Sustainability and Incoterms: Integrating eco-friendly practices in international trade

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Trade Finance Global / A complete guide to the Incoterms® 2020 Rules (International Commerce Terms) / Sustainability and Incoterms: Integrating eco-friendly practices in international trade

Sustainability and Incoterms: Integrating eco-friendly practices in international trade [UPDATED 2024]

As the world moves towards more sustainable practices, incorporating sustainability into international trade has become increasingly important. 

Understanding these aspects can help companies reduce their environmental impact and meet regulatory requirements for sustainability.

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Understanding sustainable shipping and Incoterms

Sustainable shipping Incoterms refer to the use of Incoterms in ways that promote environmentally friendly practices in international trade. 

This includes selecting Incoterms that optimise transportation efficiency, reduce carbon footprints, and encourage green logistics solutions. 

Sustainability in international trade helps reduce the environmental impact of shipping and logistics, which helps meet the growing demand from consumers and regulators for eco-friendly practices. 

Key components of sustainable shipping with Incoterms

Efficient transportation is a fundamental aspect of sustainable shipping, and choosing Incoterms that promote efficient transportation routes and methods can significantly reduce carbon emissions. For instance, selecting terms that allow for bulk shipping or multimodal transport can minimise the environmental impact.

Green traders can also use Incoterms to optimise their supply chains by reducing waste and energy consumption. For example, coordinating with suppliers and buyers to consolidate shipments can lead to fewer trips and lower emissions.

Incorporating eco-friendly packaging materials and methods into Incoterm agreements can further support sustainability goals. This includes using recyclable or biodegradable materials and reducing packaging waste.

Encouraging local sourcing of materials and products within agreements can reduce the need for long-distance transportation, thereby lowering carbon emissions.

Best practices for implementing sustainable shipping Incoterms

Green traders can promote sustainability throughout their supply chains by selecting the right Incoterm for each shipment. For example, FCA (Free Carrier) can facilitate multimodal transport, reducing the reliance on more carbon-intensive modes like air freight. 

Collaborating with partners is also important, as working closely with suppliers, buyers, and logistics providers can help identify opportunities for reducing environmental impact. For instance, working with suppliers to source more sustainable materials or using technology to improve packaging efficiency can help reduce emissions and waste.

Technology can also help with other aspects, such as route optimisation and emission tracking, providing insights and analytics to support sustainability goals.

As with any sustainability initiative, regular review is important to stay current on the latest standards and regulations and identify other areas for improvement.

Since different jurisdictions have different environmental regulations, traders must stay current on the regulations in the importing and exporting countries and include contract clauses that address compliance with environmental standards. 

This includes adhering to documentation and reporting requirements related to sustainability.


How can Incoterms contribute to reducing carbon emissions in shipping?

Incoterms can contribute to reducing carbon emissions by promoting efficient transportation routes, encouraging using bulk shipping and multimodal transport, and facilitating better coordination between trade partners to minimise trips and optimise logistics.

Which Incoterms are most compatible with green logistics practices?

Incoterms such as FCA (Free Carrier) and CPT (Carriage Paid To) are compatible with green logistics practices, allowing flexibility in choosing environmentally friendly transportation methods and routes.

What are the key benefits of incorporating sustainability into Incoterm agreements?

The key benefits include reduced environmental impact, enhanced corporate reputation, compliance with regulatory standards, and potential cost savings from optimised logistics and reduced waste.

How can companies monitor and report their sustainability performance in shipping?

Companies can monitor and report sustainability performance using technology solutions that track emissions, optimise routes, and manage eco-friendly logistics practices.

Regular audits and sustainability reports can also help track progress and identify improvement areas.

Companies can promote green logistics and eco-friendly practices by choosing the right Incoterms, collaborating with trade partners, using technology, and complying with environmental regulations. 

These efforts benefit the environment and enhance a company’s reputation and competitiveness in the global market.


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bob ronaiMeet our writer Written by our resident freight forwarding and shipping expert.

Bob Ronai

Speak to our trade finance team

About the Author

Lord is responsible for the TFG Weekly Trade Briefings at Trade Finance Global (TFG).

He is curious about the world of payments and macro-economics, with a specific focus on supply chains in Asia.

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