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Driving Change

The domino effect of transport sector decarbonization

Cross-industry collaboration and innovation can put global decarbonization on the fast track.

Several dominos, with a hand pointing to a domino labeled for lowering carbon dioxide

Source: Shutterstock/Oasishifi

The magnitude of global decarbonization is not lost on anyone working in sustainability. A report by Systems Change Labs in late 2023 provided a sobering look at the decarbonization movement to date, highlighting both how far we’ve come and how much we have left to accomplish. For example, electric vehicle passenger car sales are on track for 2030 decarbonization targets, but coal needs to be phased out of electricity generation seven times faster than recent rates, according to the report.

Cross-sectoral collaboration is critical if we are to achieve system-level global decarbonization. The more companies cross-pollinate and industries share innovations and knowledge, the faster we will achieve our collective goals. Take Encirc, for example. If the glass container company is successful in producing the world’s first zero-carbon glass bottles, that innovation could help advance zero-carbon glass across the automotive industry.

Cross-industry collaboration is a central discussion theme at GreenBiz 24, including Share the Road: The Latest in Transport Decarbonization, a session I'm leading today. During this interactive conversation, I'll be joined by representatives from Alaska Airlines, BMW of North America and Uber Freight to discuss: 

  • How data is key to reducing transport logistics emissions 
  • Reducing airline emissions, corporate support on sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) and other non-fuel emission reduction advancements
  • Building a circular supply chain, manufacturing electric vehicles with more circularity in mind

The path to decarbonization

The session will also address three key themes critical to accelerating decarbonization:

  • Instituting a culture of innovation and change
  • What driving change and meaningful action really means 
  • The cascading impact and domino effect of decarbonization innovation in the transport sector

I asked each speaker what they think will be the key takeaway from the session. Here are their written responses:

Illina Frankiv, head of sustainability at Uber Freight: 

"It’s impossible to fix what we don’t measure. With the right tools, logistics professionals can capture and leverage the data needed to develop sustainable, cost-efficient and timely transportation networks that help achieve company emission targets."

Denise Melville, head of sustainability at BMW of North America: 

"While the shift towards electromobility is a crucial step on the road towards decarbonization, it's important that organizations across the transportation sector integrate the climate and CO2 targets into all aspects of a product's lifecycle. From the initial design process to manufacturing, from the supply chain to recycling, CO2 reduction needs to be at the heart of every step along the way. That can only be achieved through cross-industry collaboration as it involves suppliers, partners, energy providers and many more areas of the business. Good examples of cross-industry solutions are SmartCharging programs that exist between car manufacturers and utility companies all across the United States."

Ryan Spies, managing director of sustainability at Alaska Airlines: 

"As a hard-to-abate industry, we must look at all aspects of our business to reach our ambitious goal of net zero carbon emissions by 2040. This includes strengthening partnerships and how we engage with the corporate customers particularly around sustainable aviation fuel. The development and scaling of SAF requires airlines, fuel producers, policy makers and end corporate customers to accelerate deployment and adoption. We are proud to have launched a SAF corporate partners program a few years ago with companies like Amazon, Autodesk, Deloitte, Microsoft, and WE Communications and look forward to working with more in the future." 

This work and the need for cross-industry collaboration and knowledge-sharing can’t happen only at events such as GreenBiz 24. That’s why I’ll be continuing the conversation in the days and weeks ahead with members of our newly rebranded Trellis Network (formerly GreenBiz Executive Network). I encourage you to also take this ethos forward with your peers — and together we can accelerate our collective progress.

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