Passing Zone

Some Shippers Serve Up a Different Take on Green

April 8, 2016

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The Jolly Green Giant of General Mills Image:
The Jolly Green Giant of General Mills Image:

Not counting what they shell out in dues to trade associations and behemoth lobbies like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, American businesses collectively spend millions upon millions of dollars every year lobbying the government to influence legislation and regulations.

That should surprise no one. But what might is that not every big U.S. company lobbies strictly to benefit itself.  

What we’re talking about here are companies that practice what John Mackey, co-CEO and co-founder of Whole Foods Market, calls “Conscious Capitalism.”

In a Harvard Business Review post, Mackey defines Conscious Capitalism as “a way of thinking about capitalism and business that better reflects where we are in the human journey, the state of our world today, and the innate potential of business to make a positive impact on the world.”

If that sounds too precious, he goes on to argue that working with a “higher state of consciousness” makes visible to such companies “the interdependencies that exist across all stakeholders, allowing them to discover and harvest synergies from situations that otherwise seem replete with trade-offs.”

That line or reasoning is reflected in a recent letter sent by top executives of 11 name-brand natural food suppliers (including General Mills and Ben & Jerry’s) plus outdoors outfitter Patagonia to the chiefs of the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The writers urge the regulators to tighten and speed up the proposed Phase 2 round of GHG/MPG standards for commercial trucks.

That’s right. Tighten, not loosen. Speed up, not slow down. These dozen “conscious businesses” are lobbying to get the fuel consumption of heavy trucks cut by 40% by 2025. By contrast, the current federal proposal is to reduce that fuel use by 36% and do so by 2027.

Noting that their firms and parent companies and the retailers they serve collectively represent more than half-a-billion freight miles driven annually, the signers concede that the proposed rule is “a critical step forward.”

Nonetheless, they contend that the two agencies should “take advantage of known technologies to meet a stronger standard that would be both feasible and cost-effective.”

Making the point that they are not about baking pie in the sky, the executives state that they believe “stronger cost-effective standards make economic and environmental sense. Our businesses depend on trucks to transport products, and an efficient trucking industry in the years ahead will continue to be critical to success. The availability of fuel-efficient trucks is critical to reducing our carbon footprints as well as our fuel costs.”

They then offer this calculation to buttress their contention: “As compared to the proposed standards, a 40% reduction in fuel use would cut an additional 200,000 barrels of oil daily in 2035 and provide 33% more in fuel cost savings. Strong efficiency standards for heavy trucks will help our companies avoid billions of dollars in fuel costs and at the same time support the U.S. economy by keeping product transportation affordable and insulating freight costs from volatile global and regional crude oil prices.”

Naturally, the executives also discuss the positive impact tighter fuel-efficiency standards applied sooner will have on reducing “climate warming carbon emissions,” but they wrap up with yet more business sense.

“Strong standards will be good for businesses, the trucking industry and American consumers,” they tell the regulators. “Importantly, the financial benefits of strong standards will be significantly greater than the costs. These lower life cycle costs will start accruing as soon as the first new trucks enter into service. In fact, trucking will see lower life cycle costs right away and these savings will grow to $0.21 cents a mile in 2040; that is an annual savings potential of more than $25 billion.”

No matter what you think of climate change or natural foods, for that matter, it’s hard to argue with numbers like those.


  1. 1. Dan [ April 11, 2016 @ 05:32AM ]

    The 2016 tractor can already meet the 2027 Ghg requirements. The problem is, the truck combination will only be able to carry a fourth of Mr.Mackey's high dollar lettuce. It will also take an extra day to deliver. As the vehicle speed will have to be reduced. And if the weather is not favorable add an extra day for delivery.

    A 40 percent reduction will be extremely costly to the supply chain. So shippers should be prepared to pay more. Quit calling for the transportation companies to lower their rates. You already have great deal. Remember it is called "Conscious Capitalism "


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David Cullen

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Executive Editor David Cullen comments on the positive and negative factors impacting trucking – from the latest government regulations and policy initiatives coming out of Washington DC to the array of business and societal pressures that also determine what truck-fleet managers must do to ensure their operations keep on driving ahead.


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