Piecing together ESG: logistics’ vital role

New regulations mean firms should look for a logistics partner that takes sustainability seriously

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Environmental, social and governance (ESG) regulations are rapidly changing, across the globe. The EU’s Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD), for example, has added to the sustainability reporting obligations faced by firms operating within the EU. Expected changes to the UK Corporate Governance Code will also task UK firms to provide more detail on how ESG considerations impact their business strategy.

At the same time, investors, customers and other stakeholders are pushing companies to act in a truly sustainable way – and that includes addressing emissions from logistics partners.

The transport sector, which underpins logistics, contributes more than a third of global carbon dioxide emissions, according to the International Energy Agency. A recent report from environmental organisation Stand.earth also found that the last mile of delivery accounts for up to half of all delivery vehicle CO2 emissions; the courier industry has an outsized effect on pollution, smog, air quality and our ability to achieve a zero-emission future.

Spearheading sustainable delivery

Reducing this environmental impact is an urgent task, both for organisations looking to tackle scope 3 emissions and for the good of the planet. It’s therefore vital that organisations work with logistics partners that have a demonstrable commitment to sustainability.

ESG is about a lot more than emissions from miles travelled

“Businesses should be looking for someone that can support them in their journey towards achieving net zero, and you do that by offering accurate carbon reporting, sustainable transport solutions and carbon reduction targets in line with the type of services purchased,” says Mark Footman, chief operating officer at CitySprint, which provides same-day delivery services for leading broadcasters, professional service and outsourcing companies, the public sector and the NHS.

“As a leader in the same-day courier industry, it’s crucial that we address our carbon emissions and spearhead the way in sustainable delivery,” he adds. To achieve this, CitySprint has transformed its operations. It has introduced more than 150 emission-free vehicles and travelled 500,000 green (carbon-negative) miles in 2022. But as Footman points out: “ESG is about a lot more than emissions from miles travelled.”

Invested in smarter, sustainable systems

With that in mind, CitySprint’s 34 office sites are now all powered by 100% renewable energy, and in March 2022 the company was certified as carbon neutral. Together with parent company Geopost, it has set the target of achieving net zero by 2040 – 10 years ahead of the objective set out by the Paris Agreement.

Increasingly, tenders from CitySprint’s customers include a commitment to reduce the organisation’s carbon emissions. “Certain customers will only partner with businesses that have a sustainability focus,” says Footman, while acknowledging that cost considerations are still the primary consideration for others.

CitySprint’s carbon offset programme allows customers to account for and offset their delivery emissions. They are provided with an emissions report outlining the carbon footprint of their deliveries. Based on this, CitySprint then invests in certified wind, solar, hydro and tree-planting projects to offset these emissions. “Return journeys, if the vehicle is empty, can be inefficient and generate emissions unnecessarily, so we’ve done some work to make our systems smarter. Backloading can ensure that vehicles never travel with vacant capacity with couriers criss-crossing the country. As a result, we fulfil an additional 36,000 return jobs nationally, every year.”

Although CitySprint is keen to make its operations as sustainable as possible, the EV charging infrastructure limits what can be achieved. “It’s difficult to do national work in an electric van, so it has to be focused in tight geographies where the charging can cover the mileage that’s required,” says Footman. “The cost of charging can also vary dramatically, particularly with the faster chargers in the public network.”

CitySprint is attempting to address some of these issues through mileage subsidies and discounts on buying and leasing EVs, as well as optimising delivery routes for them. It’s taking a proactive approach to sustainability challenges – and that’s exactly what organisations should be looking for in a logistics partner today.

For more information, visit citysprint.co.uk/about-us/csr/building-a-sustainable-future