Greenhouse gases

This work supports the following UN Sustainable Development Goals

  • Affordable and Clean Energy
  • Climate Action
  • Partnership For The Goals

Reducing transport emissions

Better routes, more efficient vehicles, alternative fuels. We’re looking at all the options so we can keep reducing our transport emissions.

Lorry in Netherlands

To the moon & back again twice every day

Our logistics network transports our finished goods over 1.5 billion kilometres each year from our factories to where they’re sold – that’s the equivalent of travelling to the moon and back twice every day.

Our transport management team focus on continually increasing the efficiency in the distribution of our finished products. They explore a range of sustainable transport options to reduce CO2 emissions, cut costs, and get our products to customers on time.

Greenhouses gases

Measured 1 July 2017 - 30 June 2018

The transport sector is still heavily reliant on fossil fuels. This means that as our business grows, our CO2 emissions from transport are also at risk of increasing. We have been working to break this correlation and we’re seeing results. Since 2010, we have achieved a 38% improvement in our CO2 efficiency, which is the amount of transport emissions from road, rail and warehouse storage, divided by the volume in tonnes of products sold. We have achieved this through reducing the number of kilometres travelled, avoiding wasted journeys and switching to greener transport options.

We don’t usually own the vehicles, trains and boats used to transport our raw materials and finished goods, so we work closely with our suppliers and operators to reduce carbon emissions. We’re also involved in several cross-sector sustainable transport initiatives aimed at creating change at regional and national levels.

How do you design an efficient logistics network?

This starts with selecting the right locations for our distribution centres, to allow efficient transportation from our factories and to our customers. When using road transport, we plan each journey to establish the most efficient route, so we can reduce the number of kilometres travelled and avoid empty trucks on the road.

Where rail or sea routes are not feasible, we optimise how we transport goods by road. We pay close attention to how we load each lorry, making sure we use the maximum space available and/or weight allowed (known as optimising fill rates).

To help with this, we are standardising our pallet sizes and in some markets have introduced double-decker trailers, which can hold more products. One of the places where we have introduced double decker trailers is in the Philippines. This has halved loading and unloading times and enabled 16% more products to be transported per journey – reducing CO2 emissions.

Through better alignment of route calendars and changing the configuration of pallets, we have increased our truck load fill rates in Mexico by over 10%. And in India we’ve improved how we select and load trucks, so that we pick the right vehicle for each job. This means more products transported per truck with less wasted space. We have reduced the number of distribution centres and introduced more deliveries direct to customers, avoiding unnecessary journeys.

Technical innovation also has a role in creating a logistics network that’s as efficient as possible. In the US, for example, we use thermal insulated blankets that enable some temperature-sensitive shipments to be transported in normal trailers. The blankets keep products at the right temperature without refrigeration, saving energy and a significant amount of CO2 from being emitted, compared with traditional temperature-controlled trailers.

Driver behaviour can also make a big difference in reducing fuel use and cutting CO2 emissions on road journeys. We encourage our transport service providers to train their drivers on eco-efficient driving techniques, and they share their progress with us on a biannual basis.

Clean, cold & carbon free

Refrigeration is all important when delivering our ice cream from factories to our customers (retailers). But keeping our products cool while they are being transported usually comes at a cost to the environment. Diesel – the traditional fuel for refrigerated trucks – generates CO2 and wasted heat, as well as contributing to poor air quality.

So when we heard about the world’s first ‘clean-cold’ engine, we leapt at the chance to try it. Developed by the Dearman Engine Company, the patented Transport Refrigeration Unit (TRU) expands liquid nitrogen to produce clean power and cold air while cutting carbon and particulate emissions to zero. During 2017, we piloted this technology in one of our ice cream trucks in the Netherlands.

Over 26 weeks, the truck spent 661 hours on the road, travelling more than 18,000 km to collect and deliver Ben & Jerry’s and Ola ice cream, all powered by clean, cold air.

The pilot showed that nitrogen cooling is quiet, safe and easy to use. It kept our ice creams at the right temperature with zero emissions.

“Although Dearman’s technology is not due for commercial rollout until 2019, by opening up our logistics network to this innovation, and collaborating in this way, we have provided our partner with a great opportunity to test a revolutionary product under real-life conditions,” says Raghuraman Ramakrishnan, Vice President of Logistics, Europe.

Spotlight

Greenhouse gases

Using alternative fuels to cut carbon dioxide emissions

There is great potential for alternative fuels to help us cut CO2 emissions from our trucks and reduce our costs. We’re conducting alternative fuel trials around the world, including in the US, Europe, India, Indonesia, Turkey, Argentina, China and Russia.

Liquefied natural gas (LNG) is one option we’re exploring. It has many advantages compared with diesel: it produces 11% less CO2, 95% less particulate matter and it’s often cheaper. Trucks that run on LNG are also quieter – producing 50% less noise pollution. LNG has the potential to be used as a fuel for long-haul transportation in Europe, however a lack of fuelling stations is a major obstacle. We’re leading the Connect2LNG project, a consortium which is exploring the use of LNG in freight transport, in collaboration with the European Commission.

In Sweden, we’ve successfully trialled the use of hydrotreated vegetable oil (HVO100), a renewable diesel which is made from waste fats and vegetable oils. HVO100 behaves like conventional fossil fuel diesel and no modifications are needed to vehicle engine fuel systems for it to be used. The environmental benefits of HVO100 are significant. This odourless fuel can cut CO2 emissions by up to 90%, carbon monoxide by over 20% and hydrocarbons by 30%.

In the US, India and Turkey, we are using compressed natural gas (CNG) as an alternative to diesel. Along with CNG, we are also looking at adopting electric vehicles for our transportation needs. Another alternative is to switch to electric vehicles which can dramatically reduce CO2 emissions and fuel costs. In the US, we’re working with our suppliers to explore using electric trucks to transport our products.

These alternative fuels are a good first step in our goal towards developing a low-carbon road transport network rather than the long-term solution. We need fuels that will enable us to achieve even bigger cuts in our CO2 emissions. We see CNG and LNG as transition fuels while we explore and develop more sustainable fuel sources, such as hydrogen and biogas. We will continue to explore these alternatives, and address obstacles to their use such as gaps in worldwide infrastructure, technology, and the availability of sufficiently powerful engines.


Did you know?

We can make big reductions in CO2 emissions by switching from road journeys to rail and sea freight, known as intermodal transport. This often cuts costs too.

In 2018, we increased rail freight in Europe. And in China, transportation by rail increased by 24% in 2018 compared to 2017, and by 23% for intermodal transport in 2018 compared to 2017.

Improving conditions for lorry drivers

Lorry drivers play an essential role in our business – delivering our products around the world. But it can be a tough job with a lot of time spent away from family and friends. As well as working with our suppliers on health and safety, and on environmental awareness, such as eco-efficient driving, we want to have a positive impact on drivers’ health and well-being when they are at our warehouse sites.

We have reviewed the driver facilities across 148 of our warehouses globally, checking that we provide safe and secure parking zones, comfortable rest areas and good toilet facilities.

1The Economist

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