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Seko Logistics management reckons it’s time to shift gears to a collective effort on sustainability.
The logistics provider has joined the Sustainable Air Freight Alliance (SAFA), an industry initiative established by BSR, an organisation of sustainable business experts.
SAFA has some 250 members, airlines, forwarders and shippers, looking to jointly press the accelerator on sustainability.
On the shipper side, SAFA boasts membership of the likes of H&M, Hewlett-Packard, Louis Vuitton and Nike, while the airline members reporting their carbon records are Cathay Pacific, Lufthansa, SAS, LOT, the three major US passenger airlines and all-cargo carriers AirBridgeCargo, Cargolux and Polar.
Shawn Richard, vice-president global air freight of Seko, noted that 75-80% of its carbon footprint was related to indirect procurement of transport.
“As a member of SAFA, we will engage more proactively with our partners and be part of a community to advocate for decarbonisation. We will access better data from airlines to help manage our carbon calculations,” he said.
SAFA provides a platform for members to share information, best practices and innovation, besides the reports from airlines on carbon efficiency for their fleets, per tradelane, per flight classification and per aircraft model.
Another important aspect of SAFA is advocacy, coming from a united front of shippers, logistics providers and carriers, said Brian Bourke, Seko’s chief growth officer.
“Airlines can reduce carbon emissions by using more bio-fuels, but these are expensive and difficult to access at major airports. Together, we can look at airports around the world where we can move the needle,” he said.
Seko has pursued various sustainability initiatives for years, but now the forwarder believes it is time to build momentum with a more comprehensive approach through collaboration, he argued
“The importance of SAFA will grow,” predicted Mr Bourke, pointing to commitments to de-carbonisation from the International Air Transport Association and the International Civil Aviation Organisation. “This will be important when we move to the next stage, where sustainability efforts will be mandated, not voluntary.”
It will not be particular industry verticals or individual companies that advance sustainability on the necessary scale, but a combination of increased regulations and cross-industry collaboration, he added.
The Covid pandemic has had a mixed impact on the push towards greater sustainability, he believes. Initially, it put a pause on some efforts, but it also shook people out of complacency.
“We’re seeing increased interest from our customers,” he reported. With a rising number of them, it no longer suffices to check a box on the question of if the logistics provider has an environmental policy; now it is necessary to demonstrate initiatives undertaken and to show progress.
Seko focuses heavily on the e-commerce sector, where margins are tight, leaving little room for additional spend on sustainability, but there is interest among consumers.
“We see more clients that offer carbon offsets at check-out,” reported Mr Bourke. And he expects lack of sustainability efforts to lead to loss of business down the road.
“I think people will be disqualified from business if they don’t provide basic metrics on carbon footprint calculation,” he said. “Customers will pay more for a portion of their volume and they will disqualify companies that do not show progress.”
A central plank in Seko’s own efforts is the development of a carbon calculator. This is now in the pilot stage in the UK and should be rolled out globally early next year. Once that is in play, carbon offsets will probably be the next major focus, said Mr Bourke.
“We’re also looking at other modes,” he added. “We have a good handle on our transport in the US. The next step will be ocean.”