The road to carbon-neutral shipping

Marena Brinkhurst
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Aug 31, 2020

The road to carbon-neutral shipping

Marena Brinkhurst

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Aug 31, 2020

How Flexport is reducing the emissions footprint of freight

The carbon emissions calculator by Flexport.org, the impact group of the global shipping platform and freight forwarder Flexport.com, is helping businesses around the world to make their supply chains more sustainable by making it easier to calculate carbon emissions from shipment data. Any business, whether they use Flexport services or not, can use the free calculator to track and analyze their shipping carbon footprint in real-time.

Flexport’s emissions calculator is accredited by the Smart Freight Centre, which confirms that it follows the Global Logistics Emissions Council (GLEC) Framework, a rigorous, comprehensive methodology for calculating multi-modal emissions.

Carbon emissions analysis is built into Flexport’s dashboard

If the shipping industry were a country it would be the world’s 6th largest greenhouse gas polluter. For companies that want to reduce or offset their corporate carbon footprint, shipping is one of the most significant sources of emissions. It is also one of the most difficult to analyze because of complex supply chains, confusing methodologies, and hard-to-access data sources.

Distance travelled by road is a key input, but this isn’t something consistently tracked in shipment data. Instead, the Flexport.org team uses the Mapbox Search and Directions APIs:

In order​ to estimate ​carbon emissions​ as accurately as possible for trucking shipments​, we rely on Mapbox APIs to calculate the distance traveled.​ We geocode the origin and destination addresses and then query the Directions API to find a route on the road network between those two points.
— Kathleen Hegyesi, Program Manager at Flexport.org

Using the Directions API means that Flexport can calculate the distance of a realistic truck route using road network data instead of relying on a simplistic straight line distance between two points, which would significantly underestimate emissions.

A look at Flexport.org’s carbon calculator API

Powering smart reductions

Providing transparency into where carbon emissions are generated in a shipment’s journey is only the first step. Flexport.org’s mission is to help every company turn data into actions that reduce their shipping carbon footprint.

With Flexport.org’s calculator, it feels as natural to optimize for emissions as it does to optimize for cost or speed. Shippers can explore the emissions impact of switching from air to ocean shipments, or consolidating their shipments to ship less frequently, or improving container packing to ship more product within a given shipment. Flexport.org also partners with GoodShipping to provide shipping options using ocean vessels that use sustainable biofuels. Finally, the tool makes it easy to purchase carbon offsets for emissions that can’t be reduced, thanks to a partnership with Carbonfund.org. For companies like Cotopaxi, one of Flexport’s long-standing clients, offsetting is a way to help prevent deforestation in the Amazon while neutralizing their business-critical shipping activities.

Adventure gear company Cotopaxi uses Flexport tools to measure and offset its carbon footprint

Take control of your carbon

Over the past year, the number of companies participating in Flexport’s offset program has doubled. Participation continues to rise as more companies take carbon responsibility into their own hands.

All Flexport users have access to emissions calculations within their Flexport app — including the carbon footprints of individual shipments and at an aggregated level. For non-Flexport users or shipments not managed by Flexport, the carbon calculator can be accessed via API or by sending historical shipment information to the Flexport.org team. Contact carbon@flexport.com or visit flexport.org to learn more about their environmental and humanitarian aid partnerships.

Build your own route calculations with Mapbox Navigation tools. If you are using maps or location for environmental or social impact, connect with the Mapbox Community team.

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Maps feature data from Mapbox © Mapbox, OpenStreetMap © OpenStreetMap and their data partners, including Maxar (if applicable, © Maxar).

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