This year, we predict more clients than ever before will be prioritising sustainable transport for their shipping needs. As businesses need to actively report their Environmental, Social, Governance (ESG) to shareholders, investing in sustainable transport solutions isn’t just about looking good for your senior leadership team. It’s the bare minimum your customers will be expecting.  

It’s important to remember we live in a global society.  

While we’d love to think we could become a self-sufficient island, the reality is here in the UK, we need to continue importing and exporting goods around the world. The challenge is to find innovative solutions that allow us to continue doing so with minimal impact on the environment.  

Luckily, here at Waller Transport Services, we’ve been proactively searching for sustainable transport logistics for years.  

Where possible, we always recommend options with the lowest carbon footprint.  

Let’s examine the options in more detail.  


The real-time impact of our transportation choices on the environment 

To understand why we need to prioritise sustainable transport, it’s essential to look at how different modes of transport are having a significant impact on the environment.  


“The sector with the largest increase in UK emissions was transport, up 34% in 2022 compared with 2021, following a fall of 28% in 2020 during the coronavirus pandemic and a 9% decrease in 2021.” 

Source: Greenhouse gas emissions, UK: provisional estimates, 2022: Office for National Statistics 


As we can see from the ONS report, the transport sector needs to pay close attention to sustainable options, because it’s having a significant impact on the overall UK emissions.  

When it comes to freight solutions, it’s no surprise that air freight is the biggest polluter.  

A 2022 report from the Gallery Climate Coalition (an international community set up to reduce environmental issues within the arts sector) states: “For every tonne of artwork, air freight produces around ten times more CO2e than freighting the same distance by road, and around 60 times more CO2e than the same distance by sea.” 

This is backed up by the British Retail Consortium, which also agrees: “Air freighting is a carbon-intensive activity. Comparative emissions are 435gCO2e per tonne-km, which is more than 50 times as impactful as sea freight by bulk carrier.” 

But what about other forms of transport? 

We know sea freight remains essential to our international transportation solutions. 

 A 2022 European Environment Agency report (Transport and Environment Report 2022, Digitalisation in the mobility system: challenges and opportunities) suggests: “The second most important freight transport mode in terms of volume (tonne-km) was sea transport, which accounted for 28.9% in 2019 compared to 28.1% in 2000. The volume transported by sea increased by 26.2% in this period.” 

The good news is shipping remains one of the most environmentally friendly forms of commercial transport. The changes to technology mean cargo ships are now focusing heavily on reducing their emissions and improving fuel efficiencies. “However, the enormous scale of the industry means that it is nevertheless a significant contributor to the world’s total greenhouse gas emissions (around 3% of total global CO2 emissions)” (source: International Chamber of Shipping) 

Overall, rail transport remains the best solution for global transport logistics when it comes to environmental choices. It is pleasing to note the Office for Rail and Road reported in November 2023: “total emissions from freight trains were 434 kilotonnes. This is down 5% compared with the previous year.” 


One solution is to prioritise slower freight transportation 

If you’re searching for a sustainable transport option, we recommend increasing your lead times as much as possible. Rail and sea freight continue to offer the most environmentally friendly solutions, and we would highly recommend using these options. However, they may be considerably slower than road or air freight.  

Part of our advocacy work with our clients is to help you understand the true impact of your transportation options. We go beyond giving you a price and timeframe. We’ll examine the sustainability of each option, and help you with content for ESG reporting.  


Switching to multimodal freight-forwarding solutions can effectively lower your carbon footprint. 

Of course, if you want to prioritise environmental factors simultaneously, as well as your budget and your timescales, then multimodal logistics can be used effectively.  

The benefit of using our multimodal freight-forwarding services is we can use a wide range of transportation methods within one singular shipment. You could choose to import goods via air for rapid dispatch, then switch to rail freight to complete your inbound journey. You could even select a preference to work with hauliers who specialise in electric vehicles in urban locations – allowing you to show even small changes to specific parts of your transport logistics can have a significant cumulative impact.  

We know this may sound complex, but it doesn’t need to be.  

With our experienced team on hand, we can offer innovative solutions to aid your transportation needs. You don’t need to worry about the intricacies of your shipment. We will arrange that on your behalf, giving recommendations that align with your business priorities and ESG reporting.  


We also need to think about the different transportation needs of each shipment. 

An added layer of complexity within sustainable global transport is the issue of the goods themselves.  

Different items require different packaging mechanisms, many of which may not be suitable for a specific mode of transportation or the environment. 

For example, many florists will import flowers from around the world, but they need to prioritise rapid delivery to maintain the quality of goods. Similarly, those who are importing food items or even medical supplies will need to rely on fast transport solutions, which is why they may continue to prioritise air freight despite other options being available.  

Items that need out of gauge cargo services because they are oversized or include hazardous material may be limited to sea freight or road freight due to their size. The complexities of importing or exporting these items may limit the sustainable transportation options available.  

These are factors we will always consider within our logistics recommendations. While we know there is a growing need to push for sustainable transport, it’s not always possible. But with our expertise, we can do whatever we can to minimise your carbon emissions within each shipment.  


Are there any developments in the pipeline for sustainable transport? 

The transportation sector is working hard to create new solutions that continue to deliver exceptional shipments without harming the environment. Technology is working hard to make these changes happen, from creating better EV infrastructures to creating cleaner technologies to reduce emissions.  

So, what can we expect? 

Well, firstly, the improvements in automation will mean road freight and sea freight will become safer. This is important, not just in the context of road or sea safety, but because any improvements will have a knock-on effect on the environmental impact – such as reducing the likelihood of an oil spill or the use of cleaner fuel alternatives.  

We also think reducing speed limits domestically (as well as internationally) can be beneficial in reducing harmful emissions. For example, if driverless lorries become a reality, having an automated speed sensor to drive at slower speeds will naturally lead to lower emissions and cleaner air quality.  

Finally, the increase in technology means communication and real-time tracking will become much more manageable. As transport infrastructures switch to digital-only platforms and smart logistics, this can have a knock-on effect on carbon emissions. In fact, the EEA Transport and Environment Report 2022 predicts: “This could induce a 0.2-0.3% modal shift to less greenhouse gas-intensive transport modes, corresponding to a reduction of 1.3 billion tonnes of CO2.” 


Waller is here to support your ESG pledges. 

It is our ethos to promise exceptional customer service with affordable transport logistics. We believe we can play a hugely important role in promoting sustainable global transport solutions, and we are actively encouraging all clients to think about their effect on the environment.  


If you’re searching for a sustainable freight option, please get in touch. Together, we can identify a proactive approach that will seamlessly combine your environmental concerns with your financial needs.  


To find out how, please get in touch.