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Blog June 2023 Updated October 2023

Understanding UN sustainable development goals and their relevance to transport and logistics

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Back in 2015, all United Nations (UN) member states adopted The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. At its core are 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals, which include 169 targets to achieve by 2030

“It’s time to sound the alarm”

Unfortunately, the UN’s progress report (advance unedited version) on the Sustainable Development Goals brings bad news: “At the mid-way point on our way to 2030, the Sustainable Development Goals are in deep trouble”.

Close to half of the goals, though showing progress, are moderately or severely off track. As a result, the UN is calling for “unprecedented effort” to turn this around.

The role of transport and logistics in sustainable development

Sustainable transport is vital for achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development as well as the Paris Climate Change Agreement.

The following UN statistics, show why:

  • The transport sector is responsible for around a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions
  • 95% of the world’s transport energy still comes from fossil fuels
  • The transport sector accounted for 57% of global oil demand and 28% of total energy consumption

“Sustainable transport—with its objectives of universal access, enhanced safety, reduced environmental and climate impact, improved resilience, and greater efficiency—is central to sustainable development,” says the UN report ‘Sustainable Transport, Sustainable Development’.

The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) adds: “Transport is a vital enabler of several Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It contributes strongly to the SDGs regarding economic development, industry, and SMEs, as well as trade and investment. Consequently, it also helps achieve the SDGs that aim to promote employment and well-being, and to reduce inequalities and exclusion.”

How are businesses addressing Sustainable Development Goals?

The goals below show alignment with transport and logistics, but other goals may also fit the ambitions of individual businesses.

Deutsche Post DHL Group has a sustainability roadmap and is focusing on six UN SDGS.

It aims to tackle transport-induced air pollution by delivering 70% of its own first and last mile services with ‘clean’ pick up and delivery solutions by 2025; and invest over EUR7 billion in sustainable fuel and clean technologies by 2030.

By 2025 it wants to increase carbon efficiency by 50% over 2007 levels and have more than 50% of sales incorporate Green Solutions, making its customers’ supply chains greener.

Ortessa, a group of five waste companies based in The Netherlands, is also focusing on six UN SDGs. Its actions include a sustainable fleet; CO2 saving using bio-diesel; and using the AMCS Platform to execute collection routes more efficiently and digitise its business processes.

Amazon has set out how its sustainability work aligns with the SDGs in its 2021 sustainability report. Steps include deployment of battery electric vehicle trucks across its heavy commercial trucking fleets, the switch to vehicles that use alternative fuels, like compressed natural gas (CNG) trucks, and electric vehicles for last-mile delivery.

Work to create a sustainable supply chain includes strengthening engagement and partnerships. An example is Amazon’s partnership with the global non-profit We Mean Business Coalition, focused on accelerating the transition to a net-zero economy.

It supports the coalition’s SME Climate Hub which gives small and medium sized enterprises free tools and resources to measure and report their emissions. With the Hub’s support, these companies are committing to halve their emissions by 2030 and reach net zero by 2050.

To achieve net zero carbon emissions, it knows that long-term solutions yet to be invented are also needed, so it is investing in emerging innovations through The Climate Change Pledge Fund.

What next?

We can see that businesses are making the shift to zero or low carbon fuels to help reduce their emissions, but as the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) states, rapid deployment of new technologies is also “essential” for the transition to sustainable transport.

UN DESA named built-in safety features, widespread digitalization, apps that process real time information, autonomous vehicles, and intelligent transport systems, in addition to environmentally friendly fuels and engines as “central features of the transport innovation landscape”.

AMCS has a number of solutions that support the required digital shift, including the AMCS transport management system and AMCS Fleet maintenance.

You can read more about the future of telematics, including autonomous vehicles, electric vehicles and integrated and optimisation platforms in this previous blog and more on trends flagged up at the Fleet Vision International trade event here.

A closer look at the opportunities and challenges in decarbonizing supply chains can be found in McKinsey’s report: ‘Embracing technology and sustainability in freight transport’. It covers electrification, automation, digitisation, hydrogen, route optimisation and planning and includes interviews with Robert Falck, founder and CEO of Swedish freight-technology company Einride and Christoph Hempsch, head of sustainability for Deutsche Post DHL’s German Post and Parcel.

Conclusion

To drive change, we also need supportive policy and regulation. This can promote sustainable transport through incentives, like scrappage schemes, tax breaks and charging exemptions for cleaner vehicles; and penalties to discourage the use of polluting fuels and vehicles. More on the EU’s policy approach can be found here.

Leveraging digital technology to achieve the SDGs was a key action called for by the UN in its SDG progress report. It pointed to how the “proliferation of robotics, artificial intelligence, quantum computing, the Internet of Things (IoT) and cloud and mobile computing, can support human well-being and the SDGs”.

For transport and logistics, digital technology supports ambitions to improve efficiency and safety, use less fuel, optimise routes, ensure fuller cargo loads, and reduce costs, mileage and vehicles movements.

These measures, along with the shift to electric vehicles and other low-carbon fuels, will help the sector reduce its carbon emissions, as well as improve productivity, health, and well-being.

Time is truly ticking if we are to achieve the SDGs by 2030 — we all need to ramp up our efforts now to make it happen.

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Resources

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Sustainability in Transport: navigating emerging trends & ESG Regulations

Press Release

AMCS Group to Host Customer Event at Headquarters in Limerick, Ireland

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Get Your Dossier 7 / AMCS Fleet Maintenance Questions Answered

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