Reduce your scope 3 emissions thanks to rail transport

March 8, 2024

A reminder of the implications of scope 3, and why increased use of rail freight reduces your carbon footprint.

Controlling and reducing greenhouse gas emissions is now one of the challenges for all industrial shippers, in all sectors combined. This carbon balance is managed through numerous levers, all specific to the source of carbon emissions concerned. Emissions directly linked to the production activity of companies are the most monitored. What about those who revolve around this production?

Scope 1, 2 and 3: direct and indirect emissions classified by perimeter

As part of a company's greenhouse gas emissions balance, the terms scope 1, scope 2 and scope 3 cannot be avoided. They classify the company's emissions by scope, in order to facilitate their calculation and control. Scope 1 represents the narrowest perimeter; scope 3, the broadest.

  • Scope 1: emissions directly linked to the manufacture of the product (raw materials used, fuel combustion, etc.)
  • Scope 2: indirect emissions related to the energy consumption required to manufacture the product (electricity consumption for example)
  • Scope 3: other emissions indirectly produced by the company's activities not included in scope 2, but included in the complete supply chain (purchase of raw materials, travel of employees, transport of goods up and down stream, etc.)

There is also a scope 4 linked to avoided emissions, corresponding to emissions avoided by the company outside its perimeter. Typically, carbon offsetting actions.

Lowering scope 3 emissions thanks to rail transport

For many industrial shippers, freight transport represents a significant part of scope 3 greenhouse gas emissions. Freight is in fact highly active, whether upstream of production, internally, and in the direction of the end customer. For some sectors, such as the chemical sector, the mode of transport is regulated for safety reasons. For many others, this mode of transport is chosen based on cost and availability.

The most preferred mode of transport is road transport. It is also the most polluting mode of transport: 94.9 grams of CO2 per tonne-kilometer. In comparison, rail transport has a carbon impact that is 9 times less significant. Under these conditions, the modal shift from road to rail makes perfect sense, and is an effective method to improve its carbon footprint.

Rail transport emits 9 times less CO2, and consumes 6 times less energy, than road transport.

Calculating the CO2 emissions associated with rail freight operations then makes perfect sense.. Measuring your emissions not only allows you to control them and to have a baseline to reduce them, but also to value your results and efforts in terms of decarbonization.

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