Clean Cargo: Transparency and Transformation in Ocean Transport

Today, 90 percent of what you own comes from far-flung regions via ocean, air, and land, yet the environmental impacts of transporting these products are not always clear. However, new approaches that increase transparency are improving the sustainability of the goods that fuel our global economy.

We have worked with some of the world’s largest companies and their ocean-transport partners for more than 10 years as part of Clean Cargo, one of BSR’s longest-running collaborative initiatives. Clean Cargo is an international business-to-business initiative that works to improve sustainability performance through the measurement, reporting, and evaluation of environmental metrics. The group now comprises 40 leading cargo carriers and their customers, representing approximately 85 percent of ocean container cargo. Through the tools and methodology Clean Cargo offers, these companies are increasing the transparency of their environmental performance, which helps them understand and manage their sustainability impacts.

Transport accounts for about a quarter of global energy-related carbon emissions. As one of the transport-sector initiatives in BSR’s Business in a Climate-Constrained World work, Clean Cargo and its members are doing their part to reduce climate impacts in two ways, by:

  1. Integrating environmental performance into business decisions. Companies such as Electrolux, Heineken, IKEA, Marks & Spencer, and Nike have used Clean Cargo metrics and tools to improve environmental performance in their supply chains. They can review and compare ocean carriers on their sustainability practices and set expectations with transport providers for continuous improvement. Additionally, by building partnerships with relevant organizations, Clean Cargo helps companies better integrate data-informed approaches into management processes. Our work with TurnkeySolutions Ltd. enhances integration with IT systems, and online supplier collaboration platform EcoVadis uses Clean Cargo results in its sustainability scorecard.

  2. Improving performance across the entire freight-transport value chain. Clean Cargo and its members are influencing critical work in standardizing emissions calculations across all modes of freight transport. We engage with other sustainability initiatives in the sector, such as SmartWay, GreenFreight Europe, and GreenFreight Asia, and align with global standards, such as the Greenhouse Gas Protocol. In turn, these initiatives recognize Clean Cargo as the standard for ocean cargo environmental performance. Additionally, members meet several times each year to share best practices in effective logistics management techniques. And through a new collaboration, Kühne Logistics University researchers are using our data to analyze operational decisions that can improve environmental performance.

In these ways, transparency is leading to transformation at Clean Cargo member companies.

For the 90 percent of products that arrive via transport, the Clean Cargo helps product owners understand and then reduce impacts to meet the expectations of their customers and stakeholders. How does your company use transparency initiatives like Clean Cargo to improve environmental performance?