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Alternative low-carbon fuels predicted to ‘steal headlines’

Supply chain sustainability trends to look for in 2022

(Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

After accelerating sustainability commitments in 2021 and the COP26 climate conference in November, Freightwaves asked industry experts what trends they think will be at the forefront of sustainability in 2022.

Tyler Cole, director of carbon intelligence at FreightWaves, said that sustainability commitments will grow the most, and he predicted that alternative low-carbon fuels such as renewable natural gas (RNG), e-fuels, hydrogen and electric vehicles, will “steal headlines” in 2022.

These responses have been edited for length and clarity.

Alternative fuels and electrification

“Freight companies will likely allocate substantial resources to the R&D of alternative fuels, such as green ammonia and hydrogen, clean technologies such as electrification and increased logistics efficiencies. New regulations, such as green port initiatives and possible carbon levies, will play an important role in aligning targets and stimulating innovation throughout the industry.”  

— Kelly Poole, an energy fellow at As You Sow, a corporate social responsibility nonprofit

“A focus point for sustainability in supply chains for 2022 will be sustainable freight and reducing emissions from transportation fuels. Undeniably, heavy-duty trucking is under intense pressure from policy to decarbonize. 

“As challenges to heavy-duty trucking electrification come to light, the global discussion will likely shift toward alternative fueling options such as RNG for heavy-duty vehicles, which can help companies meet their sustainability targets now.”

— Nicholas Yeh, director of sustainability at Clean Energy, a supplier of renewable natural gas

“Where we expect to see significant progress in the coming year — particularly in terms of commitments from transport providers but also from producers and potentially also governments — is sustainable aviation and marine fuels. 

“We believe that sustainable aviation fuels represent the most realistic option over the short and medium term for many carriers to meet their targets for reduced carbon emissions, and this is generating increased investment in their production.

“We also expect to see continued and accelerated progress in the area of fleet electrification — both for smaller commercial vehicles but also for medium- and heavy-duty trucks. This will continue to be complemented by investments in charging infrastructure and legislative measures in many markets that incentivize the adoption of EVs.”

— Greg Hewitt, CEO at DHL Express USA, a logistics company

Moritz Tölke, technical manager at the Smart Freight Centre, a global freight nonprofit, said he expects wider-scale adoption of medium-duty EVs and increased demand and uptake for biofuels for road freight.

Maritime momentum

“While momentum for fossil-free shipping has grown tremendously in 2021, 2022 must be the year where commitments are turned into concrete steps and binding regulations. 

“In the U.S., California will set the nation’s first zero-emission marine ship standard, and we’ll be pushing the Biden administration to set federal clean ship and port standards as well. 

“In Asia, shipyards will remain busy building the world’s first dual-fuel and, hopefully, fuel-cell engines that can run on 100% zero-carbon fuels. In the EU, regulators will nearly finish by the end of 2022 their landmark shipping and ports regulation. 

“At the International Maritime Organization and globally, we need concrete policies to end all new fossil fuel ship builds, force the retrofit of the existing global fleet for drop-in fuels and technologies like wind, and bring down the price of zero-emission technologies and fuels.”

— Madeline Rose, climate campaign director at Pacific Environment, an environmental nonprofit

Collaboration and regulations

“Partnerships between competitors, customers and the public sector are key to accelerating adoption of sustainable innovations in 2022. We saw early signals of this in 2021. 

“At Convoy, we have enterprise customers creating workshop programs for their top supply chain partners to collaborate and help solve sustainability challenges for mutual customers. What would traditionally be a competitive environment becomes collaborative when sustainability is the shared outcome.”

— Jennifer Wong, head of sustainability at Convoy, a digital freight network company

“2022 will be full of challenges. R&D will be essential to determine the implementation of concrete actions in the short term. Consumers will continue to put pressure on businesses to make sustainable choices in their supply chain, catalyzing environmental business practices.

“We hope 2022 will bring more commitments to curbing climate change and adopting international good practices that enable the green transition for the shipping industry and all its stakeholders.”

— Alexis Rodriguez, the Panama Canal’s environmental protection specialist

“I expect to see a focus on reducing carbon emissions and fossil fuels within organizations’ sustainability commitments. Due to an increase in global regulations, there will also be more emphasis on accountability for brands on topics like ethical labor practices for employees and any supply chain vendors, better transparency into each tier of the supply chain, and a focus on automation to improve supply chain resiliency.”

— Lachelle Buchanan, director at Logility, a supply chain platform

“As COP26 signatories continue to solidify their 2030 climate goals over the next year, the world will be closely watching the private sector’s response. We expect continued growth in companies producing standardized emission disclosure, setting science-based sustainability targets and building out transition plans with detail on how to spend capex to achieve targets. 

“The freight industry will continue the search for scalable solutions to reduce environmental footprints without sacrificing low operation costs or disturbing the complex web of global supply chains.” 

— Poole

Tölke said he foresees “ever-growing attention to collaboration amongst shippers and their supply chain partners.”

He said adoption of carbon pricing schemes, emission regulations and greenhouse gas emissions disclosure requirements will likely increase around the world.

Click here for more FreightWaves articles by Alyssa Sporrer.

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Alyssa Sporrer

Alyssa is a staff writer at FreightWaves, covering sustainability news in the freight and supply chain industry, from low-carbon fuels to social sustainability, emissions & more. She graduated from Iowa State University with a double major in Marketing and Environmental Studies. She is passionate about all things environmental and enjoys outdoor activities such as skiing, ultimate frisbee, hiking, and soccer.