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Introducing Corporate Social Responsibility to Freight and Logistics

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This page provides a short primer on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). It explains why, if your company moves a lot of freight, you should consider including freight emissions and fuel use in a CSR or sustainability plan. A summary of how companies use EPA’s SmartWay program to help account for freight in their CSR and sustainability programs also is given.

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What is Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)?

Corporate social responsibility or ‘CSR’ is a management concept that focuses on the integration of social and environmental concerns in a company’s business operations. These are some common examples of activities included in a CSR plan:

  • Energy consumption for heating/cooling/manufacturing/transportation
  • Direct and indirect emissions affecting climate change and public health
  • Water use and management
  • Material use, reuse and recycling programs
  • Workplace and employee wellness programs
  • Overseas labor conditions
  • Community engagement and philanthropic giving

The first step in CSR planning is to identify environmental and social issues that align with your company’s core mission and fiscal objectives. By choosing to do what is right for its bottom line, and the values it holds as most important, your company will reap important benefits. It will be in a better position to lead, strengthen its brand identity, and build trust and more meaningful relationships with customers, employees, suppliers, shareholders, community and other stakeholders.

Once a company develops a CSR plan, it typically elects to set specific targets or goals and to publicly report or disclose its progress, in much the same way that fiscal objectives are set. This will help your company stay on track to meet its goals and establish greater credibility.

Why Include Your Company’s Freight Operations in its CSR Plan?   

In the U.S., freight transportation has historically used oil and other fossil fuels as an energy source. For shippers, carriers and logistics companies that move a lot of products and supplies, this energy use can represent a significant operational cost.

More efficient freight transportation can help improve air quality and mitigate climate change by cutting emissions. It also reduces costs, demonstrating the ‘people, profit and planet’ principles fundamental to a good CSR or sustainability plan.

It’s also a source of harmful emissions, including carbon dioxide (CO2), black carbon, nitrogen oxides (NOx) and particulate matter (PM). Carbon dioxide and black carbon are greenhouse gases (GHGs) and major contributors to climate change, while NOx and PM are harmful to public health, especially in communities surrounding ports, railyards and freight hubs.

The good news is that as shippers, carriers and logistics companies look for ways to save money by reducing the diesel fuel used to move freight, they also find that they improve shipping efficiencies and reduce freight emissions. Strategies to consolidate loads, switch to intermodal, use cleaner fuels and improve visibility, among others can lead to a more efficient transportation network. They also can mitigate supply chain risks and can substantially reduce freight emissions.

And just as your company highlights the cost savings of its investment strategies through its bookkeeping and annual reports, so too can it feature positive environmental outcomes through a CSR or sustainability report. Many companies also choose to integrate key environmental indicators, such as CO2 emission reductions, in investor reports, employee and other stakeholder communications.  

As the freight industry grows, governments, investors, communities and consumers are becoming more aware of the industry’s climate and public health impacts. They are increasingly looking to freight carriers, shippers and logistics providers to take steps to reduce truck, rail and other transport emissions. Communities near freight hubs may also seek relief from increased congestion, noise and other negative impacts.

As a result, interest is growing in accounting for not just the monetary payback on technology and other transportation investments, but also the sustainability benefits of those investments. A CSR or sustainability report is a good place to start. 

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How does EPA’s SmartWay program fit into CSR?

Whether your company is a shipper, carrier or logistics service provider, EPA SmartWay provides tools, guidance and other resources to help you annually measure and assess the environmental performance of its freight operations. These tools generate reports that make it simple to include freight in your CSR and sustainability planning.

Companies often find it difficult to acquire the data needed to account for their emissions from freight transportation. SmartWay tools and reports simplify the process, are widely accepted by virtually all major CSR reporting platforms and make it possible for carriers, shippers and logistics providers to include freight in their  sustainability planning.

SmartWay tools identify and help you collect critical data points needed to quantify and generate freight emission reports, including inventories and other important metrics of CO2, black carbon, NOx and PM outputs.

The program’s annual emission reports provide a consistent approach to reliably assess real efficiency losses – and gains – on your freight network. SmartWay processes all freight data it receives from partners and also offers a ranking system you can use to compare your company’s performance to that of its peers that participate in the program. Shippers can use this ranking to help identify carriers that share their sustainability objectives and are provided with unique company reports on the environmental performance of their freight operations.

SmartWay emission metrics and inventories also are commonly accepted by virtually all frameworks for CSR reporting aimed at improving air quality and mitigating climate change. Among these reporting platforms, there is increasing interest in accounting for emissions generated in the supply chain, including freight.

Nearly 4,000 trucking companies, logistics service providers and shippers that either manage private fleets or under contract with commercial carriers, participate in SmartWay. Learn more about how SmartWay can help your company successfully integrate freight into its sustainability journey, contact us or 734-214-4767.

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