To this, a huge majority answered in the negative, while those who had tried to share primary data had struggled to access the right, appropriate data.
This contrast neatly illustrates a key theme and concern. While both buyers and sellers of transportation agree that there are real gains to be made from securing credible data numbers and allocating emissions accordingly, it remains very hard to harvest CO2 at a granular shipment level based on real figures from a transport carrier or 3PL. It therefore means relying on imperfect default and modelled data, which by their very nature cannot be 100% accurate.
Experiences shared by community members backed up this view. “It’s hard to know if you’re getting reliable data,” said one shipper. “We were given emissions figures by LSPs, which they allocated to us themselves, but we have no way of knowing how accurately they were accounted.”
Others expanded on this view. One LSP pointed out that his/her company had noted differing approaches to carbon accounting across various fleet providers, but that in most cases such numbers were based on modelled data. “A very professional approach containing all variables is still very much the exception.”
Anna and Jakob then asked the community to outline some of the key challenges companies face in obtaining and sharing data.
Top of the list was reliability of data – not because there was any desire on the part of suppliers to be inaccurate, but simply because they work in time-intensive complex networks with many moving parts. “It’s very difficult to get accurate data from owner-operated small sub-contractors who are already working hard on core priorities in other areas of their business, and that’s understandable,” pointed out one contributor.
Time-intensive priorities are clearly a big obstacle. “We have a huge network – Asia, Europe, North America, across all modes, rail, road, ocean,” explained another community member. “We have many small transport providers and it is just too hard to get information from everyone. We simply don’t have the resource to contact each one individually.”
For this reason, it’s more common for carbon to be accounted in averages rather than per shipment, for the simple reason that it’s easier and faster for all concerned in the absence of anything better.
Further complications arise in trying to allocate the correct numbers to different customers. Routing structures are complex, backloads need to be factored in – journeys are not a simple matter of ‘straight out and back’ so emissions accounting must factor this in.
Anna agreed and pointed out that it’s a stage-by-stage effort – just to be trying is a great start in itself and that absorbing this pain now will help ensure that calculation methods improve and become more congruent across the board.