I used to wonder why it was so difficult to measure ocean transport emissions at a product level. To me, the answer seemed deceptively simple: Why not take the distance traveled by a ship and multiply it by fuel emissions factors and the weight of a product? It turns out that the answer is not so easy. In ocean transport, a web of factors weighs into the equation including trade routes, calls at port, and especially vessel capacity, all making it complex for cargo carriers to provide a simple answer.

The Clean Cargo Working Group is cutting through this complexity by working with its members and stakeholders to make it easy for major brands and retailers to calculate their ocean transport environmental footprint. Hapag-Lloyd’s Erika Sagert and Nike’s Dawn Vance joined BSR on July 11 for a one-hour webinar to show us how Clean Cargo is working on this and other environmental issues.

Sagert and Vance provided a few insights during the webinar Q&A:

Q: How does Clean Cargo make it easier for Nike to go through carrier selection?
Vance: “It gives us real data so that we can look at the performance of a carrier. Where you see good performance, you can have a good conversation with that company to see what [they] are doing that’s working, and on the other end, [a carrier] might be underperforming to what the rest of the industry is doing.  I am really proud of the fact that we have been able to get all of our key business partners to say what their key goals and targets are for the future. The message has been sent from shippers that we are going to measure [data] and use it in our procurement decisions.”

Q: How does Clean Cargo’s work on environmental performance make it easier for Hapag-Lloyd to speak with customers?
Sagert: “It is an effort to collect and fill in the [environmental performance] data sheet, but the results we receive from BSR give us a very good tool that can be used in conversations with shippers.”

Sagert also stressed that the verified data gives Hapag-Lloyd confidence in using it, stating, “The data has been calculated according to [what is] recognized as the methodology for ocean shipping. It is verified, so it is credible and useful for shippers.”

Q: How can other shippers learn more from Nike’s work using Clean Cargo data?
Vance: “Nike is all about collaboration right now. We are willing to share what we are doing, and we encourage others to join Clean Cargo—it is a really good way to get connected with a large shipper group. We [have] learned a great deal from companies like IKEA who are shipping a whole variety of things and have had to solve different kinds of problems.”

Vance noted, “I often have business-to-business conversations with people from other companies from all over the world just to exchange ideas, talk about the current states of processing data and how we are using it.”

Thanks to members like Erika Sagert and Dawn Vance, Clean Cargo continues its charge towards increasing transparency in the shipping industry. Keep your eyes open for upcoming Clean Cargo publications that further develop the issue of environmental performance, including a report on our Annual Trade Lane Emissions Factors, a report on the Clean Cargo data methodology, and a series of case studies on how shippers are responding to stakeholder needs using Clean Cargo data. To learn more, visit the Clean Cargo website and join us in September when we hold our next webinar.