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Launching a Successful Freight Sustainability Strategy

As a shipper, you know freight efficiency is important to your organization’s business and sustainability goals. Yet, you know you cannot do it alone— you have to get buy-in and support within your organization to succeed.

This guide will help you educate your colleagues and leadership team about developing or improving a freight sustainability strategy, and the tips, templates, and resources provided will help you get the support and commitment from your team.

Click on titles below to view each step.

  • Step 1: Do Your Research

    Before you can establish a freight sustainability strategy for your organization, determine what your organizations is already doing around sustainability, climate change, and supply chain efficiency and who is driving those initiatives.

    Here are some questions to consider:

    • Is there a department in your organization that specializes in environmental or social responsibility initiatives?
    • What department in your organization focuses on transportation, supply chain management, and/or freight management? Who are the key leaders setting financial/budgetary goals for the organization?
    • Who is responsible for focusing on regulatory and government relations? What department handles public relations and marketing? Does your company’s marketing address sustainability/environmental issues?
    • Does your organization have a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) plan or has it made commitments or set targets for improvement?
    • Does your organization produce sustainability reports, metrics, or targets?  Have baseline assessments been performed?
    • Who collects or manages freight activity data and/or energy use and Scope 3 emissions data?
    • What kind of data is available for CSR reporting and freight performance
    • Do those sustainability documents include freight?

    This ground research will help you establish your own goals for getting started building a freight sustainability plan with SmartWay.

  • Step 2: Assess your Organization

    Now that you have a clearer picture of what’s already being done around sustainability, determine how you want to introduce freight sustainability to your organization.

    • If your organization is not currently engaged in any sustainability initiatives, freight sustainability may be a great place to start because there is a strong business case for these efforts which can save energy and reduce costs and risks.  Freight carrier selection is a key place to start. You can drive freight sustainability by reviewing your current carrier mix and increasing the number of carriers that are ranked as higher-efficiency carriers.
    • If your organization has sustainability initiatives but does not currently address freight, you can make a case for how significant freight can be to your organization’s overall sustainability goals, and how participation in SmartWay gives you ways to access, track and improve your performance on freight efficiency metrics that matter most to your bottom-line and the environment.
    • If your organization currently tracks and discloses emissions, but doesn’t currently address freight, using the SmartWay emissions accounting tools can save your organization time and resources and make reporting freight activity easier and more accurate.  Organizations are often surprised, once they look closer, to find that their Scope 3 freight emissions are much more significant than they imagined.

    If you need assistance determining the best goals for your plan, contact your SmartWay Account Manager to develop a customized engagement strategy.

  • Step 3: Find your Allies

    Every organization is different, and you are the best judge of your organization’s culture.  Many SmartWay Partners have found it helpful to begin by getting informal buy-in and input from their colleagues in other departments before making a case to upper management. Doing this will give you critical information to address concerns upper management may have about resource allocation, data availability, ways to leverage participation, and strategic priorities.

    Your Key Allies

    Identify colleagues in several key departments within your organization that can help you make the best case.  Consider what existing company sustainability efforts might best complement freight efficiency. Current projects may be a natural place to develop allies. At a minimum, you will want to identify colleagues in the departments that address:

    1. Sustainability and environmental initiatives
    2. Transportation logistics and supply chain management

    Colleagues in these departments will supply data and essential information for your freight sustainability work as staff you move along with your plans.

    Other Allies

    Here are some examples of other stakeholders that should be involved in your freight sustainability strategic planning from the beginning.

    • Financial planning: to account for the cost savings associated with more efficient freight transportation and to address shareholder concerns 
    • Marketing and brand management: to help you amplify the benefits of your environmental stewardship
    • Government affairs: to align voluntary freight efficiency projects with any regulatory goals or implications

    How to Gain Support

    Think carefully about what each colleague cares about most.  Here are some questions to consider:

    • What are their work priorities?
    • What metrics for success are used for their team?
    • What concerns and challenges are keeping them up at night?
    • How can freight sustainability help them meet their goals?
    • What stops them from adding freight sustainability strategies to their workload?
  • Step 4: Craft your Business Case(s)

    To successfully launch a freight sustainability initiative, you will need executive buy-in.  Your executive team will want to know how your proposed plan aligns with the organization’s priorities, and what type of investment of time and resources are required. 

    Based on experiences of current SmartWay Shipper Partners, we recommend a two-pronged approach to making a case for a freight sustainability strategy within your organization.

    1. Connect freight sustainability to your organization’s overall success.  The best way to get buy-in is to start with a focus on your organization’s Key Performance Indicators (KPI) metrics.  Review your organization’s mission and strategic planning documents.  How does your company define success?  Moreover, how does taking on freight sustainability strategies help you improve on those KPI metrics? 
    2. Connect freight sustainability to your staff, colleagues, managers and contractor’s professional success. You will need the support of your department colleagues, and direct reports, as well as a variety of critical stakeholders among divisions or departments within your organization. You will be asking these stakeholders to support you in leading this initiative.  It is essential to understand their goals and motivations and tie freight sustainability to their objectives.
    3. Tailor your messages to the department or groups key objectives.  To help you make the most robust case, EPA has developed talking points which address the most common concerns and opportunities that will resonate with members of different departments. 

    Here are some talking points to help you get started:

  • Step 5: Share your Business Case(s)

    Now that you have targetted messages, it is time to present them to your colleagues. 

    You may choose to have one-on-one meetings with critical allies to find out what they need and show them how freight sustainability management with SmartWay can help them meet their goals.

    Or, you may opt to have a meeting where you invite your colleagues to hear your presentation about why freight matters and discuss your goals and next steps as a group.  Your colleagues can help you gather additional information about your organization so you can develop a stronger, more thorough business case for your executives.

    Once you have your staff-level allies’ input and buy-in, you will want to share your findings with your executives from the perspective of how freight sustainability helps your organization meet critical goals. 

    EPA developed a slide deck with some necessary information that will help you build your presentation and explain why your company is considering getting involved with SmartWay at this time.

    Here is a slide deck template to help you get started:

  • Step 6: Implement your Plan

    Now that you have gotten buy-in, it is time to select members of your organization to work with you to implement your strategy.  This may be a small group comprised of colleagues from your freight management department and your environmental department, but it may also include representatives from your press office or other departments as necessary.  Everyone’s implementation approach may vary.  Your team should represent the objectives and goals of your strategy—it can be as informal or formal as your corporate culture supports.   Your SmartWay Account Manager can help you get started.

    SmartWay can accommodate as few or as many personnel as you would like— just let your EPA SmartWay Account Manager know whom you would like to receive notifications and updates about new resources and opportunities related to your participation in SmartWay.