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Expert panel: tackling climate challenges in logistics together

As a business partner of chemical industry companies, H.Essers offers customers more than just logistics services. H.Essers also facilitates knowledge sharing and actively contributes to expanding the leading global position of European chemical players. One of the challenges they are all facing is the call for more sustainable supply chains. In the debate on logistics sustainability, those responsible for supply chains and procurement in the industry need nuanced, multidisciplinary insights. That is why H.Essers decided to organise, on 9 June, a conference on this very relevant topic. It was attended by specialists in energy, pharma and transport in order to exchange insights.

During a multinational conference at the H.Essers headquarters in Genk, customers, experts and stakeholders were invited to discuss sustainable logistics. Guests from Spain, Italy and Romania could interact via a simultaneous satellite connection for a live Q&A. During keynotes and panel discussions with specialists from the sector, knowledge and innovative ideas were shared, which provided food for thought for many of the companies present. In this way, the conference became an instructive experience in which the select guests received a multidisciplinary, interactive and multinational view on the specific challenges of the energy transition today and in the years to come.

The key role of logistics

When it comes to making the economy more sustainable, logistics play a key role as the connecting factor between various parties in the value chain. Keeping supply chains going requires a lot of energy, most of which is currently derived from fossil sources, which cause CO2 emissions. Therefore we need to rethink these chains and initiate the transition towards green(er) energy sources.

“When it comes to sustainability, the transport sector connects all the dots.” – Guy Pollentier, Head of Sustainable Business Competence Centre, BNP Paribas Fortis

As a logistics player, H.Essers helps companies take the step towards sustainable supply chains. The starting point is not a sustainability strategy, but rather a sustainable strategy with measurable targets that can be reported on. This strategy ensures that H.Essers takes a sustainable, holistic approach to every aspect of its business. At the same time, the company is guided by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. One of our goals is to reduce CO2 emissions by 5% annually. H.Essers aims to achieve this through four pillars:

  • Inset: H.Essers’ direct compensation of the CO2 emissions of transports driven by fossil fuel with an equivalent amount of transports fueled by biodiesel (HVO).
  • Avoid: avoiding unnecessary emissions through optimised routes and transport flows.
  • Shift: investing in rail and waterborne transport as low-carbon alternatives to road transport.
  • Improve: the continuous improvement of business processes and continued investment in green energy.

Alternative energy sources for sustainable transport

Several alternative energy sources for vehicles are currently emerging, some more technically mature and feasible than others. For the logistics sector, vehicles running on electricity, hydrogen and biofuels seem particularly promising.

“Electricity, hydrogen and biofuels are expected to become the dominant energy sources. Of those, we must consider both the technological efficiency and the green footprint.” – Luc Van Ostaeyen, Senior Director Supply Chain Management, PwC Belgium

“A sustainability issue lies in the fact that biodiesel is partly produced from food ingredients. Hydrotreated vegetable oils (HVO), on the other hand, are produced from waste streams only. It is a very cost-efficient way of reducing carbon emissions” – Bjorn Breckx, Head of Corporate Affairs, Neste

However, we have to be aware that there is no single solution for the entire chain. Both the mode of transportation and the distance to be covered determine the most effective energy source. An electric vehicle, for example, is particularly suitable for short distances and last-mile deliveries due to its limited range, while biofuels and hydrogen can also be used for longer distances. The answer to the climate challenges in our sector therefore lies in an intelligent combination of energy sources and a synchromodal supply chain.

“For shorter distances, electrification should be the first choice. If that is not an option, hydrogen and other energy sources are worth considering.” – Sara Vander Beken, Business Unit Manager Energy Transition, Sweco

These energy sources also come with their own challenges: a high purchase price, the need for large investments in infrastructure, the limited availability of raw materials, etc. To meet these challenges, cooperation between various parties – companies, logistical service providers, governments, research institutions and consumers – is indispensable. Because the call for sustainability is louder than ever.

“Sustainability is a matter of working together. Everyone has to do their part.” – Dr. Franz Merath, Senior Vice President Supply Chain Management, Evonik

“Chemical companies do not always know how to get an overview the emissions of their logistics partners. A tool like the Safety and Quality Assessment for Sustainability allows them to select their partner based on detailed questions.” – Eric De Deckere, Sustainability Manager, Cefic

Yannick Dylst, Project Manager Sustainability: “I am glad that we could finally sit down with our customers and partners to exchange ideas about sustainable logistics, because inactivity is not an option. As the debate has taught us, several promising technologies are available or in the pipeline. Most of all we learned, however, that everyone needs to get to work and that all the parties involved need to work together efficiently if we want to tackle costs and feasibility challenges. We are very pleased to be joining forces with our customers and partners to move towards a more sustainable value chain.”

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