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Viewpoint: ESG initiatives in trucking — doing well by doing good

What is ESG strategy?

¬¬For businesses across industries, ESG (initiatives have become established as vital to remaining competitive, and trucking’s flatbed sector is no different. (Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of FreightWaves or its affiliates.

For businesses across industries, ESG (environmental, social, and governance) initiatives have become established as vital to remaining competitive, as global sustainability challenges introduce new risk factors for investors and shareholders. Companies and investors are increasingly applying these ESG factors as part of their analysis process to identify material risks and growth opportunities, especially in such a turbulent time of change across the planet as a result of both climate change and adaptation to a global pandemic.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit in early 2020, there has been a worldwide realization as to how important the supply chain is and just how crippled it can become. The rise of ESG initiatives is in part a response to this awareness; in fact, ESG funds doubled in 2021, and are on track to exceed $53 trillion by 2025. Today, the trucking industry can benefit from ESG strategy to provide heightened resiliency to the industry post-pandemic, including the flatbed market niche. By focusing attention on data and science, this traditionally analog industry is bringing trucking into a more progressive and resilient mindset.

How can the trucking industry reach ESG goals?

While EV passenger models are expanding quickly, electric semi fleets live in the distant future. But, in the meantime, other new technology can assist the trucking industry directly with reducing carbon emissions. For example, Remora’s innovative carbon-storing device captures at least 80% of the carbon emissions directly from the tailpipe of a semi-truck. The captured carbon dioxide is then sold to concrete producers and other end-users, allowing fleet owners to earn new revenue while meeting their climate commitments.

Another way to show commitment to a strong ESG strategy is by applying to receive a B Corporation (also B Lab or B Corp) certification, a private certification of for-profit companies of their “social and environmental performance,” which utilizes the framework of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. To be granted and to maintain certification, companies must receive a minimum score of 80 from an assessment of “social and environmental performance,” integrate B Corp commitments to stakeholders into company governing documents, and pay an annual fee based on annual sales. Companies must recertify every three years to retain B Corporation status.

ESG benefits to drivers

At any trucking company, the people drive progress. Providing professional driver talent with the tools they need to meet the company’s ESG goals is essential. At JLE Industries, our proprietary DriverOS platform functions as a central system for connecting shippers and drivers, allowing the company to better organize its data using software and algorithms to create actionable information. It presents the information to drivers in mobile form, for them to self-select and plan their drives and, by doing so, empowers them to create sustainable careers. In addition, the route efficiencies created by the drivers’ use of DriverOS contribute to a more sustainable mode of trucking.

That sustainability doesn’t stop at fuel consumption; the good health and well-being of drivers can contribute in positive ways toward much larger goals, from safety, to equity, to longevity of employment that results in the level of experience needed to handle any situation the road throws at them. All this to say – the increase in prioritization of work-life balance (part of the “social” in ESG) since the COVID-19 pandemic does not need to be limited to office jobs. New technologies can assist truck drivers in attaining that balance for themselves.

Traction in the development of assistive technologies for drivers also has a distinct environmental impact, since each truck on the road runs so many miles a year. Trucking is an essential business, but also a significant source of greenhouse gas emissions. Acknowledging the health and environmental risks of freight trucking as it exists today and recognizing the industry’s carbon footprint is the first step in being able to create strategies to address this challenge. There are benefits to being proactive and transparent with your efforts and aligning yourself with customers and partners who share your commitment to sustainability.

ESG benefits the greater freight industry

The trucking industry’s commitment to ESG benefits shippers as well; for example, JLE is a downstream contributor into many enterprise ecosystems which are part of the delivery of steel, building products, coils and more to their end customers. Part of JLE’s plan for its upcoming trial of Remora’s carbon capture devices is to quantify CO2 emissions and provide this information to our enterprise shippers within the context of the number of trips performed, miles driven and in the context of emissions impacting the environment.

There is aspiration in the trucking industry to accomplish the “Net Zero” concept, which outlines the possibility of emissions being perfectly balanced by removal from our atmosphere. By measuring, benchmarking, and assessing activities and strategically making better choices that reduce emission, fleet owners can make a significant impact on the contribution of freight to cleaner air, while simultaneously adding new revenue streams to their business. ESG strategy is not only a benefit to environmental ethics but also furthers the adaptation of the trucking industry to a rapidly changing world.

About the author

Craig McLane is chief financial officer of JLE Industries, a provider of flatbed freight solutions in North America.

Craig McLane, contributor

Craig McLane is chief financial officer of JLE Industries, a provider of flatbed freight solutions in North America.