined to protect medical workers through safe, contactless testing—we wanted to help. We’ve partnered with ROOM to fund at least $20,000 in transportation costs through our Frontline Responders Fund. To date, we’ve helped ROOM ship 60 donated Test Booths to California, New York, Wisconsin and Oregon in the US, and internationally to Mexico City, France, Canada and the UK. We’re humbled by the opportunity to support such a creative solution to a global problem, and sustainable, scalable solutions like this are critical for relief.