Complex and complicated

To determine the carbon footprint of logistics, you look at the emissions from all those activities to a specific load. At first glance, that seems complicated. Because in practice, there are quite a few different means that are used. Each has its own emissions. They range from trucks, vans and cargo bikes to trains, boats or planes. On the way, the cargo may be stored or reloaded. And sometimes ‘something has to go back’, such as containers, crates, pallets and so on. Sometimes a carrier cannot ‘drive full’ or worse, sometimes it has to drive a stretch without a load. An additional complicating factor is that everyone in the industry likes to outsource work or trips. Fortunately, cargo is increasingly being cleverly combined these days, which saves emissions. But that doesn’t make determining the footprint any easier either. Especially when you consider that shippers like to know the footprint of the entire chain, while transporters prefer to limit themselves to their own contribution.

Green House Gas protocol en EN 16258

Almost all methodologies now use the Green House Gas protocol as a starting point. The European standard EN 16258 was the first major initiative to arrive at a practical and scientifically correct method for assigning emissions to logistics and transport.

In the meantime, there are several initiatives that build on EN 16258 and add additional and tightened methods – frameworks – in specific areas, for example:

  • GLEC comprehensive guidelines for estimating emissions
  • COFRET recommendations for allocation of road transport activity
  • methods specific to global containerized shipping from the Clean Cargo Workgroup

You can think of these frameworks as collections of methods and guidelines, within which users can, in part, choose which standards and data levels to use. As a result, differences arise. These differences can lead to inconsistencies between reporting of emissions and intensities. Many CO2 reduction programs therefore not only designate the frameworks they use, but also supplement them with their own specifications:

  • for emission intensity factors
  • for the way the transport distance is calculated for allocation purposes
  • for the (primary) data requirements

In order to properly deal with accounting registration and control, the Top Sector Logistics in the Netherlands has developed a comprehensive set of guidelines developed which you will find on this website. The guidelines are based on the COFRET recommendations. Based on these guidelines, nowadays tools developed and offered, in addition to the model software.

GHG Protocol

The Green House Gas Protocol is a protocol used by many organizations that consists of accounting and reporting standards, sector guidelines and calculation tools. The protocol was developed in a partnership between the World Resources Institute (WRI) and the Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD).

The GHG Protocol divides emissions into three scopes, which are widely supported among all frameworks and methodologies.

  • Scope 1: Direct GHG emissions from an organization. Includes all emissions that are a direct result of fuel combustion or direct release of GHG from its own activities.
  • Scope 2: Indirect GHG emissions from electricity. Includes all emissions from energy purchased in the form of electricity.
  • Scope 3: Other Indirect GHG emissions. Contains all other emissions resulting from the company’s activities.


GHG protocol 2021

EN 16258

EN 16258 is the European standard for calculating and reporting GHG emissions from transportation. The standard contains general principles, definitions, system boundary descriptions, calculation methods and data recommendations. The standard is widely supported by carbon footprinting tools, programs and participants.

The standard provides guidance on both allocation of consumption and estimation of consumption. It contains detailed emission tank to wheels and well to wheels emission factors for the most commonly used fuels, or blends of fuels (Annex A). For the allocation of fuel to the activity, guidelines are given for handling empty runs and distribution runs. The guidance gives several options for using primary data or estimating fuel consumption, but leaves much interpretation to the user.


  • NEN EN 16258:2012


The Global Logistics Emission Council (GLEC) Framework is a comprehensive methodology based on consensus among GLEC counsel. The framework provides guidelines for the use of primary data, but in particular adds extensive guidance for a more standardized approach to emissions in cases where primary data is not available.

For the allocation of emissions to transportation activity, GLEC makes a number of specifications within EN 16258. Allocation is strictly by weight. Other limiting factors such as volume can only be used as additional factors. Distance determination for determining the transport performance ( to which emissions are allocated in line with EN 16258 is based on planned distance. The main motivation for this choice is ‘support’ among users.

To support the approach to emissions data, a typology of transportation categories is being developed. These include vehicle, freight, contract and geographical characteristics. For these categories, not only specific emission factors are provided, but also assumptions and corrections in terms of filling rates and estimation of distance travelled to determine emissions. In doing so, the framework aims to provide a more precise and transparent approach to estimating emissions.


  • GLEC framework 2020

Clean Cargo Work Group

Clean Cargo Work Group (CCWG) has developed a methodology specifically for container sea freight. The standard builds on the GHG protocol and EN 16258, among others, and is complementary to the GLEC framework.

The program specifies for each situation to what extent and in what level of detail primary data should be used, based on access to information that is reasonably available. For estimating emissions, CCWG provides trade-lane, or even vessel, specific emission intensity factors that are particularly intended for use by shippers.


  • Clean Cargo Working Group Carbon Emissions Accounting Methodology.


COFRET is a European Commission co-funded research project and working group focused on transparency in methods, tools and databases. The project has identified ambiguities in EN 16258 and proposed a framework with possible solutions. One of the outcomes was a method to fairly allocate the emissions of a trip to underlying stops. The project also revealed the need for standardization and guidelines in estimating emissions, which was a direct reason for the development of the GLEC framework.

  • COFRET Report
  • Application note CPI