Major retailers now started to clean up their shipping pollution. Earlier this week nine global giant retailers, including Inc, IKEA, Unilever, Patagonia, and Inditex, the fast-fashion retailer that owns Zara, announced that they are aiming to switch to zero-carbon vessels to ship their goods by 2040.

Joining Amazon and Ikea in the commitment are German retailer Tchibo, sports gear company Brooks Running, Michelin, and FrogBikes.

A surge in demand for retail goods while people have been stuck at home due to lockdowns has led to record high container shipping rates in recent months. Before arriving at our doorsteps or on our nearby retail store, nearly all the goods (~ 90% for sake of a number!) we buy are moved by ship around the world. As a result, the maritime shipping industry is responsible for nearly 3% of the world’s CO2 emissions and the sector is under growing scrutiny to become cleaner.

The companies, who charter cargo space on ships by the millions of tons, were convened by the Aspen Institute nonprofit, and the announcement is intended to galvanize an industry that has so far been moving slowly toward reducing its carbon emissions. Michelle Grose, head of logistics at Unilever, said “By signaling our combined commitment to zero-emission shipping, we are confident that we will accelerate the transition at the pace and the scale that is needed.”

What would a zero-carbon shipping fleet look like?

There are about 50,000 commercial ships in the world, nearly all burning marine fuel oil, a sludgy, noxious byproduct of oil refineries. Decarbonizing the fleet will require a mix of zero-emission fuels, alternative propulsion systems, and design efficiencies, as well as a reduction in demand for international shipping.

What are the challenges to making shipping climate-friendly?

Significant investment is required for technologies to mature and scale. Ammonia and hydrogen fuel cells and combustion engines will have to be developed and tested for commercial vessels. The shipping industry currently uses about 4.5 million barrels of fossil fuels per day, and a sufficient supply of green fuels will need to be produced, for shipping as well as aviation, land-based transport, and other industries that are expected to decarbonize using green hydrogen or ammonia.

Many corporates have covered a long distance in reducing their day-to-day operational and manufacturing emissions now they have started focusing on shipping. It is really a very good sign. They found responsible themselves for this. In the last year or two, companies have reclassified decarbonization from being a side project in the sustainability department to a “business-critical issue”. And while governments, so far, haven’t included shipping emissions in their national plans, some are now considering how to contain these emissions as well.

“There’s a significant development in the perception about what needs to be done,” “and the fact that it’s doable.”

Whether or not shipping will decarbonize is no longer a debate. The question is rather how quickly we can get our collective act together. Big corporates and retailer are doing their part. They are investing in charging infrastructure, deploying all-electric fleets, and re-designing supply chains, distribution channels, installing solar panels on their facilities, warehouses, manufacturing units, purchasing green energy credits, and many more.

The ball is in our court now, we must play our part. Choose EV, install solar panels for clean energy, buy energy-efficient products and conserve energy. There are many things you can do to remove your carbon footprint. But the best thing here is that Staten is here to help you.

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