Carbon footprinting road transport: working together and harmonizing methods

Context of Transport Climate Action

Carbon Footprinting is a method of keeping track of CO2 emissions. By knowing the carbon footprint of each step in a transport chain, transport can be optimized at each of these stages leading to lower overall CO2 emissions. Many transport service providers and shippers find registering their CO2 emissions a challenge. Questions arise regarding the starting point of the measurement, how to allocate CO2 emission levels to different parts of trips and shipments and how to treat the return trip or the transport routes associated with several service providers, who all use different equipment and cargo- handling procedures.

Some service providers have already developed their own software to compute which routes have the least costs and are the most profitable. This software allows them to be consistent with the wishes and needs of major clients and those of other service providers. However, this software may not be in line with the existing carbon footprinting standards, such as CEN EN 16258.

The comparability of carbon footprint data can become compromised through the proliferation of standardization initiatives. The growing number of companies that report their emissions and the growing number of bodies associated with carbon footprinting calculation (like Green Freight Europe, Lean and Green, GLEC (Global Logistics Emissions Council) and the French Decree (2011-1336) requiring transport service providers to inform service users of their carbon dioxide emissions (freight and passenger) make the achievement of some degree of harmonization essential.


The purpose of a harmonized footprinting guide is to create a common framework and a clearly defined standardized technique for measuring CO2 emissions. This allows a standardized comparison of the quantity of carbon dioxide emitted during any given road transport service, using primary operational data. These primary data can be gathered by connecting various IT systems like planning software and navigation systems. These data can then be used in the calculation of the carbon footprint for any particular transport service

Green Freight Europe, GLEC and Lean and Green have their own ways of computing a carbon footprint but they are now tending to work more closely together, as shown by their recent organization of a consultation meeting in Brussels, on October 27th 2015. GFE and Lean and Green have already underwritten their ambition to create a joint approach for measuring the reduction of carbon emissions in freight transport in Europe by signing a Memorandum of Understanding for collaboration (November 2013).


Carbon Footprinting requires transport companies to use their IT systems in calculations. To assist transport companies in the implementation of carbon footprint allocation, a practical guide or handbook, has been developed.

The guide explains calculation units and gives clear numerical examples of how CO2 can be allocated to shipments. The guide can be used by various stakeholders such as:

  • private and public stakeholder companies  transporting goods;
  • stakeholder organisations providing transport services by subcontracting the transport of goods;
  • any other interested parties.

The use of this guide is voluntary and can be accessed by any interested party. While some companies are using it to help them in Lean and Green programme projects, other transport companies can use it to inform themselves about how internal service operations can be calculated.

The next step to getting more companies on board with calculating and reporting their operational carbon footprint is the setting up of a living lab. Connekt (the organization behind Lean and Green) hopes to accelerate the use of carbon footprinting by linking together various freight owners, shipping companies, IT providers and researchers (CE Delft and TNO).


Carbon footprinting has many benefits:

  • Environmental reporting of CO2 emissions to actors in the transport chain and to its clients
  • Providing insights into the actual performance of different operations within a shipping company or within a chain of transport.
  • Labelling and benchmarking a shipping company’s performance
  • Making it possible to assess the impact of different transport options within a company
  • Allowing clients to take into account the environmental performance of transport alternatives they may be considering

Working together and harmonizing computational methods has additional benefits:

  • Making it easier for shipping companies to do carbon footprinting
  • Improving the comparability of different carbon footprinting methodologies

Potential for scaling up

Scaling up can be easily achieved in wider application of the developed guide by various parties involved in a transport process. However, the problem that arises is that the various service providers have already developed their own individual software and standards for the allocation of CO2 to parts of trips and shipments. Thus,  policy measures are required that would further support standardization of the reporting of carbon emissions. Follow-up initiatives in this respect, such as those from GLEC, are already up and running.

Selected references

Guide: Allocation of the CO2 emissions.









freight, mitigation, Europe, partnership


Duoinlog, Panteia


Aad van den Engel,

“Lean and Green will focus on front running companies and will be the incubator for best practices on improving environmental performances throughout freight transport. Green Freight Europe will focus on monitoring, reporting and knowledge dissemination of these best practices to the European companies. Therefore both programs are complementary to each other.”

Nico Anten, Managing director at Connekt, on the cooperation with other organisations.