Greener moves, greater margins

Raphaël Baptista, founder and CEO of easyGroupage – a platform for movers to take advantage of unused shipping capacity – says ‘co-opetition’ is the perfect starting point to develop more environmentally friendly moves for clients, and boost margins, too

Let’s admit it. Transport inefficiencies are a plague for our industry.

I am not talking about the current state of the global supply chain. That chaos is a combination of circumstances that, for us movers, are pretty much out of our control.

I am talking about the many millions of kilometres that are travelled by empty vehicles. All the empty space that is shipped in our containers. All those avoidable CO2 emissions. All those unnecessary costs.

Across Europe, some 20 per cent of road freight kilometres are travelled by empty vehicles. There is little specific data for our sector but, with fewer opportunities to backload than our general cargo counterparts, there is little doubt this number is higher.

For container shipping, data is simply not available. But any international mover will confirm that every container they ship isn’t full.

With environmental sustainability a growing concern, transport inefficiencies have the potential to become the biggest leverage our industry has for reducing emissions, with the added bonus that selling eco-friendlier moves also presents us with the opportunity to increase margins.

There are many reasons for movers to cooperate with their competition. If a project is too big or too risky for one company to manage, collaboration may be the only option. Consider the recent $US6.2 billion military contract award to HomeSafe Alliance.

At a basic level, cooperation between competitors can save costs and avoid duplication of effort. In Sweden, for example, breweries work together to return empty beer bottles from wholesalers to cut down their transport costs. Consider rival automobile manufacturers that share technology and resources – while still competing for customers through branding and by producing slightly different models.

That is called ‘co-opetition’ – a concept that has been embraced by our industry for decades. We cooperate with each other at a global level, working as competitors one day, partners the next. Co-opetition is structural in our industry; it’s in our DNA.

So, why not collaborate more? By teaming up with local competitors, we can gain better leverage on our current transport capabilities – and build new ones.

Imagine your competition had a real-time view of the space availability in your trucks and containers. Embracing mover-to-mover transport consolidation would bring an immediate solution to our clients’ environmental concerns. It would also mean we could increase our margins significantly.

Addressing our clients’ concern about the environmental impact of their move can be done pretty quickly. To start with, we can give clients the transparency they demand about the carbon footprint of their move. We need to provide figures, with the CO2 emissions reflected in our quotes.

This becomes a great opportunity for our industry. Our clients expect to pay more for a greener move. But we all know there is a green option that actually costs less than the traditional dedicated transport. And not only greener; it’s cheaper, too. By offering the option to co-load a shipment, we’d offer a greener option.

Obviously, this cannot be done by movers alone. All our industry’s stakeholders have a part to play.

Associations would have to come together and help us choose between the numerous carbon footprint calculators available online and set standard calculations for the industry. They can help highlight the most eco-friendly movers with certification.

Technology providers have the means to help us find backloads easily. Building application programming interfaces would give us the option to share our schedules and space availability.

Some of us are comfortable with the idea of multiple winners, and some are not. As movers, we have our part to play too, working to foster deeper co-opetition – for the benefit of everyone involved. 

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