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Davos: Climate Change, Transport and Logistics – The Road Ahead

Posted by: Peter Lacy on January 29, 2010

It is clear that even despite the challenging outcome of Copenhagen, climate change is still very much front and center at Davos as global/political, civil society, and business leaders contemplate the road to Mexico and beyond.

Nowhere has that been more evident than amongst those in the transport and logistics industry who are thinking through practical challenges as well as the steps they can take to measure, manage, and monetize that transition to a low-carbon economy.

As confidence begins to return to the freight sector and we begin to see the weak signals of an upturn, or at least stability, the conversations shift among industry executives from survival to growth. But in a highly commoditized and convergent market, new growth opportunities require the development of different business models by the sector’s firms--from tackling the challenges presented by emerging markets--to embracing renewed demands from customers for granular reporting on sustainability.

To help address uncertainty around carbon and sustainability in particular, Accenture has been collaborating with the World Economic Forum’s Logistics and Transport group for the past couple of years including many of the industry’s leading companies. A year ago, Accenture jointly published the Supply Chain Decarbonization report ( co-authored by colleagues Jonathan Wright and Seb Hoyle along with Sean Doherty and other WEF team members based on inputs and discussions with many companies in the sector). The report outlined the main ways in which the transport sector--both unilaterally and working with the wider supply chain--can begin to take practical, near-term steps to cut its carbon footprint.

In the year between the last Davos meeting and this one, we have seen the demand for product-level carbon footprinting information take off, with many leading retailers and manufacturers around the world launching their own labeling efforts. This has washed through into a significant uptick in the number and detail of requests made of freight firms--where accurate product-level carbon footprint data is currently hard to calculate on a systematic and standardized basis.

Looking to address that, today the Forum will seek sign-off from its Members for a set of Guidelines on Consignment-Level Carbon Reporting. Again developed jointly with Accenture, these are a set of practical guidelines that the transport industry can use to respond to the increasing numbers of requests from its customers for product-level carbon footprint data.

It is clear in my mind that, as this conversation continues to develop on issues such as product-level carbon reporting, as a product of renewed consumer interest, growing retailer demand and emerging reporting standards, that approaches such as these will become more common across all industries, requiring, for example, much more robust and better integrated performance management. For the freight sector meanwhile, the guidelines provide an important platform for the development of more information-driven, and more sustainable, new product offers.

Decarbonizing the global transport systems will not be an easy task by any means. Nor will product-level carbon reporting. But we seem to be inching closer as leading industry players shift into gear both collaboratively and in some cases competitively.

Peter Lacy, based in London, is Managing Director Accenture Sustainability Services Europe, Africa and Latin America. Peter blogged from the COP15 conference in Copenhagen in December and he is blogging this week from the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland

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March 28, 2010 8:44 AM

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