Mick Jackson

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With two of my recent opinion pieces focusing on green logistics this must be a clear indication of the upcoming importance of the topic.

It also gives me the unusual chance of writing something which should (all being well) be completely topical, as Logistics Manager will hopefully hit the streets just ahead of the time you all get fed up with hearing about Copenhagen and Climate Change.

The Whitehall government’s Carbon Reduction Strategy is a rare chance for logistics and freight transport (indeed all of transport) to be the good guys. Freight transport offers the government a route to short and medium-term carbon reduction. When we talk in terms of climate change, this means between now and 2020 or so which may seem an unusual definition of “short term” to readers who are used to the pace of the logistics world.

So what can we in logistics do to save the planet? DfT in its Low Carbon Transport: a greener future, sees a great future for eco-driving. It estimates that training 90 per cent of LGV drivers in eco-driving will save around three million tonnes of carbon dioxide over a five-year period. Extend this to vans and the savings will be even greater.

What’s more, of course, is that this is a classic (excuse the clichewin-win situation because, as with other aspects of low carbon operation, lower carbon = lower cost, whatever the size of your operation. So low carbon should not be the preserve of tree-hugging environmentalists, it is the preserve of all right-minded managers. Eco-driving may do its bit to save the planet by reducing carbon dioxide but it will certainly also do its bit to save your company.

In case you hadn’t realised, one option that the DfT is, very sensibly, examining is whether, after due consultation, eco-driving should become a mandatory part of the Driver CPC periodic training. To do so would send a very clear message to all that logistics is tackling carbon reduction.

However, let’s lift our sights above driving and other no-brainer solutions such as efficient energy management of warehouse and site. As with other efficiencies, managing the supply chain as a whole offers the most potential for an effective means of reducing carbon.

I well remember a passionate contribution to a debate on low carbon from a respected haulier who, for obvious reasons needs to remain nameless. He pointed to a customer of his, a high street retailer, who insists for their own handling reasons, on part pallets delivered into each of their warehouses. Good news for him maybe but bad news for the environment.

Obviously this is going to happen but, as environmental pressures mount, a green, CSR-based holistic approach to the supply chain may overcome some of these hurdles. Certainly, we are talking to the Department for Business Innovation and Skills about establishing a number of exemplar supply chains to show exactly how a supply chain-wide approach will benefit both the companies concerned and the environment.

So are supply chain managers up to the challenges of leading the drive to a low carbon economy? My suspicion is that they are not. In too many companies at present, low carbon, climate change and sustainable operations are still too much the preserve of the CSR team.

Those that have made the change and incorporated low carbon into their operations are reaping the benefits. Once your own house is in order, the next stage is to link with your suppliers and customers to reap the next set of benefits for the supply chain.

Along with the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport and the Chartered Institute of Purchase and Supply, we are about to review the National Occupational Standards (NOS) that underpin Supply Chain Management qualifications in the UK. This is an obvious area that needs to be taken into account.

Where we can really start to make a difference in carbon reduction however is when we move to collaboration between non-competing supply chains. That’s a very rich seam for both carbon reduction and cost reduction. I ask the same question – do supply chain managers have the requisite skills to deliver collaboration across and between supply chains? I contend not and now, through these NOS reviews is a good place to start.

If you would like to take part in the Supply Chain Management Standards review, please email elaine.dimond@skillsforlogistics.org

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