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Carbon Emissions Reporting in Shipping: The Power of an API-First Approach

Making meaningful improvements toward sustainability and reducing carbon footprints starts with GHG emissions reporting. Measuring greenhouse gas emissions and examining the various sources allow organizations to monitor their current emissions in relation to their GHG emission baseline. Only by understanding past performance can organizations move forward to make improvements. Unless they have this foundation, it would be like shooting in the dark to hit their goals—there is no telling which actions taken result in a change in carbon emissions.

Before any action can be taken, it’s important to have a system that can provide the necessary depth of information, as through dashboards or APIs, which offer reliable and usable data integrated with an organizations’ existing systems. In this article, we’re going to look at how to report accurately on carbon emissions and the necessity of analyzing data with careful attention to detail.

How are Carbon Emissions Reported in Logistics?

Carbon emissions reporting may sound like an exact science of taking the sum of many measurements. Unfortunately, it is much more complex due to the fact that primary data is not readily available for all vessels, engines, and every other source of emissions. Reporting is complicated by the numerous sources that must be addressed and the different methodologies for calculating emissions data. Many organizations choose the GLEC (Global Logistics Emissions Council) framework to ensure they are reporting in a way that is consistent with others across the industry.

The GLEC framework, created by the Smart Freight Centre in 2016, is the only carbon emissions framework globally recognized for multi-modal logistics. Organizations using the GLEC framework can be confident they are using the recommended methodology that gives a foundation for accurate data. It also aligns with the Greenhouse Gas Protocol, UN-led Global Green Freight Action Plan, and Carbon Disclosure Project reporting.

GLEC is helping to create widespread adoption of carbon emissions reporting, as a solid foundation for any type of company to use. It’s through this emissions reporting that organizations gain the ability to inform their decisions, evaluate the effects of the changes made, monitor progress, manage the performance of transportation partners, and provide emissions data for stakeholders, including customers and investors. At the same time, reporting helps support decisions that increase operational efficiency and reduce costs.

Why the GLEC Framework for Carbon Emissions Reporting is Not Enough

Even with the advantages of using the GLEC framework, organizations may find it has shortcomings when they rely on it as their only guideline for carbon emissions reporting. It serves as a starting point for many companies to easily adopt, but it is not a perfect system for reporting. Organizations should consider building on top of the GLEC framework to make up for its limitations related to accuracy.

How exactly does GLEC lack accuracy? It is caused by a dependence on averages. The standard GLEC-accredited calculation uses average distances, average speeds, and average vessel types. Each of these numbers are default data—data that is approved by the GLEC framework to be used in calculations, but these numbers are not specific to the exact distance and speed of the vessel or exact vessel type, which are factors that can greatly affect the end result of the calculation. Default data is appropriate to use for an approximation, but for the purpose of informing decisions, more detailed calculations are necessary.

When organizations take the standard GLEC calculation as more accurate than it actually is, they lose the ability to accurately measure the impacts of any changes they make. This is especially important when dealing with small changes because the updated calculation may not indicate any change in CO2 emissions, when in fact, it made a small impact.

Considerations for Carbon Emissions Reporting in Land and Rail Transport

Ocean transport involves factors of different carriers, services, and ports, but land and rail transport have many more variables that affect emissions and influence decisions. For trucks, knowing the distance from pickup to delivery is important for optimizing the route, as is the elevation. A flat route is more energy-efficient than driving through the mountains with changing elevations. Next, the size of the truck must be addressed—whether there are road restrictions based on size, such as low clearance bridges or bridges with weight limits.

Rail contributes to 2% of the total GHG emissions in the transportation sector. It is an efficient alternative compared to truck or air modes of transport, making it an option that organizations should evaluate for reducing their emissions. However, many companies lack accuracy when it comes to rail distance. They use road distances as from Google Maps even though these are different from rail distances, and this leads to inaccuracy in their carbon emissions reporting. To ensure precise distances are used, Searoutes brings in data from rail networks, which results in more accurate emissions calculations.

Why Accurate Carbon Emissions Reporting is Crucial to Meet Emissions Goals

To reduce their carbon footprint, organizations must start with a quality baseline number. The plan of action is to report emissions accurately, align the data with a plan for moving forward, and then reduce CO2 emissions according to the goals.

The first step requires granular data (GLEC accredited) that gets its accuracy from using a modeled approach. Modeled data is like extrapolating primary data where it is not available. It is more accurate than default data because it takes into consideration the details of the particular scenario. Modeled data gives a calculation that appropriately reflects when action is taken by an organization toward reducing carbon emissions, while industry averages, as in default data, would be unaffected by a small change.

Once an organization has accurate emissions data, the remaining steps can fall into place. They align the baseline data with a plan to reduce emissions, making decisions based on schedules, fleets, and routing information. The last step is to use predictive analytics to continue to strive for reduced emissions, which would not be possible if it weren’t for accurate carbon emissions reporting starting with the first step.

How to Use Power BI Tools Provided by Searoutes to Make Meaningful Impacts to Your Carbon Emissions

For data to be actionable, it is important how it is presented and the tools that are used to support this. When data is represented accurately in a format that is easy to quickly understand, it helps to drive decisions. Organizations must avoid data fatigue by understanding where the value is in their data and focusing on this.

Power BI is one option of tool for uncovering data-driven insights. It allows organizations to analyze data and identify trends and potential impacts. Using AI, it enables predictive and preventative action strategies that can be instrumental in decision-making processes surrounding carbon emissions. Organizations can review their Power BI dashboard on a month-to-month basis to keep in check with their sustainability goals.

GHG emissions reporting is complex, and without a tool like Power BI, it is not necessarily obvious what factors provide the biggest potential for reducing emissions. It is not always an organization’s main trade lanes that yield the biggest carbon footprint. Dashboards backed by quality data are needed to show exactly where attention is needed and what changes should be made. This may be changing the ocean shipping service for a shorter route, slower speed, or fewer stops. The data helps organizations prove how their decisions impact their carbon footprint.

With a provider like Searoutes, organizations can get carbon emissions reporting through an API that connects with the in-house reporting and analytics tools they already use. Searoutes also offers its own dashboards as other options for companies to access their carbon emissions data, or they may choose to use Searoutes’ data files to create their own solution.

Accurate Data Plus Business Intelligence Tools Support Better Carbon Emission Decisions

Instead of using averages upon averages, organizations that use precise data modeling get accuracy capable of showing the effects of changes they make to their freight transport. An API or a Power BI type of dashboard makes this data readily available to fill in the organization’s blind spots in understanding their carbon emissions. Searoutes is an API-first company, meaning we provide reporting to the tools that organizations depend on, for efficiency in their supply chains. Learn more about Searoutes and GHG emissions reporting by reaching out to us today to book a demo.

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