Precision in environmental reporting

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Finnair Cargo’s new emissions calculator uses real figures to help companies keep track of their ecological footprints.

With consumers placing increasing value on social responsibility, environmental reporting has become a pillar of corporate strategy for many companies. To better serve freight forwarders, who are often asked to provide emissions figures to manufacturers and other clients, Finnair Cargo has come out with a new online emissions calculator. The tool will launch in summer 2013.

The calculator takes into account carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide and NOx (mono-nitrogen oxide) generated by a Finnair shipment’s entire transportation chain. The calculations include emissions from Finnair’s flights as well as transportation by land and water, if applicable.

“This is to help our customers. Well over ninety per cent of them are freight forwarders, and many of them contact us to ask for emissions information,” says Milla Nyholm, Finnair Cargo’s marketing manager who oversaw the project.

Accessible via a login, the calculator allows freight forwarders to plug in selected months and access emissions information on each of their shipments from that time period. Forwarding companies can then pass on these figures to clients who require them in their own reporting.

Help from IT experts

In developing the new tool, Finnair partnered up with CGI Group, an IT consultancy. CGI, formerly Logica, features its own sustainability project team and has developed reporting tools for various companies.

“Customers are starting to demand more. We don’t just  talk about the number of kilometres a product travels, but about the total emissions generated by a service,” says Ulla Heinonen, sustainability project manager at CGI. “Companies are going to start reporting more on not only the waste they themselves generate, but also on the ways in which subcontractor services add to their environmental loads.”

Finnair Cargo and CGI placed high priority on accuracy and usability. The calculator had to be easy and quick to navigate. All information, to the highest possible extent, had to be based on verifiable figures rather than estimates. Finnair provided CGI with information on fuel usage, payload and shipment weight, which was then combined into an emission formula. For road and waterborne cargo, the team made use of figures provided by LIPASTO, a widely trusted emissions calculation system developed by VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland. Only flights on other airlines aren’t part of the final calculations. The system updates each month with new fuel consumption, payload and weight figures.

“We made it a point to make this as dynamic and easily readable as possible so that there would be no room for misunderstandings,” says CGI's Tero Ritala, who handled the project’s development side. “When larger changes happen - say, if Finnair gets new engines or a Finnair partner upgrades their trucks - we simply feed a new chart into the system.”

According to Petteri Hellen, who oversees the IT aspects of the new tool at Finnair, the product is also user-friendly from a maintenance standpoint. “Doing the monthly updating of emissions figures takes less than a half an hour,” he says.

Hellen sees the project as part of a recent push towards e-services in air cargo. “It’s wonderful to see that cargo has also begun supporting and demonstrating green values,” he says.

Emissions education

In building the calculator, which took roughly four months, the development team became more aware of the individual factors that contribute to the total footprint of a shipment.

“It’s interesting to see how the effects of emissions vary based on transportation mode. Engine types, engine usage and cruising altitude impact NOx emissions in air transit, while sulfur dioxide is among the most significant pollution problems in water transit,” Nyholm says.

“Large trucks actually produce relatively little emissions,” adds Ulla Heinonen. “In addition, the total contribution of air transit to global pollution is two per cent -- the same as that of the IT industry.”

Blazing the trail for smarter choices

Nyholm says that she hopes for the calculator to be a pioneering tool for air cargo. Finnair Cargo has previously operated an online CO2 calculator that provides customers with an estimate of emissions on certain routes and is updated quarterly with new fuel consumption data. However, this is the first time that customers can take a look at shipment-specific emissions.

“As far as I know, we are at the forefront of air cargo emission reporting with a calculator like this,” she says. “This is a great starting point for us; as our clients begin to make choices for cleaner transportation methods, the ability to provide figures like this can help us improve our product portfolio.”

Finnair Cargo's forwarding agent customers interested in using the calculator can obtain further information and request a login by contacting their local Finnair Cargo sales representative.

Text by Laura Palotie

Published January 3, 2013

Category: Environment, Finnair Cargo

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