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Net Zero
Net Zero

Driving the Transition to Net Zero Emissions

Across the OEM motor vehicle after-sales space, transportation is a significant spend – approximately 7-8%1 of sales. Further, the transportation sector has now surpassed the power sector as the largest emitter of greenhouse gases (GHGs) in the United States, responsible for over 29%2 of total emissions within the U.S., and 24%3 globally. This trend largely is driven by the growth of e-commerce, international and domestic shipping, and other activities related to globalization.

Many of the OEMs participating in Carlisle’s North American Parts Benchmark have released corporate statements committing themselves to reducing their climate impact, yet many organizations are early in the development of plans to address the greenhouse gas emissions associated with their transportation footprint. Fortunately, meaningful pathways to reduce transportation emissions are taking hold.

Where to Begin?

We’ve laid out our perspectives on how to pluck lower hanging fruit and to either start or accelerate the journey towards decarbonizing transportation-related emissions.

Since then, an increasing number of organizations around the world have been making net zero climate commitments and enlisting support in getting there. To date, more than 1,000 businesses are working with the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) to reduce their emissions. Meanwhile, 509 cities, 23 regions, 2,162 businesses, 127 of the biggest investors, and 571 Higher Education Institutions have signed on to achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050 at the latest as part of the UNFCCC’s Race to Zero campaign. And over 800 B Corps including 3Degrees have pledged to reach net zero by 2030 (20 years ahead of the target set in the Paris Agreement).  

All of this activity around corporate climate commitments is an encouraging sign and is incredibly necessary. It is also not enough. We have to do more.

1. Calculating an Organization’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions Profile

Calculating an organization’s greenhouse gas emissions profile or “carbon footprint” circumscribes an organization’s emissions and creates a heat map for understanding where and in what size emissions are occurring. It is like tracking a person’s caloric intake over time for the purpose of designing a diet that gets results while minimizing disruption to their lifestyle. Ice cream every night or just on weekends?

2. Decarbonizing the Warehouse

Decarbonizing the warehouse can be a fertile ground for quick wins. Tried and true onsite energy minimization efforts — such as LED lighting, onsite solar installation, high-efficiency space heating, and cooling, or being paid to reduce energy use during periods of peak grid congestion — can offer attractive financial return profiles while providing greenhouse gas reduction benefits. When paired with backup battery storage systems, these efforts can also increase the energy resiliency of warehouse operations.

More recently, an increasing number of companies are deploying Material Handling Equipment (MHE) powered by lower-carbon fuels, such as electric or hydrogen-powered forklifts, and other non-road cargo equipment. Leveraging various sources of public funding for these vehicles, such as the Low Carbon Fuels Standards incentive regimes in California, Oregon, and a growing list of other states can deliver attractive additional revenue streams. These funds can further enhance total cost of ownership economics and help support more rapid electric vehicle deployment that lowers the GHG emissions of owned or leased mobile sources.

3. Transitioning to Low Carbon Shipping Fuels

The global transportation sector has begun integrating low carbon shipping fuels at an accelerated rate, in large part focused on last-mile delivery and supported by decision tools that identify economically attractive alternatives to internal combustion engine (ICE) transport. Natural vehicle replacement cycles — both within and outside the warehouse — present good opportunities for organizations to begin to pilot electric, hydrogen, CNG, and other lower-carbon fueled vehicles, again, especially for California and Oregon operations.

4. Targeting the Remaining Unavoidable Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Many companies mitigate the impact of the remaining unavoidable greenhouse gas emissions through the purchase of high-caliber verified carbon emissions reductions, otherwise known as carbon credits or carbon offsets, as a stepping-stone to complement, rather than replace, existing decarbonization strategies throughout their own operations.

5. Reducing the Need to Move Materials and People

Having said this, the best way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in transportation is by reducing the need to move materials and people. A comprehensive review of your supply chain – including buildings, material flow, transportation modes, inventory deployment strategies, referral patterns, etc. will allow you to understand not only the cost/service trade-offs but the environmental tradeoffs as well. For example, increasing forward-deployed safety stock may increase inventory costs, but may also reduce parcel/air referrals. Ideally, this should be a positive financial trade-off. But if not, is your organization willing to pay for reduced carbon emissions?



Combined with policy advocacy, vendor negotiation, and peer collaboration, the above strategies can represent a comprehensive approach to reduce the largest source of emissions globally.

Carlisle and decarbonization partner, 3Degrees, have helped clients ranging from Rivian to Proterra understand and address the impact of their transportation-related emissions with a suite of solutions customized to meet their unique business needs and sustainability goals.

1. Carlisle & Company North American Benchmark 2. Bloomberg Sustainable Energy in America Factbook 3. IEA Tracking Transport Report

Co-authored by:

Harry Hollenberg
Managing Director of Carlisle & Company
Carlisle & Company is the leader in after-sales strategy and insights, partnering with a broad range of highly engineered clients to solve their most complex business problems, drive growth, and create value.