Globally, transporting goods by ocean accounts for about 3 percent of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions associated with climate change—more than the CO2 emissions from all the energy it takes to run the internet. As companies assess their exposure to climate risks and drive down emissions in their supply chain, they face two dilemmas: how to both measure and improve environmental performance in their logistics supply chains.

For 12 years, BSR’s Clean Cargo Working Group (CCWG) has developed tools and methodologies that help shippers and their carrier suppliers understand and manage CO2 emissions from ocean transport. One of our priorities is to make the decision-making process simpler for shippers, which is the purpose of a short guide that we are launching today.

The CCWG’s “How to Calculate and Manage CO2 Emissions from Ocean Transport” was produced with lessons from global brands (“shippers”) that are members of CCWG. It describes how transportation procurement managers use CCWG data and tools to:

  • Calculate a CO2 footprint
  • Assess supplier environmental performance
  • Select suppliers using sustainability criteria

For example, CCWG member Marks & Spencer uses the data and tools to measure, evaluate, and report the CO2 impact of its global goods transportation. This allows the company to establish a baseline from which to measure improvements over time from approved CO2-saving initiatives. “By being a member of CCWG, we can review and compare ocean carriers (our suppliers) on their sustainability practices and set expectations with transport providers for continuous improvement,” says Barry Wallace, logistics manager at Marks & Spencer, and member of the CCWG Steering Committee.

The guide explains how to perform such comparisons by using illustrative trade routes. For example, three carriers provide the same service from Asia to North America’s East Coast, Asia to northern Europe, and Europe to Latin America. Using CCWG emissions factors for each of these carriers, which is a measure of environmental performance, a shipper can compare its suppliers. In the example from the report, there is a difference in environmental performance of more than 50 percent across these three suppliers.

The CCWG network also helps shippers engage with like-minded organizations. CCWG provides a unique platform for peer companies to share best practices, and for brands to embed the latest developments across the transport supply chain into procurement. In 2015, CCWG member-only webinars, facilitated by BSR, will ensure shippers stay on top of how peers are assessing their business partners to make their ocean supply chains more carbon efficient.

Underpinning these results is the ease of use that comes with a standardized methodology. The CCWG CO2 emissions calculation methodology was developed over several years with industry practitioners, specialists, and academic experts. Recognized as the industry standard, 85 percent of the ocean container shipping industry uses this tool today. We will be releasing a new report this spring that provides technical details to the use and application of the methodology.

To learn more about the CCWG, please contact us at ccwg@bsr.org.