Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Carbon neutral shipping- what's it all about?

Given the great number of air miles flown every day by logistics and courier companies, the fuel consumed in the process and the mass of packaging materials used to ensure parcels are sufficiently protected in transit, it's fair to say that the industry has the potential to impact the environment much more than most: getting goods from A to B is at the heart of logistics, and this will always require fuel consumption and result in carbon emissions. With this in mind, it's important that courier companies take account of their effect on the environment, and strive reduce it wherever possible.

Carbon neutral shipments form part of DHL's "Go Green" programe
But as well as reducing the environmental impact of their business practice, many major carriers also offer customers the opportunity to offset the carbon emissions of the deliveries they contract. DHL, UPS and FedEx all offer what they call carbon-neutral shipping which enable shippers to opt to minimise the effect of their deliveries on the environment by contributing to carbon reduction and conservation projects elsewhere. International Courier DPD were the first to introduce free carbon neutral shipping in five European markets including the UK, in July 2012. Yesterday, a year later, the company announced the extension of this service to an additional ten European countries.

So, does it work? It may seem counter-intuitive to deal with the symptoms rather than the cause of CO2 emissions, but a look at the UPS Carbon Neutral webpage shows a variety of worthwhile projects to which customers can contribute if they opt for the more environmentally friendly shipping option - from wind farms in Turkey to a rainforest rehabilitation project in Burma, from fuel efficient cookstoves in Ghana to biodiversity in California.

A DPD carbon neutral delivery in Prague, Czech Republic
DPD pursue a slightly different route, rather than charging a carbon-neutral fee and using it to contribute to development projects like UPS, the UK carrier uses the term "insetting" rather than "offsetting" - meaning they account for carbon emissions within their own group rather than compensating for them  solely via external projects. Like with UPS, the carbon cost of each shipment is calculated but it is then accounted for via energy conservation in company buildings, use of electric vehicles and reduced fuel consumption, before being offset via conservation initiatives abroad. 

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