Net Zero in 2023 and beyond - CILT(UK)
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Leading academics, industry experts, policy makers and tech pioneers recently met at a CILT webinar to discuss all things net zero. Here, we explore some of the key themes and takeaways. 

It’s clear that this year is going to be a pivotal year for developments in commitment to net zero and decarbonisation.

Governments around the world continue to increase their demands for companies to prove they can operate sustainable and ethical businesses – and a large part of this lies in the supply chain, logistics and transport area of business.

The transport industry heavily relies on fossil fuels, contributing 24% of the total carbon dioxide emissions in the UK.

However, there is a huge potential and opportunity for transport to help counter climate change and improve sustainability.

Leaders from across the sector sat down to discuss this topic in a recent webinar organised by CILT(UK), in partnership with Pledge – a start-up that helps businesses in the logistics and transport industry measure, reduce and offset their carbon footprints.

Chaired by CILT CEO Sharon Kindleysides, the webinar featured Professor Alan McKinnon - Professor of Logistics, Kuehne Logistics University; David de Picciotto - CEO and Co-Founder, Pledge; David Elvy - Head Future of Freight Strategy, Department for Transport and Luke Robinson - Group HSEQ Director, Wincanton.

Where are we now?

According to Professor Alan McKinnon, the UK is not on track to meet its decarbonisation target. “There’s two pathways to achieving net zero – and unfortunately, we’re behind targets on both. There’s the downward path in emissions, but there’s also the upward path in building our capabilities to remove carbon gases in our atmosphere – and we’re not where we need to be either,” Alan said.

David de Picciotto, CEO and Co-founder at Pledge commented on three major challenges in the route to decarbonisation – all of which are related to each other.

“Firstly, there’s often a lack of leadership buy in – some people find it hard to see the benefits as of today and that can be difficult when you’re looking for internal support. Secondly, there is a challenge across the sector due to a lack of inhouse expertise and education around the topic. And thirdly, arguably the most complex challenge of all is collecting the right data. ‘What data do I need and how do I get it?’ are the questions we often hear,” David said.

David recognises that scope 3 emissions account for the largest proportion of emissions for freight and logistics businesses and are often the most lengthy and complex to calculate.

“Ultimately, success comes down to a solid foundation based on data because at some point you are likely to want to automate and optimise this process. Software can help you do that, assuming the right building blocks are in place,” Pledge’s David said.

For Luke Robinson - Group HSEQ Director, Wincanton – data is of course absolutely crucial but it’s easy to get lost in the data.

“As sustainability professionals, you could spend an infinite amount of time on reporting metrics – but we have to really focus on where we can have the biggest impact. It often comes down to having resources such as analysts and software platforms that can help you get the balance right,” Luke said.

Where is the opportunity?

According to Professor Alan McKinnon, there are a number of levers that can be pulled to help tackle the challenge of climate change and decarbonisation. “Reducing the demand for freight transport is a key one here – and surprisingly, we have been reducing the amount of freight we send since 1990. This is largely due to the economy shifting to a more of a service economy,” he said.

He also cites moving freight onto rail as a major opportunity in the UK, as well as reducing the amount of empty running of trucks, which has sadly been on the rise in recent years. Another lever is improving the energy efficiency of all vehicle modes and switching to low-carbon energy.

For many, the motivation to achieve net-zero is often tied to regulation. However, according to Pledge’s David de Picciotto, there are benefits that organisations often overlook when it comes to decarbonisation.

“A commitment to sustainability offers a competitive advantage. It’s front and centre of more and more tenders these days and I think there will be more business opportunities for organisations who are forward thinkers. Furthermore, sustainability has gone from a cost centre to more of a revenue and opportunity generating centre in recent years,” David said.

How to engage with government and getting started

David Elvy, Head Future of Freight Strategy at the Department for Transport revealed his advice for businesses looking to engage with government incentives and programmes in this area.

“The first thing I would say is try to keep up to date with the evolution of government policy. It’s important you know what’s coming up and you’re prepared to take advantage of what’s available to you. We’re largely focussed on R&D at the moment and we have about £600 million worth of funding available,” David Elvy said.

According to Pledge’s David de Picciotto, the sooner you start on this journey the better off you are. “Climate action is good for business – being a forward-thinker in this space helps build trust with your customers but also your employees. In today’s world, the workforce are looking for purpose in their day to day role and a commitment to climate action shows them you care about the environment and take your role in safeguarding it seriously,” David said.

To watch the webinar video in full, visit:


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