The exchange of goods is growing worldwide in the course of globalisation and the logistics industry is an important reason for Europe-wide prosperity. Trade and transport routes are reliably mastered and therefore also stand for global economic networking. However, logistics and transport not only cause prosperity, but also CO2. With a share of 23 percent of global CO2 emissions, the transport and logistics sector bears a special responsibility in the fight against climate change (IPCC, Working Group III Report, May 2007). In addition to greenhouse gas emissions, noise, air pollutants and particulate matter emissions are important parameters for making transport more environmentally friendly and sustainable. Green logistics stands for environmental compatibility and resource efficiency. And this applies to the entire logistics chain, i.e. to transport, intralogistics and logistics real estate.
Sustainability in logistics
The logistics industry has a non-negligible impact on greenhouse gas emissions. With around 230 million tons of CO2, trucks and buses were responsible for around 7% of all greenhouse gas emissions in Europe in 2019. Accordingly, sustainability is a term that has been incredibly present for many years. Not only since the Paris Climate Agreement (2016) and the Green Deal (2019) has the topic, and above all CO2 neutrality, been driving the logistics industry. However, you often get the feeling that not much has happened in the industry in recent years. Most ships still run on diesel and at the very least number of trucks are electrically powered or run on LNG. Yet the topic is present in the market, not only because of the CO2 tax introduced in January. Sustainability does not just mean “green” modes of transport, but is a crosscutting issue. Digitalization and an increase in efficiency are also basic requirements and have been actively addressed by both small and large logistics service providers for many years. Despite the numerous possible approaches described, the topic has not been given the priority it deserves in the past. There are many reasons for this. Low margins in logistics and the associated little scope for uneconomic pilots, a lack of financial incentives for change, low levels of digitization in logistics, and a lack of political pressure are just a few examples. Due to the CO2 tax, growing expectations of citizens and funding programs from the state, federal government and Europe, a change is becoming visible. Developments in battery technology and, above all, the topic of hydrogen seem like solutions that could enable an economically compatible decarbonization of the logistics industry. However, only in the medium term. However, logistics can also be or become sustainable in the short term if digitization leads to fewer empty runs, better use of cargo space, and more efficiency in processing, and if there is greater acceptance that decarbonization also has its price in the logistics industry.
Adjusting screws for logistics companies
Numerous topics contribute to the decarbonization of the logistics industry. Therefore, logistics companies have plenty of opportunities to make a significant contribution, even through small changes and adjustments. Partnerships for more efficient transport handling and use of cargo space, collaboration with startups, and willingness to share data are just a few overarching approaches here. Also looking at other modes of transport, keyword modal shift, and offer enormous potential. After all, more than 70% of freight transport in Germany is still carried out by truck. Rail accounts for only 19% and inland waterways for just 7%.
In particular, the direct decarbonization of the logistics sector through “green” modes of transport represents a significant challenge now. There are currently no economically viable solutions either in the truck segment or in the inland waterway transport sector. These challenges are currently being addressed with a strong focus on green hydrogen, ammonia and methanol. Hopes are high that this will enable the entire logistics industry to change quickly.
The role of data
As in many other areas, data, data exchange and transparency are a central component on the way to “green” logistics. This is because inefficiencies can only be identified and eliminated through a broad database. The overriding goal here is to avoid unnecessary traffic. This is the fastest way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the logistics sector.
Logistics solutions in the startup world at startport
Startups develop new solutions, new solutions to meet current challenges. These solutions also offer established companies the chance to develop further – also in the logistics industry. With the logistics innovation platform startport GmbH, young founders are supported within the framework of a twelve-month programme (incubator and accelerator) and brought together with companies that are open to innovation and want to develop further. This is how we at startport digitise logistics and make it more sustainable. For the startups we support, sustainability plays a major role in the development of their ideas.
Thus, the startport startups also work on solutions that make the logistics of tomorrow more sustainable under the motto “move less, or more economically”. In order to improve the utilisation of deliveries or even avoid empty freight transports by ship, train, plane or truck, for example, solutions are developed that network the logistics actors. Potential is thus recognised and freight gaps avoided. On the other hand, in order to make transports and the last mile more sustainable, e-mobility and the use of hydrogen are being tested and further developed. The startups are also working on solutions to optimise the routes over which the goods are transported. For example, traffic jams can be avoided and the route that causes the least emissions can be selected.
To conclude, sustainability in the logistics industry and the associated decarbonization will continue to gain importance in the future. Both the CO2 tax and the social pressure on the entire industry make change imperative.
About the author
In his role as Deputy Head of Corporate Development and Strategy bei duisport –
Duisburger Hafen AG Alexander is also responsible for all sustainability projects.
With years of experience in community management and social media marketing Juliane
is responsible for the corporate communication at startport GmbH.