This feature calculates emissions from two GHGP categories: Upstream transportation and distribution (category 4) and Downstream transportation and distribution (category 9).
Updated: August 2023
This feature calculates emissions from the movement and storage of goods you make and goods you purchase from third parties like shipping partners, logistics providers ,or your suppliers and includes transportation emissions from the goods you purchase.
Transportation of goods you purchase from your immediate (tier 1) suppliers regardless of who pays for this transportation.
Transportation of goods you sell and transport at your expense. This includes outbound logistics which are considered upstream because they are a service your organization purchases.
Storage of your products or materials in a third-party warehouse or distribution center.
Transportation of goods you sell where you do not pay for the transportation. This includes shipping services you procure on behalf of your customer at the customer’s expense.
Storage of your products in third-party retail stores you sell to. The following table summarizes how to categorize transportation emissions based on whether your organization pays for the transportation and what is being transported.
|Purchased goods from tier 1 suppliers||Goods sold to customers||Intra-company shipments*|
|Company pays for shipping||Upstream||Upstream||Upstream|
|Company does not pay for shipping||Upstream||Downstream||N/A|
*includes all movement of materials/goods between your own facilities done in third party vehicles
Calculating transportation emissions
Sustain.Life uses several methods to calculate transportation emissions based on the data you provide. The preferred approach is the distance-based method, which is based on origin and destination data from your shipments. Sustain.Life calculates the total distance the shipment traveled and then combines it with the weight to calculate ton-mileage. This is multiplied by an established emissions factor for that mode. The total distance calculated depends on the transportation mode, since each mode utilizes its own transportation network. Sustain.Life can also calculate emissions based on spend data. For this Sustain.Life uses emission factors from environmentally extended input output (EEIO) models, which establish the emissions per dollar revenue of different transportation modes.
The spend-based method is less accurate than the distance-based method and should only be used when origin/destination cannot be obtained or if transportation is not a significant source of emissions for your company.
If you have multi-modal shipments, it is recommended to classify them by their predominant mode unless one of the legs was by air, in which case, it should be classified as air. This is because air freight has by far the greatest carbon intensity of any mode. For example, if you have a shipment that travels by sea for most of the trip, but final delivery is done by a truck, then classify it as sea. If you have a shipment that travels by sea for most of the trip but also travels by air and truck, classify it as air.
Calculating warehouse and retail store emissions
For calculating warehouse and retail store emissions, Sustain.Life multiplies a daily emissions factor by the weight of goods stored and the number of days of storage. Since the actual amount of goods stored is likely to fluctuate over the time period (especially for retail stores), Sustain.Life asks for the average weight of goods over that time period.
Navigate to Measure > Product > Transportation & distribution. The first time you land on this category page, you’ll need to set your preferences. Enable the preferences that are applicable to your organization and save.
You can always come back to this page to adjust your preferences by selecting the input settings icon.
From the category page, select the “+” icon to add a new entry.
First, select the location for which you’re tracking data. You’ll also need to select a date range to accurately calculate any warehousing and retail emissions.
Once you’ve selected your location and date range, enter your data. If you’re selected upstream and/or downstream shipping preferences, you’ll need to upload a file containing individual shipment data. Select Upload to proceed.
If you have shipping data, you’ll need to upload a document with your shipment information. This could be an export from your shipment history with your carriers. For each shipment, you have two options:
Note: For Downstream transportation, if you don’t have shipping records or only have a partial set, Sustain.Life will extrapolate emissions based on your existing shipping patterns.
Using the template
– Select Download a template on the upload screen. Add data manually or copy and paste into the template from another source.
– From your downloads folder, open the Excel template.
– Add data manually or copy and paste into the template from another source.
Date: Date of shipment
Shipment weight: Weight of shipment
Units: Units of measure for shipment weight, must be g, kg, lb, oz, t, or MT
Origin address: Where the shipment originated. If you’re calculating emissions for road, rail, or sea based on weight/distance, this information is required. Postal code and country and required, but additional details will result in a more accurate distance calculation.
Origin street address
Origin postal code
Destination address: Where the shipment arrived. If you’re calculating emissions for road, rail, or sea based on weight/distance, this information is required. Postal code and country and required, but additional details will result in a more accurate distance calculation.
Destination street address
Destination postal code
Airports: If the mode of transport for the shipment is air, you must provide the 3-letter airport codes for the origin and destination locations.
Spend: If you’re calculating emissions based on spend, this field is required. Note that you can only use spend for upstream calculations, not downstream.
Currency: Currency type. Supported currencies:
Mode: Mode of transportation. Must be road, air, rail, or sea.
Up/Down: Type of transportation and distribution. Must be either “Upstream” or “Downstream”.
The Excel template contains validation. If you attempt to enter an unsupported unit of measure, airport code, country code, mode of transport, or type of transportation and distribution, you will get an error.
Note: Your Excel inputs cannot contain formulas. If your cells reference other cells or files with a formula, please copy and paste values before you upload.
To upload your spreadsheet.
You’ll see a preview of the first 10 rows. Review and confirm this is the correct data before proceeding.
If it isn’t the correct data, cancel and start over.
If relevant, also provide the average weight or volume of goods in your third-party warehouses or retail stores. This needs to be split out across ambient and refrigerated goods. You can select between lb, g, kg, oz, short tons, and MT for units of measure.
Once you’ve uploaded your relevant shipment, retail, and warehousing data, save. A screen with a processing message will appear. You can navigate away from the page or leave the platform while you wait. Depending on the number of shipments, processing could take a few minutes while we calculate distance and emissions. You’ll receive an email when the processing job is done, and your emissions result will appear as a new line in the ledger.
For a high-level summary of amount, spend, and emissions data across all your entries, view the category card.
If you’ve uploaded shipment data, you can also drill down into the individual shipments and associated distance and emissions by selecting view on the relevant row from the ledger.
Lastly, to see the detailed analytics dashboard for the Transportation and distribution category, select the Reports icon from the category page. Or, go to the top navigation Reports > Reports > Transportation and distribution report.
From the analytics dashboard, you can view Transportation and distribution data month-over-month, across locations, and across modes of transport.
From the T&D details tab, you can also view the line-by-line shipment data and download as a .csv for offline use.
How often should I upload transportation and distribution data?
Typically, transportation and distribution emissions are calculated annually and align with your fiscal year. If I have already calculated my emissions, but need to update my entry, how do I do that? From the category ledger, click the “kebob” for the relevant row and select delete.
Then start a new entry with the updated information.
How should I enter shipments that use multiple modes of transportation?
Shipments utilizing multiple modes of transportation are quite common, especially for non-road shipments, where the first and final leg of the shipment is normally done by a truck. For example, an air shipment will typically be delivered to the airport in a truck and the final delivery from the airport is done in a truck. The most accurate way to account for these types of shipments is to separate each leg of the shipment into it’s own row. The calculator does not account for these different legs automatically.
Generally, however, breaking out the first- and last-leg of a shipment into their different modes does not have a large impact on emissions calculations because they represent a small portion of the total trip. In cases where the secondary mode is only for a small portion of the total trip (such as the first and last legs), it’s recommended that you categorize the entire shipment as the predominant mode (see scenario 1 below).
In cases where the secondary mode is a large portion of the total trip, it’s recommended that you break it out (see scenario 2 below).
Scenario 1, Road -> Air -> Road:
Scenario 2, Road -> Air -> Sea -> Road
How should I enter transportation from fulfillment services that I pay for?
Third-party fulfillment services warehouse, pack, and ship your orders to customers. In this scenario, the product is not considered a sold good until the end user makes the purchase. These arrangements incur three sources of emissions that may factor into your emissions inventory:
All three sources of emissions should be accounted for in this calculator. Whether the transportation emissions are upstream or downstream will depend on whether you pay for the transportation or if the fulfiller or end user does.
What’s the difference between utilizing fulfillment services and selling to a retailer?
Several e-commerce platforms, such as Amazon, can act as either fulfillers or online retailers. Knowing the distinction is important because emissions are accounted for differently under each scenario. The difference lies in who you are selling your products to as illustrated in the following scenarios:
Scenario 1: If the e-commerce platform is purchasing your products for their own resale, then they are a retailer.
Scenario 2: If the e-commerce platform is not purchasing your products, but rather storing, packing, and shipping them (i.e., fulfilling orders) then they are a fulfiller or logistics services provider.
To account for their emissions, see “How should I enter transportation from fulfillment services that I pay for?”
Shipment data can be hard for me to collect. Can Sustain.Life calculate emissions if I only have partial shipment data?
Data for downstream transportation is often difficult to obtain in instances where the buyer provides or procures their own transportation. If you are unable to obtain downstream transportation data, Sustain.Life can extrapolate your downstream emissions based on your upstream transportation patterns. For upstream transportation, Sustain.Life is unable to provide extrapolation. However, since most upstream transportation consists of shipments that you either paid for or resulted from products your purchased, data should be easier to obtain. It’s recommended to reach out to your parcel carriers and tier 1 suppliers for data.
Why do I need to provide a date range? Does my data upload need to fall within the start and end dates of that range?
Yes, your data upload needs to fall within the start and end dates of the range. To calculate retail and warehousing emissions, Sustain.Life multiplies a daily emission factor by the weight of goods stored and the number of days of storage. Also, because Sustain.Life can provide extrapolation for downstream transportation even if you don’t have the data for the entire period, Sustain.Life needs to know the date range you’re tracking against in order to accurately calculate emissions.
When the user inputs shipment weight along with origin and destination information, we follow the Global Logistics Emissions Council's (GLEC) Framework for calculating logistics emissions. For transportation emissions, we multiply the emission factor by the weight of the shipment and the distance it was shipped. We calculate distance differently for each mode:
For road transport, we use shortest feasible distance (SFD), which is the shortest road network distance between two points, and add 5% per GLEC guidance to bring the estimate closer to actual distance.
For air transport, we use great circle distance in accordance with the Internation Air Transport Association's RP 1678.
For sea transport, we use the Sea Distance database from Centre d'Études et de Recherches sur le Développement International (CERDI) which provides sea route distance between common ports in country pairs. We then add 15% per GLEC guidance to bring the estimate closer to the actual distance.
For rail transport, due to the lack of standardized data on global rail networks, we use the SFD approach for road distance as a proxy.
For all modes, we use blended emission factors comprised of the major fuel types for that mode.
When calculating warehousing emissions, we multiply the emission factor by the weight of the goods and length of storage time. When the user provides volume of goods, we convert that to weight using the "Average Goods" conversion provided by GLEC.
To categorize road and air transport distances into short-, medium-, and long-haul, we use the following bins:
Short haul: < 1000km
Medium haul: 1000km - 3700km
Long haul: >3700km
Short haul: < 30km
Medium haul: 30km - 200km
Long haul: >200km
We assume different truck types for each road transport trip distance. For example, for the EU we assume short haul trips are done with commercial van/small box trucks, medium haul trips are done with medium-goods vehicles, and long-haul trips are done with heavy-goods vehicles.
When the user inputs spend data, we adjust for inflation and then multiply the spent amount by the EPA EEIO emission factor for the given mode.
We assume that each shipment uses a single mode of transport. Although this is not often the case, by selecting the prominent mode or selecting air (if air transport is involved), the calculator will provide a sufficient estimate. To achieve the most accurate calculation, users should separate each leg of the journey into their respective modes.
We assume that the start and end of each trip is at a transshipment site, which transfers the cargo to/from the transport vehicle. For sea shipments, we assume this occurs at a maritime container terminal.
We assume that all sea shipments are containerized and transported via general cargo ships and that all road transport is non-refrigerated.
If exact addresses are not given for origin and destination, we assume that origin/destination locations are the geographic centroids for the given cities.
This calculator will provide less accurate results for shipments that use many different modes, refrigerated shipments, or shipments with road transport carriers where a significant portion of their fleet is electrified or uses biofuel.
Because our emission factor for warehousing is a global value based on EU logistic sites, it may be less accurate outside of the EU (although it is deemed sufficient by GLEC).
In general, results based on spend data should be taken to be high-level estimates due to the inherent inaccuracies of spend-based analysis. Furthermore, the EPA EEIO dataset is specific to the US, therefore the spend-based approach is even less accurate for non-US transportation.
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