Behind electricity, transportation is the second largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S., according to the EPA. Twenty-seven percent of those transportation-related GHG emissions are attributed directly to freight trucks and commercial aircrafts. Companies across the spectrum, from major industrial manufacturers to CPGs, are finding new ways to reduce transportation footprints – simultaneously designing for efficiency while also responding to global consumer demand for CSR innovation.
Rolls Royce, perhaps best known for swanky cars and powerful planes, is now trying its hand at hybrid ships. The company is developing a combination sail and steam ship to side-step surging fuel costs. The ship, being developed in concert with B9 Shipping, will be able to carry 4,500 tons of freight. Oskar Levander, vice president for innovation in Rolls Royce's marine unit, says the hybrid ship is the beginning of a new era. "We're at the dawn of a transition," he said in a recent Bloomberg article.
Unilever is also jumping on the bandwagon – or in this case, train – with its Green Express rail service. The train, carrying Unilever's Algida brand ice creams, will connect three separate rail lines between its factory in Naples, Italy and logistics hub in Parma. Vice president of logistics, David Beauchamp, calls the move "a game-changer" that will take 3,500 trucks off the road each year and save 2,600 tons of GHG emissions, in a country where goods are almost entirely shipped by road. Beauchamp also notes that they estimate a six percent reduction in costs per year through the advancement.
With nearly one-third of global citizens demanding that companies change the way they operate to address social and environmental issues, shipping and transportation represents a significant area for company innovation. Whether by boat or by train, companies that are able to think outside the box – and perhaps off the road – can not only increase supply chain efficiency, but reap environmental and reputational benefits.