The Digital Container Shipping Association, a non-profit organization consisting of nine major carriers such as Maersk and Hapag-Lloyd, has successfully persuaded all of its members to adopt electronic bills of lading (eBL). Although the process was challenging and the goal of 100% compliance by 2030 is gradual, the message for supply chain leaders looking to address issues such as Scope 3 carbon accounting with industry cooperation is clear: go for it.

To make this happen, the CEO of DCSA, Thomas Bagge, has been working with the CIOs of the nine member companies to digitize global trade, starting with the eBL. The transformation promises to generate $6.5 billion in annual savings and significantly reduce carbon emissions by minimizing friction and enhancing visibility of containers in transit. However, the industry has been slow to adopt digitization due to inertia, tradition, and a lack of customer pressure.

Creating a roadmap for digital standards is the first step towards achieving this mission. Standardization is essential for achieving efficiency at scale, and the lack of standards has caused confusion for shippers. Specialized tech vendors are investing in better software and analytics to address this problem, but more needs to be done.

The power of standards and digitization is well-known in supply chain, as demonstrated by GS1’s journey. Like GS1, the DCSA was founded by leading companies to streamline processes. The adoption of eBLs is expected to lead to the elimination of friction and wasted time in digital trade, increase asset efficiency through innovative technology solutions, and enhance sustainability by eliminating the practice of “racing across the Pacific to wait outside of LA.”

The DCSA’s success in persuading competitors to work together to solve shared problems is a testament to the power of cooperation and shared vision. Smart use of digital technology is essential for addressing big problems like Scope 3 carbon, but it requires collaboration to succeed.

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