Sustainability in logistics

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Taking a look at sustainability in the logistics industry, the issues with carbon emissions, their main causes and what businesses are doing to address this 

Climate change has been one of the more spoken about topics over the past couple of years. It impacts our everyday lives and habits, and many people are trying to do their bit by changing their routines. A carbon footprint is defined as the total amount of greenhouse gas emissions caused by an individual, event, organisation, place or product, expressed as carbon dioxide equivalent. Due to the amount of news coverage, COP26 and the research that scientists have brought to the surface, more people are taking it seriously by trying to reduce their carbon footprint. This also includes companies and associations within the logistics sector. The transportation vehicles and equipment used contribute to the carbon emissions and our pollution problem. This article looks at what the main causes of carbon emissions and other polluting factors are within the industry, and what businesses are doing to address this.  

Carbon monoxide (CO) and non-methane volatile organic compounds (NMVOCs), sulphur oxides (SOx) and nitrogen oxide (NOx) are just a few of the pollutants that come from transportation in the logistics sector. Heavy fuel oil, or high-sulfur fuel oil (HSFO), tend to come more from the ocean freight industry. They are the leftovers of an oil refiner’s output. Heavy oil contains sulfur, aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) and heavy metals. These chemicals are incredibly harmful to the environment and are rife in the industry. Logistics and transportation is one of the world’s biggest sources of greenhouse gas emissions which is why people are beginning to recognise the importance of taking action to reduce pollutants.  

Electric vehicles 

Transportation vehicles in the logistics sector usually use combustion engines, which generate mechanical power by combustion of a fuel- either liquid fuel or gaseous fuel. However, recently many businesses are keen to reduce their carbon footprints and are switching to hybrid or electric vehicles.  

There is currently a push for electric vehicles to reduce carbon emissions on the road and the increase in charging points is helping to make this possible. The COP26 Glasgow Climate Pact says that “road transport accounts for over 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions, and around half the world’s consumption of oil. The decarbonisation of road transport could lead  to a reduction of 2.6 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide a year by 2030”.  

Electric vehicles have proven to be effective for last mile delivery due to their small carbon footprint. They promote pollution-free circulation and cut back considerably on carbon emissions. However, there are still worries about the battery charge of an electric vehicle, like how long the charge will last and if the battery has a defined lifespan. This worry is especially relevant in terms of transportation vehicles being used in the industry and ensuring that goods are transported efficiently and quickly. Although, as a society we are all used to charging our every-day electrical items like phones or computers and with the increase of charging points electric vehicles should just fall into this same routine. Many companies within the sector are aiming to go fully electric in the next few years like CEVA Logistics, DMN Logistics and DHL Supply Chain. 

To see the full article please see our January/February issue here: January/February 2022 Single Issue form – International Trade Magazine (

Media contact

Rebecca Morpeth Spayne,
Editor, International Trade Magazine
Tel: +44 (0) 1622 823 922

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