Best Industry Practice - IRU Agenda for Sustainable Development

Best Industry Practice - IRU Agenda for Sustainable Development


J Huegel, International Road Transport Union, CH



Road Transport carries more than 70% of goods by volume and more than 90% by value. Road transport is not the problem; it is the solution. The challenge is to make it even more compatible with sustainable development ? the policy goal adopted by the United Nations as part of Agenda 21 at the First Earth Summit in Rio in 1992. Decoupling paves the way to sustainable development. Nowadays the word decoupling has been too much simplified. Originally, the decoupling debate was initiated by the German Wupptertal Institute with their so called factor 4 discussion, meaning if we want to double our status quo we need to cut in half the environmental impact to achieve sustainable development.

To date, the road transport industry is the only transport mode that has committed itself to the goal of sustainable development. It has, in fact, taken the lead in the transport sector. For the International Road Transport Union (IRU), working towards sustainable development is not only a long-term commitment, but also a constitutional obligation. The IRU, as the global representative of the road transport sector, works hand-in-hand with its national Member Associations in driving towards sustainable development. By using top-down and bottom-up approaches, the sector simultaneously signals the importance of sustainable development to its future while helping operators to learn from each others? experiences at all levels.

Speaking in terms of decoupling for the road transport industry, it means:

* Continue to decouple road transport form environmental impact
* Continue to decouple road transport form unlawful social performance
* Economic growth depends on road transport and road transport is already decoupled from economic growth (measured in tones)

IRU has confirmed its commitment to sustainable development through various publications and its proactive initiatives that clearly demonstrate the road transport sector?s achievements and its willingness to implement best practices and technologies.

The International Road Transport Union
The IRU, through its national associations, represents the entire road transport industry world-wide. It speaks for the operators of buses, coaches, taxis and trucks, from large transport fleets to owner-drivers. By working to achieve the highest professional standards, the IRU improves the safety record and environmental performance of road transport and ensures the mobility of people and goods. Among its practical services to the industry, the IRU manages the TIR customs transit system under which trucks are sealed by customs upon departure and can cross several borders without further checks until they reach their destinations.

At the 1992 ?Rio Earth Summit?, member governments of the UN adopted Agenda 21, the comprehensive blueprint for achieving sustainable development worldwide. As called for in the Agenda?s Chapters 27 and 30 on strengthening the role of non-governmental partners, business and industry, the road transport industry developed the IRU Charter for Sustainable Development which was unanimously adopted by all IRU Members at its World Congress in Budapest in 1996 and which marks the starting point for the IRU Agenda for Sustainable Development. The proactive IRU Charter is a commitment of the whole road transport industry to realise its responsibility to provide the cleanest, quietest, safest and most efficient service possible while recognising that its clients, responding to consumer trends and market demand, have the greatest influence on transport flows. To date, road transport is the only mode of transport, which has committed itself to this fundamental goal.

The IRU Charter was followed one year later by another step forward by the road transport industry: the IRU Initiative Driving towards Sustainable Development which sets out the principles, prerequisites, policies and practices for achieving sustainable development in the road transport sector. The Initiative clarifies a number of key issues, including recognition that sustainable development is a multi-dimensional goal, which combines ecological aspects with economic and social objectives. Further, it encourages the development of long-term co-operation and common goals between governments, national Associations and fleet operators aimed at improving environment and energy efficiency, as well as road safety, by each party fulfilling its respective responsibilities.

IRU?s 3 ?i?s for Sustainable Development as elaborated in the IRU Initiative Driving towards Sustainable Development The critical success factors for achieving sustainable development are:

* Innovation: ?At source? technical developments and better operating practices are the most efficient and cost-effective measures for improving the environmental performance of road transport.
* Incentives: Engagement of governments to reward implementation of Best Industry Practices and best available technology to expedite widespread implementation.
* Infrastructure: Improved traffic flow is a sine qua non precondition for sustainable development and requires more investments in road infrastructure.

This strategy is also presented in the Report ?Industry as a partner for sustainable development ? road transport? which was prepared by IRU upon invitation and endorsed by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) for the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg (Rio+10). Before publication, the contents of the Report were discussed at a multi-stakeholder dialogue; resulting in a very balanced account of IRU?s policy and achievements. All participant of the multi-stakeholder dialogue (representatives form: labor unions, research institutes, EC, ILO, WTO, Greenpeace, Friends of the earth, VW, Ford, Honda etc.) agreed apart form the IRU strategy the way to sustainable development is paved by decoupling defined in the following way:

* Continue to decouple road transport form environmental impact
* Continue to decouple road transport form unlawful social performance
* Economic growth depends on road transport and road transport is already decoupled from economic growth (measured in tones)

In order to achieve this decoupling the IRU developed the IRU Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Subsequent to the IRU Charter and the IRU Initiative, the IRU developed the Guide to Sustainable Development, published in September 2000. The Guide presents national action programmes from IRU Member Associations from Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, and the United Kingdom, the pioneers in striving for sustainable development. Synthesising these pioneering experiences, the IRU Guide lays out a flexible modular model for all IRU Member Associations, who can choose tailored programmes that will contribute to achieve sustainable development. In other words, the Guide helps to implement measures that will significantly improve environmental performance, safety, fuel consumption and ? at the same time ? the profitability of transport operators.

The IRU Report in Road Transport Best Industry Practices is part of this modular approach; it realises the module 5 of the Guide ?Promotion of Best Industry Practices?. Thus, the Report is the next logical step on the IRU Agenda for Sustainable Development. The objective of the Report is to show and monitor progress in the implementation of innovative sustainable practices by transport operators. In this context, sustainable development practices are those that reduce environmental impact while satisfying market demand and maintaining the economic survival of the company. This goal is achieved most effectively if both the transport operator and the environment are put in a true win-win situation. For example, lower fuel consumption results in reduced CO2 emissions and lower fuel costs; improved safety through training leads to lower insurance costs as well as fewer accidents. Improved wastewater management can reduce a company?s water bill significantly etc.

In 2001, IRU called upon its national Member Associations to name member transport operators who implemented measures that improved the sustainability of the company?s activities and so represented good examples of successful implementation. The selected transport operators were sent a questionnaire about the services they had to offer. It was especially important to determine why the company was implementing the practice, what their goal was, the implications of the implementation, and what factors influenced the implementation. The questionnaire also asked about implementation costs and benefits for the environment, quantified wherever possible.

Each company chosen for the Report was free to select sustainable development measures that suited its own, individual level of development and expertise. The practices vary in structure, approach, and sophistication. However, they have two things in common: all companies selected for the Report implemented practices that go beyond legal requirements and provide excellent examples of how sustainable development and profitability can go hand-in-hand.

IRU?s intent is to motivate as many road transport operators to follow the pro-active example of these trailblazers (?learning from the best?) and, at the same time, to help to recognize publicly the real achievements of the road transport sector.

Designed as a follow-up to the Guide to Sustainable Development and the Road Transport Best Industry Practices Report, the Road Transport Best Industry Practices Award will promote these Best Practices by acknowledging the efforts of outstanding transport operators. While all effective initiatives should be encouraged, some may have greater results than others. In this context, ?Best Industry Practices? means carrying out an activity which results in a reduction in one or more impacts of road transport on society and the environment. The Award will provide international recognition to the best of the best and it will encourage the implementation of Best Industry Practices in other


Association for European Transport