Every year, around 200 million tons of CO2 are emitted by trucks in Europe. To neutralize these emissions, 4 billion trees would be needed – roughly a forest the size of Germany. In light of these figures, the call for a more sustainable logistics is becoming louder and louder. Many factors indicate that this is not a fast-moving trend, but rather that the issue of sustainability will become an integral part of all areas of the supply chain. The logistics industry is therefore being asked to develop innovative solutions for better environmental management. At InstaFreight, we see many opportunities especially in the utilization of technology. In this interview, Elena Traut, who is responsible for our sustainability solutions, explains the strategy we are pursuing.

1. Hi Elena, how did the development of a sustainability strategy at InstaFreight originate?

Sustainability has been part of our DNA since day one. InstaFreight was founded in 2016 with the vision of making transport logistics more efficient and thus more sustainable. In this context, economic and ecological goals are not at odds with each other, but complement one another. An important basis is our data-driven approach, through which we not only achieve significant optimization of transport processes, but also save CO2 emissions. For these and other measures, we received the ISO 14001 certificate for sustainable environmental management last year.

2. What are the elements of our sustainability strategy? 

We pick up on the key challenges for shippers. What frequently causes our customers a major headache is that they often don’t know how much CO2 their transports emit in the first place. However, this is a prerequisite for reducing emissions. The first element of our sustainability strategy is therefore our sustainability reporting, which provides shippers and carriers with an overview of the CO2 emissions generated by their transports.

Based on this, we develop a strategy together with our customers to reduce their CO2 emissions in the future. This second element offers various approaches: Through our matching algorithm, we immediately carry out conventional road transports with diesel trucks more efficiently and sustainably. In addition, we are replacing diesel transports with more environmentally friendly alternatives wherever it is reasonable and possible: With Intermodal, we are focusing on increased use of rail. Moreover, through our large carrier network we have access to trucks running on alternative fuels.

3. You mentioned your sustainability reporting. What exactly is it about?

The sustainability reporting is based on the transport data from our Track & Trace. Via a connection to more than 500 telematics systems, we not only provide the customer with real-time transport tracking, but also record the actual ton kilometers driven. In combination with our technical data on trucks and loads, we determine the CO2 emissions of all the customer’s loads on an individual transport or relation basis. Of course, our reporting complies with the international GLEC guidelines for emissions reporting. This way, we ensure maximum transparency and quality.

4. How can your matching algorithm reduce CO2 emissions?

Our matching algorithm is based on internal data on carrier equipment and quality and is further enriched by external data to ensure a precise transport matching. For each transport order, an automated ranking is created of those carriers that best meet the relevant criteria, still have capacities available and are nearby. This way, the algorithm supports our dispatchers in selecting the most suitable carrier. The latter also has the option of setting his preferred routes on our platform. We then offer him suitable (back)loads on his routes. These measures increase truck capacity utilization and reduce empty runs, significantly improving the carbon footprint of the transports. Our goal is to save up to 500 tons of CO2 annually as a result.

5. In which cases does InstaFreight already count on intermodal transports? And what potential do you see here for the future?

In some cases, the advantages of trucks are still unbeatable, e.g. for time-critical transports over short distances. In other cases, however, shifting volume to rail can be a real alternative, saving up to 82 percent CO2

Currently, we use combined transport especially when the customer has a clear sustainability focus and/or these three criteria are met: The cargo is (i) heavy, is transported over a (ii) long distance, and is (iii) not time-critical. If these factors combine, it is worthwhile for a company to switch to intermodal not only from an environmental perspective, but also from a financial one. Pre-carriage and on-carriage then become less important and the price per ton kilometer decreases.

Overall, we consider intermodal transport to have great potential for the future, because our customers are increasingly willing to use sustainable solutions. We support that and have set ourselves the goal of shifting 10 percent of transport volume from road to rail every year. 

6. Alternative fuels are currently a big topic. Which drive technologies do InstaFreight’s transport partners use and what is the strategic focus?

You have to face the facts here: Of the 3,3 million trucks on Germany’s roads, almost all are currently (still) refueling with diesel, as this technology simply has the best infrastructure. Alternative fuels, however, are on the rise. 

With Shell, we have a strong cooperation partner at our side who, among other things, relies on LNG drive. This means we can already offer our customers an alternative to diesel transport via our carrier network.

At the same time, we are looking intensively at other environmentally friendly drive options. We will initially test alternative fuels on selected routes with around 5 percent of our transport volume and then gradually increase the proportion. In the medium term, we plan to establish a nationwide, sustainable carrier network with a focus on international transport.

7. So far, the interview primarily has been about the sustainability strategy behind InstaFreight’s business model. What are we doing to reduce our own emissions?

Of course, as a company we also want to set an example ourselves. We therefore reduce our direct emissions wherever possible. For example, we are currently implementing a “train-over-plane policy” that provides for environmentally friendly train travel for short- and medium-haul business trips. We also aim to run all offices on 100 % green electricity in the future. 

Where a further reduction of our emissions is no longer possible, we rely on CO2 offsetting: We compensate our remaining emissions via selected environmental projects and have been climate-neutral since 2020 as a result of these measures.

8. What other sustainability projects and measures is InstaFreight currently planning? Can you already tell us something about them?

We are currently focusing on optimizing our matching algorithm so that in the future we can take into account additional environmental criteria such as new types of drive and their fuel consumption when selecting carriers. This will enable us to calculate the environmental footprint of transports even more accurately. In addition, we are now working on the further development of our sustainability reporting. We look forward to sharing more about these projects soon. 

9. Is there anything else that is important to you when it comes to sustainability?

Yes. As with many other things, when it comes to sustainability, you can’t get very far as a lone wolf. Carriers, shippers, InstaFreight – we all have to pull together to make logistics greener. Sustainability is teamwork.