Start of the GATE Project with a Focus on SMEs

GATE project logo

CO2 emissions have to be reduced – and road transport is no exception. Here, it’s especially up to freight forwarders. In Europe, 99 percent of them are small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). But when customers ask how high their commissioned SMEs’ emissions are, it’s often a difficult question to answer. How can they calculate their CO2 emissions and why is the available data on SMEs so scarce? The new GATE project – (Comprehensive Transport Emissions Reporting for SMEs / Ganzheitliche Ausweisung der Transportemissionen von KMU) – provides answers.

“This is an exciting field of research with considerable potential,” says Ramón van Almsick, a member of staff at KLU’s Center for Sustainable Logistics and Supply Chains (CSLS). KLU’s partner in the project is the Institute of Business Logistics and General Management (LogU), part of Hamburg University of Technology (TUHH) and led by Prof. Wolfgang Kersten.

Sound and practical – a handbook for SMEs

But the project doesn’t focus on research alone. Since the research findings lay the basis for concrete recommendations, SMEs reap very practical benefits. Recognizing that every operation is unique, the project provides every participating SME with its own individual handbook, which can be used to facilitate employee awareness and onboarding. “With this approach, we’re addressing one of SMEs’ real needs,” van Almsick explains. “Our study offers them hands-on tools they can use to face the growing requirements for sustainability in competition.”

More environmental protection in businesses

On the one hand, road traffic is meant to be decarbonized – ideally, as soon as possible. The consequences of unchecked global warming would be catastrophic. The European Green Deal from 2019 calls for making Europe climate-neutral by 2050. As a milestone along the way, greenhouse-gas emissions are to be cut 55 percent compared to their 1990 levels by 2030. At the same time, however, a growing global population and rising demand are leading road transport to grow.

In the past 25 years, Germany has at least managed to reduce its specific CO2 emissions. But it’s hardly an unqualified success, since total CO2 emissions have climbed more than 20 percent in the same period and, according to projections from the OECD’s International Transport Forum, will likely triple by 2050. This shows why there is an urgent need to analyze what amount of so-called Scope3 emissions in a given company’s value chain is produced by its transport service providers.

Making progressive transport service providers more visible

In a recent study conducted by the CSLS, more than half of the transport service providers surveyed claimed they were unable to measure their CO2 emissions. Only 16 percent reported that they could account for the CO2 emissions from each delivery order. According to van Almsick: “There are various reasons for this. For one thing, SMEs are rarely asked to disclose their emissions.” Instead, estimates are based on modelled standard emissions factors, which produces results that can vary from the real values.

Has a progressive transport service provider already taken steps to make their business environmentally friendlier from an organizational or technological standpoint? If so, this information isn’t shared, even though now more than ever, it needs to be visible and verifiable. The GATE project has set itself the goal of remedying this situation.

Promising project receives new support

The research project has now received valuable financial backing from the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action (BMWK). Germany’s federal logistics association Bundesvereinigung Logistik e.V. (BVL) coordinated the various research institutes with the body Industrial Collective Research (Industrielle Gemeinschaftsforschung (IGF)). Thankfully, readers interested in learning more about the GATE project don’t have to wait on the comprehensive project report, which will tentatively be released in February 2024; they can check out its findings in committee minutes, presentations, and blog entries.