At the beginning of September 2020, the Humanitarian Logistics Association (HLA) partnered with Professor Alan McKinnon of Kuehne Logistics University and Kathleen Hegyesi, a Senior Program Manager at to deliver a free webinar on reducing carbon emissions within the logistics sector. The webinar (later shared on YouTube) was a resounding success, with participants tuning in from all over the world from various organisations interested in reducing their carbon emissions. 

Professor McKinnon, an expert within the logistics sector who focusses on reducing the climate impact of the logistics sector through decarbonisation research and strategies, provided plenty of food for thought as to how humanitarian logisticians could revise or introduce an effective strategy for decarbonisation into their operations.

A prevailing problem

As experts have been saying for years, the earth is experiencing climate impacts, attributed to the carbon output from human activities. As such, there has been a call to act responsibly to avert the impending climate crisis, as the world is currently on course to reach a ‘point of no return’ in the near future if action is not taken. With this in mind, it is therefore crucial that organisations within the logistics sector, which contributes to 10-11% of global CO2 emissions, take the necessary action.

However, the COVID-19 pandemic emerged and has shaken up the world. Commercial air travel came to a grinding halt. People started working from home, reducing road traffic significantly. And of course, lots of operations that use a lot of energy ceased. The impact of the COVID-19 lockdown can be seen very clearly by examining CO2 emissions, which at its peak reduced CO2 emissions by 17%. Unfortunately, this dramatic reduction in carbon output was not enough to put the world on a trajectory to meet our carbon emission targets. This highlights that the task of reducing carbon intensity is going to require a momentous effort, but one that is incredibly important nonetheless. For example, McKinnon highlighted the increasing frequency of freak extreme weather events, which are unfortunately fast becoming the norm. 

These extreme weather events, and the resulting humanitarian crises, are increasing the demand on the logistics sector, and increasing the sectors carbon intensity. Much like our global targets, the logistics sector needs to dramatically change its approach to emissions to offset and reverse climate change.


A call to action 

McKinnon and Hegyesi walked participants through the process logistics organisations must go through to develop their carbon reduction strategies, with McKinnon offering a comprehensive insight into his 10 C’s process for strategy formulation:

  1. Corporate motivation
  2. Calculate emissions
  3. Commit to targets
  4. Consider options 
  5. Collaborate
  6. Cost evaluation
  7. Choose appropriate action
  8. Carbon offset
  9. Cut emissions
  10. Calibrate strategy




In Hegyesi’s presentation, she built on McKinnon’s argument that measurement/calculation is a key aspect to constructing an effective carbon reduction strategy. Flexport offers several key services, overseeing land, sea and air freight, as well as warehousing and financing that can aid organisations in developing and implementing their strategy effectively. Flexport also offers a fantastic pro bono service to non-profits and charities, as well as other organisations, in generating a positive strategy that can help organisations reduce and offset their emissions. She therefore identified the 3-step process for organisations to follow in building this strategy. Firstly, organisations must measure their emissions – which Flexport can help with using their emissions calculator. Secondly, Flexport can help organisations reduce emissions, helping them set meaningful targets, collaborate with providers, and implement a regular review process. Thirdly, Flexport can help organisations offset what they can’t reduce, showing organisations how their strategy can incorporate a wider strategy, for example to help conservation efforts and reduce deforestation, as well as reducing emissions overall.

Om the whole, it was agreed that the webinar was a great success and really useful in introducing these concepts to stakeholders in the humanitarian sector. The hope is that it has inspired these organisations to take on the rewarding challenge of reducing carbon emissions within their operations.  As a follow on to these conversations, HLA Chief Executive George Fenton will be moderating a workshop on Market Systems Analysis at the Health & Humanitarian Logistics Conference 2020 in late September where there is the opportunity to explore this further. Regular updates on this and other future activities are available across the HLA’s social media platforms