Tracking and reducing Scope 3 carbon emissions across the transportation supply chain is a daunting challenge facing the commercial trucking industry.
Alex Scott, associate professor and Gerald T. Niedert professor in the Haslam College of Business at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, spent nearly a decade working in the transportation sector and years researching supply chain policy and sustainability.
At least in the short and medium term, there is no silver bullet for sustainability,” Scott said. “In transportation, there will always be emissions. It’s very difficult to get to zero emissions, but we can meaningfully reduce them.”
The UT Research Foundation recently licensed technology to Sustainable Logistics, a data services company providing sustainability insights in the truck transportation space. Scott founded Sustainable Logistics after developing the Fleet Sustainability Index, a data service that provides carbon emissions factors for nearly every trucking fleet.
With Scott’s index, users can estimate past emissions using accessible data and select and score carriers based on their emissions factors. When shippers want to hire a carrier, they consider price and service offerings, but with Scott’s index, they now have the option to factor sustainability into their decision-making process.
If we can provide carrier-level visibility, we can help solve the sustainability problem in transportation,” said Scott. “It enables shippers to select carriers based on sustainability. And if shippers can influence carriers, then carriers will buy cleaner trucks.”
While eliminating emissions from the transportation sector is no easy feat, Scott believes his solution can play a vital role in emissions reductions. Over his career, Scott has witnessed the industry’s growing interest in sustainable practices and opportunities. The passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, corporate sustainability goals and consumer interest have helped drive this evolution.
Thousands of companies could use this tool,” said Scott. “We hope it becomes an industry standard and will be widely used throughout the industry by everybody with a large supply chain.”
Through UTRF, Scott has met with several interested companies and hopes to have several active customers soon.
UTRF has been very supportive and provides great advice,” said Scott. “Starting up a business is not something that college professors do on a regular basis. UTRF has been invaluable in this process. I don’t think I could have done it without them.”
UTRF also paired Scott with an Entrepreneur-in-Residence who provides additional advice and connections.
Developing a technology is one thing – knowing how to bring it to market is another beast entirely,” said UTRF Vice President Kusum Rathore. “UTRF is pleased to pair innovators like Scott with knowledgeable entrepreneurs to strategize and expand their work in the long term.”
Coming from industry and academia, Scott never thought he would become a startup founder. Navigating entrepreneurship and commercialization of his technology has been challenging but rewarding.
It’s unique and not something I’ll ever get to do again,” he said. “I have to wear so many different hats. I’ve always been the data guy, but now I am also the marketing and sales guy. It could be overwhelming, but it’s fun. It’s been a great journey so far.”