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Reducing the logistics-related carbon footprint

Working with BigMile puts Ricoh Europe in the driver’s seat

Author: Hans Pieters

From 2025 onwards, all large European companies will have to outline in their annual reports how they intend to achieve their sustainability objectives. Dutch-based software vendor BigMile has developed a tool for calculating and reporting supply chain and logistics-related carbon emissions. Ricoh Europe is using the tool to provide insight into its Scope 3 emissions.

With just a year to go until the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD) comes into force in the EU, preparation time is running out for the 50,000 companies in Europe that must be able to submit reports for the year 2024.

“The pressure is building for organizations to take action. Many suppliers to these 50,000 companies often wrongly think that this legislation doesn’t affect them,” says Jan Pronk, Director of BigMile. “Manufacturers are well aware of the footprint of their own production processes. That is their core business and their primary focus. But it’s a completely different story when it comes to the supply of raw materials or parts and the outbound logistics for their products. In this case, they need to ask their suppliers and logistics service providers for the right data and insights to ensure their CO2 reporting is complete.”

Martijn Spee is Transport Manager at Ricoh Europe SCM, which falls within the CSRD reporting obligation. As a BigMile user from the very beginning, the company is now reaping the benefits. “Internally, more and more people are asking ‘Are we ready?’. We’re happy to be able to tell them that we’re well on our way and there’s nothing to worry about.”

Ricoh Europe first started thinking about how the organization could provide insight into its carbon emissions back in 2012, according to Spee. “We realized that it was becoming increasingly important. Our strategic aim is to be carbon neutral by 2050 and achieve a 40% reduction by 2030. In line with that strategy, we monitor our progress every year. Using 2020 as the starting point, we want to emit 4% less carbon per year – and not by benefiting from the sustainability improvements to trucks, but rather by accelerating our own mobility shift: by reducing road transport distances, reducing airfreight and choosing alternative mobility options.”

BigMile originated from a project initiated and funded by the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure & Water Management, says Pronk. “The underlying question was how the supply chain and logistics sector could support the Paris Climate Agreement. If the government commits to climate goals, it should also help industries to achieve them. In that context, we examined which methodologies were already available to correctly measure logistics and transport-related carbon emissions, and how they could be allocated at shipment level – whether to containers or pallets, or in a mobility context to service engineers driving from A to B.”

When the government funding came to an end, a handful of the people involved decided to turn it into a business. “So we launched BigMile on 1 January 2020 and entered the market with a product that calculates and reports carbon emissions at shipment level for logistics, supply chain and mobility.”

Ricoh Europe was already on board as one of the early adopters when it was a government project. Reflecting on the years before the company started working with BigMile, Spee says: “At first we were like everyone else, with some reports in Excel. There were some emissions models around, but they were fairly primitive and limited to upstream logistics.” Even today, that information is still relatively easy to gather, he explains. “We receive shipments through around eight different sea routes. We know the distances involved, so we can calculate the carbon emissions and the reporting is pretty simple.”

In 2018, Spee and his team wanted to gain insight into the downstream logistics to customers throughout Europe too. “We dispatch more than four million shipments per year, using various modalities, routes, stops and so on, and we work with 50 different logistics service providers.” It soon became clear that specialized software would be needed to gather the necessary data. “With that in mind, we spoke to software vendors all over the world, from New Zealand to Canada.”

The initial contact with BigMile resulted from a request to Dutch trade organization Evofenedex. “We liked the fact that BigMile’s basics were aligned with our need to calculate our carbon footprint, plus as two Dutch companies it was easy to talk to one another.”

Pronk: “Ricoh Europe was our second or third major customer. Nowadays, we have around a hundred different customers – a balanced mix of shippers, carriers and other software vendors who use our API.”

So what was the key factor that made Ricoh Europe choose a relatively new company like BigMile? “The software is down to earth and relatively simple to get to grips with,” replies Spee. “Even if you don’t have an IT background and only have experience in Excel, like me, it’s quite easy to know what to do. That’s BigMile’s strength. They know how to make the connection between the IT infrastructure and the real business. And the onboarding is user-friendly. To create a logistics profile, the tool ‘interviews’ you to see what exactly it is that you do. That was the deciding factor. Moreover, the software is affordable, which is also a key consideration.”

Mentioning another advantage, he continues: “BigMile is flexible because the company is still growing. They listen to customers’ needs. It feels like you’re developing a new tool in partnership with them.” Pronk responds enthusiastically, saying: “The feeling is mutual. Our customers are proactive and happy to invest their time in providing feedback. Our relationship with Ricoh Europe is more like one of partners than of customer/supplier.”

BIGMILE IS ISO 14083 COMPLIANT AND HAS AN ACCOUNTANCY STATEMENT (ISAE 3000)

The fact that the company is working with BigMile puts it in a stronger position now that the CSRD directive is coming up, according to Pronk. “They are in the driver’s seat. They will have everything in place for when the reporting obligations come into effect.” He adds that a lot of effort has gone into ensuring the quality of the CO2 calculations and reporting: “We are compliant with ISO 14083 (international standard for allocating carbon emissions to activities in the transport chain, Ed.), and our platform has an accountancy audit statement (ISAE 3000) for our reports.”

In response, Spee comments: “Currently we are mainly doing it for ourselves, to support our own initiatives to achieve the 4% annual reduction. It’s a useful tool to provide supply chain visibility. You can clearly see the impact of a choice on the bigger picture. Last year, we halved airfreight and doubled our rail-freight volumes compared with the previous year. In the future, we want to create customer-specific reports to give us a competitive edge in big tenders.”

Rail was the most logical modality for shipments to Italy back in 2015, he says. “Since we started measuring the effect of our strategy, we have set up rail links to Spain, the Czech Republic and Sweden too.” This initially met with resistance from the regions. “It takes a little longer and is less flexible. But we’re seeing that countries are also starting to think about more sustainable solutions locally.” The company is using HV100 trucks for shipments to France. “But they cost more money, so we try to improve the network efficiency to compensate for that.”

Spee regularly has contact with companies that ask him about his experiences with BigMile. “Their motivation is often the fact that reporting will soon be mandatory. I’m glad we did it because we wanted to. That meant we were under less pressure and we were able to build and implement the dataset in an enjoyable and relaxed way. We have really ensured that the carbon footprint on the routes is as accurate as possible, based on a very advanced calculation of the Scope 3 emissions.” The next step will be to deploy BigMile worldwide. “That will present new challenges. Currently, the transport data isn’t so accurate in Asia and Latin America.”

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