The SmartWay to Improve Environmental Performance

EPA-industry program helps companies such as Canon U.S.A. collect and track emissions data from third-party freight carriers

By Stephen Petit

When a more sustainable freight supply chain is a corporate objective, the first step is to look at areas you directly control. Distribution center locations. Packaging. The modes of transportation you use.

The bigger challenge, says Meredith Wieta, manager of planning and environment for the logistics division of canon U.S.A. Inc., is managing what you don’t directly control: the contract carriers hauling your freight.

Trucking, rail, intermodal, and shipping companies are private businesses with their own systems and standards for measuring CO2 emissions and fuel consumption, Wieta told an audience at the COMMIT!Forum in October. How can you make sure you and your suppliers are on the same page when it comes to measuring, managing, and sharing this information?

For Canon and some 3,000 other companies, the answer involves the SmartWay Transport Partnership, a voluntary program that gives executives, customers, shareholders, and other stakeholders a trusted source of data they can use to measure the environmental impact of their freight supply chain.

Launched in 2004, SmartWay is a collaboration between private industry and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Canon, a leading provider of consumer, business-to business, and industrial digital imaging solutions, is a charter partner.

“Freight transportation represents a significant opportunity for us to make a positive impact on carbon emissions reduction,” Wieta says. “SmartWay gives us a common set of standards we can use to help quantify the environmental impact of moving freight and compare the performance of our carriers.”

The results are factored into Canon’s calculation of its emissions globally and are ultimately incorporated into its annual Canon Sustainability Report.

Voluntary Reporting

As a sustainability manager, how do you talk to your logistics team about SmartWay and your supply chain? Here are four things you should know:

1. SmartWay measures CO2, NOx, and PM: Using a simple Excel spreadsheet, freight carriers report information about fuel consumption, miles driven, and the type of freight they haul. This produces a measure of their emissions across four types of pollutants: carbon dioxide, oxides of nitrogen, and two sizes of particulate matter (2.5 microns and 10 microns). While the data is voluntarily submitted, it undergoes a series of checks to verify its accuracy.
Carriers are scored and ranked according to their emissions per mile and per ton-mile. These results are posted online and available to anyone—shippers and carriers alike.

2. You can set priorities and weigh the data accordingly: As a shipper, you can determine which metric (or combination of metrics) matters most given your specific goals or objectives. For instance:

CO2 corresponds to fuel usage. If reducing fuel consumption in your supply chain is a goal, a carrier’s CO2 score is an important metric to watch.

Grams per ton-mile of CO2 is an indicator of freight efficiency, although shippers that move lighter loads may prefer a metric of grams-per-mile of CO2.

Shippers that are concerned about smog in a localized area (say, from dray operations) can look at a carrier’s grams-per-mile of PM 2.5.

3. Encourage your carriers to participate: Carriers in the SmartWay program are grouped into operational categories (flatbed, LTL, refrigerated, etc.) and ranked. Knowing that they’re being benchmarked among their peers, carriers are driven to cut costs and develop more efficient ways to move goods. Some shippers will factor SmartWay scores into their decisions about freight contracts.

Canon includes SmartWay language in requests for proposals (RFPs) for new transportation lanes and makes environmental performance part of the discussion during business reviews. Today, nearly 100 percent of its transportation partners are registered with SmartWay.

“Our carrier relationships are important and we want our carriers to become part of SmartWay,” Wieta says. “We want to consistently offer guidance to carriers since it helps us meet our commitment to reducing the environmental impact of our operations. Our internal CO2 reduction goals are further supported by our transportation partners seeking similar improvements.”

4. Leverage EPA support. The EPA has teams of experts who can provide technical expertise, data analysis, and training for shippers and transportation providers. These services are free to SmartWay members: you can save resources by not having to use costly consultants or proprietary methods or complex tools. To learn more, visit www.epa.gov/smartway.

(Stephen Petit, a transportation writer currently working with The CauseWay Agency.)

Four Reasons Why C-Level Executives Should Want SmartWay Data
1. Support compliance efforts. With the proliferation of climate change-related legislation, companies with SmartWay data are better prepared to report and reduce their environmental impact.

2. Evaluate the environmental cost/benefit of operational strategies in your freight supply chain. For example: SmartWay data can factor into capital-intensive decisions about distribution networks, fuel costs, packaging, modal shifts, contract carriers, etc. It can help answer the question, “What are the environmental costs of this decision?”

3. Incentivize your freight carriers. You can incorporate SmartWay data, as selection criteria, into your RFPs and transportation contracts.

4. Appeal to socially responsible investors and customers. You can use SmartWay data in corporate sustainability studies, carbon disclosure projects, and other public reporting. The SmartWay brand tells investors and customers that you’re concerned about environmentally responsible freight transportation. Also, the EPA recognizes partners through the SmartWay Excellence Awards, which identifies SmartWay companies with outstanding environmental performance.

Posted December 16, 2014 in 25115in Environment