A new way to track truck pollution
SunPower, a solar power and energy services provider, is starting to ship solar panels in electric heavy-duty trucks powered by – you guessed it – solar power. The question communities and investors are starting to ask is, why isn’t everyone?
How long can a business go without a plan to end fossil-fueled freight transportation, and what are the health and climate consequences of the status quo?
Although they represent only about 4% of vehicles on the road, diesel trucks are responsible for more than half of smog-forming pollution from the transportation sector and a quarter of climate emissions. This pollution is expected to increase, as the demand for freight transported by trucks is set to increase by around 25% by 2030.
The local impact of this pollution is significant. Recent studies in places like Oakland, California and Houston – two regions with large port operations and associated freight transportation facilities located in or near environmental justice communities – have shown that pollution from diesel trucks is driving an increase. childhood asthma rates and reduced life expectancy in frontline communities.
Until now, there has been no method of attributing air pollution to individual businesses that depend on and pay for trucks to transport their goods. A new peer-reviewed framework calculates the local health impacts of diesel trucks based on a company’s market share and public information about its industry.
This is good news for businesses and investors with climate and sustainability commitments. It will also likely be good news for community groups looking to better understand who makes choices that contribute to pollution in their neighborhoods.
Shine a new light on transport supply chain emissions
Most companies that ship or buy their products on trucks do not own these trucks, but rather rely on shipping services, often run by multiple layers of entrepreneurs, many of whom have only a small number of employees. . As a result, stakeholders and investors in many large consumer-oriented companies have had little ability to understand emissions from truck-dependent operations, let alone trace local health impacts.
In a new Environmental Defense Fund article published this month in the journal Sustainability, we demonstrate a new way to quantify truck pollution resulting from corporate operations using public data.
This case study focuses on the retail and wholesale food freight industry in Los Angeles and reveals that the industry’s shipping emissions can both be quantified and linked to key market players in the region. As a result, a critical component of the supply chain emissions of major grocers and food supply companies can be estimated, and the impact of these emissions (in economic terms) can be calculated.
Although they represent only about 4% of vehicles on the road, diesel trucks are responsible for more than half of smog-forming pollution in the transport sector and a quarter of climate emissions.
For the companies assessed in our article, transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions in the Los Angeles area alone exceeded 617,000 metric tonnes of carbon dioxide, the equivalent of pollution from nearly 135,000 cars. This same pollution had a total societal cost of over $ 82 million in a single year.
The new study sheds light on all emissions in the transport supply chain – and shows that similar studies can be carried out in other regions, for other sectors and even at the national level.
What can companies do to better monitor pollution from trucks?
While the pollution load from trucks associated with the movement of goods has long been established, this new study makes it clear to businesses, investors and customers that supply chain transportation emissions can have dramatic global and local impacts. , and that quantification and affiliation to these impacts on individual companies is possible.
How should companies tackle supply chain emissions if they don’t own or operate trucks?
- Companies can and should quantify their own supply chain emissions using the best data they have, such as company-specific proprietary data, and track and report these emissions as part of reporting paradigms. enterprise standard so that investors and other stakeholders can compare and track progress. time.
- Businesses can and should work with their suppliers – as SunPower has done – to ensure that they use zero-emission equipment where possible. New financial and contractual mechanisms allow companies to sponsor zero emission vehicles even when they do not own the trucks.
- Businesses can and should support policies to get more zero-emission vehicles on the road and in their supply chain, including programs such as purchase subsidies, emissions regulations and others. zero emission vehicle support policies.
There is no doubt that the dual crisis of climate and air pollution is changing the business environment in the United States. Not only are companies and emissions-intensive industries coming under increasing scrutiny by state and federal policymakers looking to make a difference, but customers and investors are increasingly asking what their customers are doing. preferred companies to respond to ongoing threats. At the same time, companies are facing wild volatility in their logistics costs and are struggling to find enough drivers, warehouses and distribution spaces to enable them to meet expectations.
These interrelated challenges are actually good news for companies that take climate and health seriously. By recognizing, disclosing and then mitigating transportation pollution, businesses can be better local neighbors and better citizens of the world. Executives will receive a well-deserved appreciation and set an example that moves the industry as a whole.