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Carbon Footprint Literature Review In Logistics And Transportation Industries

Updated: Feb 25, 2023


Climate change, global warming, greenhouse gases and their effects on the environment It is one of the most important issues to be discussed (Bermeo et al., 2018). Against increasing environmental problems carbon footprint has become an important tool for developing strategies (Kulkarni, 2019). In recent years, various declarations and policy documents of the United Nations have emphasized sustainable development. Sustainable development policy is a development model consisting of economic, ecological and social topics, without compromising the needs of future generations and taking into account carbon activities (Raza et al., 2021). When current sustainable strategies are examined, it is seen that the importance of carbon footprint is emphasized in most of them, and policies are produced to reduce carbon footprint (Fenner et al., 2018). (Wiedmann & Minx, 2008) defined carbon footprint as the cumulative value of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions caused directly or indirectly by an activity or product.

As a result of the increasing political and social pressures on climate change and global warming around the world, the United Nations, the European Union and many countries have been working on issues such as carbon taxes, clean development, upper emission limit, carbon upper limit and trade in order to reduce the total amount of carbon emissions. makes legal arrangements. Another driving force for reducing the amount of carbon emissions is customer demands. Companies around the world are taking a variety of initiatives in response to carbon emission concerns raised by customers (Choudhary et al., 2015). Companies such as Walmart, Pepsi, Coca-Cola and Volkswagen have pledged to set carbon targets to their customers and have started using environmentally friendly machinery, less polluting vehicles, and greener operational processes to reduce their carbon footprints (Ghosh et al., 2020).

The process of carbon footprint, reducing carbon emissions and promoting global sustainable development is studied in various fields and these studies unite stakeholders (Shi & Yin, 2021). Logistics and transportation are one of these areas. The carbon footprint in logistics refers to the CO2 gas released during logistics activities (Li et al., 2016). Europe and other countries have set ambitious targets to reduce their emissions for the logistics and transportation sector, which is emphasized as an area that requires radical improvements in terms of reducing the carbon footprint. For example, the EU has planned to reduce carbon emissions from transport by 60 percent by 2050 (Liljestrand et al., 2015). (Ülkü, 2012) evaluates logistics and transportation as one of the biggest sources of environmental hazards in his study. The environmental impact of logistics and transportation has made it an important field of study on carbon footprint.

Most of the studies in the literature are related to the calculation, reduction, modeling or comparison of carbon footprints from different industries. While there are a limited number of studies on the carbon footprint of logistics and transportation, the number of studies has increased rapidly in recent years. However, the literature also shows that there is a need to explore the scope of carbon footprint studies of logistics and transportation. This situation formed the motivation of the study.

In this study, a systematic review of academic studies on the carbon footprint of the logistics and transportation sector will be made, and the study differs from other academic studies in this way.

Under the literature title of the study, the literature on the carbon footprint of logistics and transportation is included; Under the title of research design and method, the design and method of the research was revealed and finally the results determined in the study were discussed and suggestions were made for future research.


2.1. Carbon footprint

Environmental footprints describe the environmental impact of a product or service. Carbon footprint, water footprint, nitrogen footprint and energy footprint indicators are all called environmental footprint (Karwacka et al., 2020; Matuštík & Kočí, 2021).Carbon footprint emerged in the 1960s in connection with the growing interest in climate change (Karwacka et al., 2020), its scientific definition was made in 2006 (Chen et al., 2021) and has gained immense popularity recently (Weidema et al., 2008).

Carbon footprint is one of the most important extensions of ecological footprint and a common carbon footprint definition has not been established in the literature yet (Shi & Yin, 2021). (Cheng & Liang, 2021), the carbon footprint is the greenhouse gas produced by human activities or products throughout the life cycle; (Rizan et al., 2020) a measure that estimates direct and indirect carbon dioxide emissions associated with a sector, process or product; (Ridhosari & Rahman, 2020) the total amount of CO2 emitted directly or indirectly from a range of activities such as electricity use, mining operations, paper and plastic use, food and beverage processing; (Chen et al., 2021) is a widely used professional term in the public domain to deal with the threat posed by climate change; According to the Kyoto Protocol, it is defined as the total amount of carbon dioxide equivalent and other greenhouse gases from the life cycle of the product, including use and disposal (Karwacka et al., 2020).

United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (Copenhagen, 2009; Doha, 2012; Kyoto, 1997; Paris, 2015; UNFCCC, 1992) is an internationally important five major conventions on climate change and reduction of carbon emissions (Centobelli et al., 2017). The UNFCCC's ultimate goal is to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system. According to the Kyoto Protocol, countries should reduce their emissions of six important greenhouse gases: carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, sulfur hexafluoride, perfluorocarbons, and hydrofluorocarbons (Shaharudin & Fernando, 2015). The countries that are party to the UNFCCC conducted negotiations for the successor of the Kyoto Protocol and signed the 'Copenhagen Agreement' in Copenhagen in 2009. The aim of this agreement is to directly involve developing countries in the system to reduce carbon emissions caused by deforestation and slow down global warming (Massai, 2010). In the Doha Amendment, an annex to the updated Kyoto Protocol, scarce commitments on emission reduction were presented, and countries decided to intensify their contributions only for future meetings (Kortetmäki, 2016). One of the important steps taken on a global scale to reduce the carbon footprint is the Paris Agreement. In December 2015, the Paris Agreement, a new global agreement to combat climate change, was adopted under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The climate target of the Paris Agreement is to keep the increase in global average temperature below 2 °C and limit the temperature rise to 1.5 °C (Rogelj et al., 2016).

Since the beginning of the 21st century, CO2 emissions have increased steadily compared to previous years, mainly due to the increase in fossil fuel use by China, India and other emerging economies. However, the Covid-19 epidemic slowed down the world economy and global human activities in the first half of 2020, interrupting this global increase in greenhouse gas emissions. In 2020, China, the United States, the EU, India, Russia and Japan were the world's largest emitters of CO2. Only China's emissions increased by 1.5% in 2020, compared to 10.6% in the EU, 9.9% in the United States, 6.8% in Japan, 5.9% in India and 5.8% in Russia. have reduced their emissions by varying amounts. According to 2021 World Bank data, these countries constitute 49.5% of the world's population and have 61.8% of the global gross domestic product (Crippa et al., 2021). (Hubacek et al., 2017) found that the top 10% of the world's population by income accounts for more than one-third of global greenhouse gas emissions, while the bottom 50% of the world's population by income is responsible for only 15% of global emissions. expressed.

In the literature, carbon footprint studies are examined in two categories. Studies in the first category are based on sectors such as agriculture, transportation, logistics, construction, health and public policies; Studies in the second category examine individual and region-specific carbon footprints, including individuals, products, businesses, cities and countries (Sun, 2017). In the studies in the literature, 2 different methods are used to calculate the carbon footprint. The first is the top-down environmentally expanded input-output model that uses the monetary cost of a unit. This model is relatively inexpensive and easy to implement; but lacks originality and detail. The second is the bottom-up process-based method, which involves collecting data on all component processes. This method allows for comparison between items from the same industry, providing detailed analysis with high specificity. However, this method is resource-intensive and the study limits need to be carefully defined (Rizan et al., 2020). Both methods have their own limitations (Wiedmann, 2009).

2.2. Carbon Footprint of Logistics and Transportation

Studies on carbon footprints vividly demonstrate the impact of human behavior on climate change (Shi & Yin, 2021). The increasing importance of environmental problems and the increasing awareness of environmental protection in people have increased the number of studies on carbon footprint in logistics and transportation in recent years. According to the Council of Supply Chain Management Experts, headquartered in the USA, logistics activities account for 75 percent of a firm's carbon footprint (Dey et al., 2011), while the transportation sector is considered one of the largest energy consuming and carbon emitting industries and A sharp 30% increase in carbon emissions of the sector is expected by 2030 (Ma et al., 2018).

The transport sector is responsible for 24% of direct CO2 emissions from fuel combustion, while road travel is responsible for three-quarters of emissions from transport. Passenger vehicles (cars and buses) constitute most of this rate. The aviation sector accounts for 11.6% of transportation emissions; rail travel and freight transport account for only 1% of transport emissions. Other modes of transport, mainly the transportation of substances such as water, oil and gas, are responsible for 2.2% of CO2 emissions.

According to the IEA, by 2070, global transport is expected to double, the share of car ownership to increase by 60%, and the demand for passenger and freight aviation to triple. Within the scope of these factors, it is concluded that there will be large increases in transportation emissions in the coming years.

In order to reduce the carbon footprint, (Kaack et al., 2018) suggested intermodal transportation in freight transportation; (Craig et al., 2013) and (Pizzol, 2019) found that using intermodal transport instead of using only the road creates a lower carbon footprint. (Ercan et al., 2016) emphasized that the carbon footprint can be reduced in the future by increasing the number of passengers in public transportation.

(Bin et al., 2022) determined that 82% of the carbon emissions of 1 kg of fruit and vegetables are caused by transportation and logistics. (Li et al., 2016) found that about 60% of the total carbon emissions in the Chinese retail industry occur in the logistics distribution process.

(Liljestrand et al., 2015) established a decision support model for reducing carbon footprint in transportation and shipping; (Shaw et al., 2016) designed a sustainable supply chain model with a low carbon footprint; (Wang et al., 2018) designed a cold chain logistics distribution network model with a low carbon footprint; (Wong et al., 2018) developed a carbon-focused multi-criteria model to reduce the carbon footprint of third-party logistics companies; (Li et al., 2019) built four models for the cold chain logistics inventory routing problem that minimizes the cost of carbon emissions by considering the carbon footprint. However, (Wang et al., 2017) emphasized that carbon emissions can be reduced by using the ant colony optimization algorithm in cold chain logistics. When the literature is examined, it is seen that the number of studies on carbon footprint in logistics and transportation is still limited (Herold & Lee, 2017; Huang, 2010).

Insufficient attention has been paid to systematic literature review as a research method in logistics and transportation carbon footprint studies. A comprehensive review of the carbon footprint studies of logistics and transportation has not been done to date. Studies in the literature generally focused on a single subject and dealt with the subject piece by piece. In this study, a systematic review of academic studies on the carbon footprint of the logistics and transportation sector will be made, and the study differs from other academic studies in this way.


The systematic review of the carbon footprint of logistics and transportation is a synthesis product that shows the depth of academic knowledge in the relevant field (Watson, 2015). Unlike the traditional literature review, systematic review allows the researcher to collect, analyze and interpret the extensive existing literature in a complete and unbiased way by utilizing a specific database (Wang & Notteboom, 2014).

This study is based on literature review within the scope of desk research method. In the study, a five-stage review protocol recommended by (Denyer & Tranfield, 2009) was used to conduct a systematic literature review. In the first step, the research question was determined. In the second step, studies were scanned from the database according to words and criteria. In the third step, studies were manually scanned and excluded studies were excluded. In the fourth step, the analysis and in the last step, the evaluation of the results were carried out.

The research question is paramount in conducting a transparent and rigorous systematic literature review. Because such studies reflect various approaches, assumptions and methodological implications of primary research (Lim et al., 2019). In this context, the main question of the study is expressed below.

Q1: What is the structure, limits and development trend of the logistics and transportation carbon footprint?

3.1. Paper Selection

Data were collected from the Web of Science (WoS) database. WoS is one of the oldest and most comprehensive databases (Ellegaard & Wallin, 2015). In the study, no restrictions were made regarding the documents, the literature was searched with the words "logistics carbon footprint" and "transportation carbon footprint" on July 1, 2022 and 373 documents were reached.

The inclusion and exclusion criteria of this study are based on examining the title, keywords, and summary of the studies, as suggested by (Pittaway et al., 2004). The titles, abstracts and keywords of the documents obtained were examined, and the articles that were determined not to be within the scope of this research were excluded from the study, and the 24 studies that were determined as a result were included in the analysis.


The distribution of the selected 24 studies by years and countries, the analysis methods used in the studies and the results of all studies are given below in figures and tables.

The annual frequency of the articles published in the field of logistics and transportation carbon footprint is given in Figure 1. In this context, it was determined that the first studies were carried out in 2010; No studies were found before 2010. It has been determined that the most publications, including 4, were made in 2014, followed by 2022, 2021, 2019, 2016 and 2013, respectively, with 3 publications. 2 publications were found in 2010 and 2015, and 1 publication was found in 2020, 2018, 2017 and 2012.

According to Figure 2, which was created by considering the countries of the journals published, it was determined that the highest number of publications with 6 articles were published in Germany, England. After that 5 in Netherlands. USA takes the fourth place with 4 articles. Switzerland fallow that with 2 while Poland, Malaysia, Spain, and France take the fifth place with 1 article.

The results of all publications included in the study are given in Table 1 below.

Considering the research methods used in the studies, 46% of the studies used quantitative analysis as a research method; In 34% of the case analysis; It was determined that 8% of the literature review and 8% of the conceptual studies were done. However, only 4% of the studies used quantitative and qualitative analysis together.


A systematic review of the literature on logistics and transportation carbon footprint published in WoS is the subject of this study. Due to the pressures and regulations made to reduce carbon emissions around the world, companies have included the carbon footprint in their business decisions. Since logistics and transportation are the leading sectors that emit carbon emissions, it is very important to analyze the studies evaluating the carbon footprint of the sector.

Based on the results of the literature review, the following can be stated regarding the logistics and transportation carbon footprint:

• All the studies have recognized the importance of examining and evaluating the logistics and transportation carbon footprint, taking into account sustainable strategies, regulations and customer pressure.

• (Shi & Yin, 2021) expressed as the main node in carbon footprint research, emphasizing that there has been interdisciplinary diversity on the subject since this year. In this study, it was found that the logistics and transportation carbon footprint has been studied since 2010. As a result of the literature review, it is foreseen that the number of studies to be carried out in the field of logistics and transportation carbon footprint will increase in the future, especially with the Paris Agreement signed in 2015.

• Most of the studies have been published in developed countries. Compared to developing countries, the earlier determination and implementation of the legal frameworks regarding carbon emissions in developed countries has led to more studies on the logistics and transportation carbon footprint in these countries.

• It has been determined that the researchers mainly focus on case studies, model or method development while examining the logistics and transportation carbon footprint.

• The existing literature on logistics and transport carbon footprint has shown that there is a gap between existing regulations and their implementation.

• Studies have been carried out on the factors affecting the carbon footprint in logistics and transportation and how to calculate its value; however, it was found that the application part of the carbon footprint could not be fully formed in the sector due to the newness of the subject and its costs.

Considering that each country has different policies on carbon footprint, the carbon footprint of international logistics and transportation can differ, and the limited number of academic studies in this field, in the coming years, regulatory regulations and academic studies that all countries will undertake to comply with, especially in the presence of international organizations. work is anticipated. Within the scope of this study, no study was found in which the social effects of logistics and transportation carbon footprints were examined. A study can be conducted in which the social effects of logistics and transportation carbon footprints are researched and discussed. As a result of the literature review, it has been seen that the logistics and transportation carbon footprint is mainly evaluated in terms of developed countries. In future studies, sustainable logistics and transportation carbon footprint can also be addressed, especially in terms of developing countries.


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