Cindy BaileyDirector of Corporate Sustainability
Cindy is responsible for leading the development of Purolator’s environmental sustainability strategy, advancing policies and standards, managing environmental risks and opportunities and improving Purolator’s performance, disclosures and reputation related to the environment and climate change.
For many organizations, reducing their carbon footprint has become a major focus in recent years. From research and development to product fulfillment, the pressure is on for businesses to put sustainability at the heart of everything they do. Shipping providers can play a major role in helping businesses achieve their environmental sustainability goals. According to our research, 74.5% of businesses recognize the importance of environmental sustainability when selecting a transportation partner.
In this segment of our Ask an Expert series, Cindy answers some common questions about reducing and tracking your businesses’ carbon footprint. She also explains how your shipping partner can help you reduce your carbon footprint and reach your environmental sustainability goals.
What is a company’s carbon footprint and why should it be reduced?
A company’s carbon footprint is the total quantity of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions produced each year from its operations. Measuring a company’s carbon footprint is the best way to identify the most carbon-intensive areas of the business and find opportunities for reduction.
The most commonly used methodology for calculating carbon footprint is the Greenhouse Gas Protocol. This GHG accounting standard is what most companies, including Purolator, are using to develop a comprehensive inventory of their GHG emissions and better understand their emissions sources.
The GHG Protocol breaks down a company’s emissions into three areas:
- Scope 1 emissions are a company’s direct emissions produced on-site or by the vehicles they own or operate.
- Scope 2 emissions are indirect emissions from the generation of electricity a company purchases.
- Scope 3 emissions are indirect value chain emissions that occur in a company’s value chain.
Globally, we’re at a critical point in the climate crisis and we need to come together to reduce our carbon emissions both individually and as organizations. The first and most important step for a company is understanding what their carbon footprint is. This way, they can know how they’re contributing to the rise of global temperatures and what they need to do to reduce their impact.
What are net-zero emissions?
In 2021, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) came out with a report that said to avoid catastrophic consequences from climate change, we need to ensure that, come mid-century, we have limited the rise in global temperature to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius compared to the pre-industrial period.
To do this, companies need to set ambitious emissions reduction goals and interim targets that align with a pathway that will get us to net-zero emissions globally by 2050. This means that by 2050 any emissions released into the atmosphere must be counterbalanced by the equivalent amount of carbon removal.
What are some of the key factors driving carbon emission reduction and net-zero emission goals for companies?
Increasingly, we’re seeing carbon emission reduction demands from all stakeholder groups, including shareholders, investors, employees and customers. They’re asking what companies are doing to reduce their environmental impact and expecting businesses to take meaningful action.
As more customers are looking for products and services with a lower carbon footprint, companies are seeing environmental sustainability as an area for growth. This global demand is motivating businesses to expand their offerings to gain a competitive advantage and ensure the longevity of their organization.
Companies are also recognizing that by taking action and having a transparent climate action plan, they can build trust with stakeholders. This is also an opportunity for attracting and keeping top talent. Many people are choosing to work with organizations that are transparent about how they’re reducing their environmental impact.
How can the carbon footprint from freight be reduced?
Transportation is one of the world’s biggest sources of GHG emissions, making it an important focus for reducing a company’s carbon footprint. There are several ways to do this.
Firstly, companies can increase their operational efficiency. Internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles are going to be around for some time so we need to find ways to use these vehicles as efficiently as possible. This can be done by optimizing routes to accomplish the same tasks while traveling shorter distances and we can also consolidate shipments to reduce the number of trips. Another opportunity is to guide drivers on how to reduce fuel consumption. This includes training them to reduce idling time, limit speed and accelerate and brake gradually.
Lowering the carbon intensity of the transport we’re using is another way to reduce our freight carbon footprint. This can be done by using alternative-fuel vehicles such as battery electric and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles or lower-carbon fuels like renewable natural gas and biodiesel in heavy-duty fleets. Another option is to use modes of transportation that aren’t as carbon-intensive, like switching from air transport to rail. There are also new vehicle technologies we can use. For example, there are carbon-capture devices for tractor trailers that capture and store CO2 from the tailpipe. This CO2 can then be sold to end users for use in products such as cement.
Finally, the use of telematics and data can ensure that companies are optimizing vehicle performance and running proactive maintenance.
What are some challenges businesses face when reducing their carbon footprint? How can they overcome them?
Two big questions companies face are how to set relevant GHG emission reduction targets and how to ensure the organization is aligned with these goals.
Purolator, for instance, is going about this by setting a science-based target. We’re working with the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) to understand what emissions reduction goals must be achieved to be net zero by 2050.
There’s also the challenge of gaining company-wide buy-in for environmental sustainability goals. It’s essential that companies gain support from their leadership teams and make sure these goals are effectively communicated throughout the organization. This way, everyone can work together to achieve these targets.
Companies are also faced with the cost of making sustainable transitions. For some companies, achieving these goals will require radical shifts in how they do business. The key to overcoming this challenge is by building a strong business case that looks beyond the current return on investment (ROI). Both benefits and risks that can be difficult at times to quantify also need to be considered.
Another challenge has to do with a company’s Scope 3 emissions. For many, Scope 3 emissions make up the largest portion of an organization’s emissions inventory and these sources can be the most difficult to control. To overcome this issue, companies need to partner with suppliers that are aligned with their emission reduction goals. If your supply chain isn’t reducing its emissions, then your Scope 3 emissions will remain high.
How has COVID-19 influenced environmental sustainability concerns?
Since COVID-19 began, there’s been heightened awareness around global issues like climate change. Consumers are increasingly aware of the impacts associated with the products and services they purchase daily. COVID-19 has started to make consumers more conscientious as they seek out products and services that are more sustainable and ethical.
Before the pandemic, people may have seen climate change as a daunting crisis that they couldn’t tackle. But the pandemic has shown us that when we put our minds to solving what seemed like an unsolvable issue, we did just that, showing we can tackle global crises like climate change together.
The pandemic has also shown us that we can figure out how to work differently and more efficiently. For instance, many companies are now offering flexible work models as they transition back to the office. This will allow employees to work from home more, reducing commuting and the associated environmental impact tied to transportation.
How can businesses create efficiencies within the supply chain?
There are four key ways:
- Choose suppliers that share your same values. At Purolator, for example, the only way we can reduce our indirect Scope 3 emissions is if our suppliers are reducing their Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions. That means we need to work together to make sure everyone can succeed.
- Strive for continuous improvement. Never assume there’s nothing left to improve; There’s always room to innovate within the supply chain. This means constantly re-evaluating the way we’re doing things and figuring out how to be better.
- Use data to make informed decisions. Data is an extremely valuable tool to effectively measure performance and find supply chain improvement opportunities.
- Look for ways to redesign your process to reduce all forms of waste. There are many different types of waste within the supply chain that provide opportunities for waste reduction. This includes items like wasted worker time and the inefficient use of resources.
How can a shipping partner help their customers achieve their environmental sustainability goals?
One of the first things shipping partners can do to help their customers is to offer sustainable packaging options. This can range from packaging that uses less materials to those that include recycled content or wood fibre sourced from responsibly managed forests, such as Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)-certified.
Shipping partners can also help ensure packaging is fully recyclable or compostable. They can help right-size packaging to avoid oversized boxes to reduce excess waste. A shipping partner can also offer packaging solutions that avoid single-use plastics, such as bubble wrap.
Another way shipping partners can help is by delivering packages using low-carbon solutions such as zero-emission vehicles or lower carbon modes of transport.
Finally, shipping partners can collaborate and work together with industry stakeholders to support and expedite the transition to a low-carbon economy. As delivery companies, we need to come together to find solutions and help accelerate them to market.
How can customers work with their shipping partner to effectively measure successes and report on environmental sustainability goals?
Companies should communicate their expectations to their shipping partners and seek ways to work together to achieve their goals. Recently, we had a customer reach out to us with an ambitious sustainability goal and we’re now identifying and communicating opportunities where we can deliver their packages with zero-emission vehicles.
There are also data needs. Many companies are going to require detailed reports on their Scope 3 emissions, either quarterly or annually. It’s helpful for shipping partners to understand these reporting requirements upfront so they can find other ways to offer customers individualized carbon reporting as needed.
What are some examples of initiatives Purolator is implementing to help achieve its emissions reduction goals?
Purolator is actively transitioning our fleet to electric and alternative-fuel vehicles. This includes the addition of electric step vans, electric cargo bikes (e-bikes) and low-speed vehicles to our fleet. We’re also improving the energy efficiency of our buildings through projects such as LED lighting retrofits and HVAC replacements, and reducing waste by implementing a comprehensive landfill diversion program in our facilities.
Lastly, we’re procuring renewable electricity for our operations in provinces that have high carbon intensive electricity grids.
What shipping solutions does Purolator offer to help support its customers’ GHG emissions reduction goals?
Purolator offers several solutions to help customers reduce their carbon footprint. We have a comprehensive packaging guide to help customers pack efficiently, in order to avoid damages in transit and subsequent returns and replacements. We’ve also improved our packaging integrity which also helps avoid the risk of shipment damage. In addition, we offer sustainable packaging options such as our Purolator Express® envelopes, which are made using recycled content and post-consumer materials, and are also FSC-certified.
We’re also starting to offer zero-emission deliveries. Currently, we’re operating five all-electric step vans out of our Richmond, B.C. location and using several e-bikes and low-speed vehicles in urban centres across Canada. In 2022, we will deploy an additional 15 e-bikes in more Canadian cities. A sustainability step that was recognized by ACT Expo recognized by ACT Expo as a company that has demonstrated a commitment to sustainability in the carrier category.
We’ve also introduced innovative retail solutions such as our Mobile Quick Stop which makes it easy for customers to drop off and pick up their packages, reducing the number of delivery trips.
In certain transit locations, we’re also trialing self-service lockers. Not only do they offer commuters a convenient self-serve option, but they provide another opportunity to reduce delivery miles.
Finally, we offer carbon reporting services. These comprehensive reports outline our customers’ individual carbon emissions from the products they’ve delivered with Purolator throughout the year.
What advice can you give to companies looking to integrate environmental sustainability into their business?
My first piece of advice is to just get started. We’ve created a simple checklist to help businesses with their first steps towards being more sustainably minded.
I know that in some ways, beginning your environmental sustainability journey can feel daunting. Some companies may feel tempted to delay getting started because of this, however, the sooner you begin, the sooner you’ll learn and make improvements.
Next is integrating environmental sustainability into your corporate strategy. Businesses need to ensure environmental sustainability is fully integrated into their business and culture, starting right from the top.
Lastly, you need to set clear, actionable and transparent goals. Even if our progress isn’t as seamless as you would like it to be, you need to be honest and transparent when communicating your environmental sustainability journey to your stakeholders.