A new breed of manager in logistics

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In the world of business, being green has always made commercial sense. Traditionally many companies put forward strategies which proved beneficial to the environment – not because of any social conscience, but because it saved money.

Kuehne + Nagel has sent out a strong message regarding its environmental priorities by appointing Martin Johnson as national environment manager. His role, which involves launching a nationwide environment policy, spans the company’s divisions in North West Europe, and will grow to include the other regions over the next couple of years.

A few years ago Johnson graduated from the Open University with a degree in environmental science. It was this that set him on his present course and encouraged him to put himself forward for his new role. What with the environment being the hot new topic across industries, Johnson reckoned it was time his own company took a more hands-on approach, in preparation for the future.

“Customers are already more demanding – they want to know what’s being done to reduce carbon footprint. Retailers in particular are feeling the heat, being closest to the consumer, and as a result are turning up the heat on their distributors.”

The company has had environment policies in place for some time, “but they tended to be a bit vague.” He says the majority of the company’s total emissions are from transport fuel and energy use in buildings. This means it will be homing in on these areas over the next year.

His main task will be to encourage the green policies already in place, to improve fuel efficiency through driver training, and install energy-efficient lighting in warehouses and offices – this alone is likely to halve the company’s energy output in terms of lighting.

The plan will also involve improving air tightness in the company’s heated warehouses.

The company had already taken steps towards lowering its emissions pre-Johnson – 70 per cent of which were down to diesel emissions – by shifting its operations from road to rail. Last year it moved 69,667 containers from road to rail within the UK, including 19,588 through Hams Hall. In doing so, it saved more than ten million road miles and 11,400 tonnes of carbon emissions in a single year.

This year Johnson will be working closely with the Carbon Trust, which will help it measure and manage the company’s carbon footprint. This includes establishing divisional carbon dioxide reduction targets, which it will supply by the end of this year.

Johnson is looking to establish a green foothold at every site. He has set about recruiting 50 “environmental champions” – volunteers, who will be based at each site – who will be trained to use the carbon footprint calculator that he has developed, to monitor site reduction performance.

Looking to the future, Johnson says the time will come when the company, “will be able to offer end-to-end calculations of a freight journey, so the customer will have a choice between opting for the best route in terms of emissions, or the faster route, which is less gentle on the environment. Then it will be up them, but at least they will have the choice.”

Johnson reckons the biggest challenge he has faced so far is the rapidly changing environmental issues. For example, “the government has done a complete u-turn in two months on its bio-fuels policy, a key part of its environmental strategy. We have to react to that, but also try to anticipate and influence the next shifts in policy.”

The UK’s total carbon dioxide emissions are estimated to be 150,000 tonnes per year. “Not everyone understands how serious the problem is when given figures like these, because there’s no scale of comparison.”

To put the 150,000 tonnes in context, Johnson says: “A tree consumes a net three kilos of carbon dioxide each year. If you take into account the number of trees needed to balance the 150,000 tonnes, it’s around 45 million – roughly the size of the Greater London area.”


In 1990 Martin Johnson joined Hays (now part of Kuehne + Nagel) and has just become one of the industry’s first environment managers.

2004 – 2007: general manager Solutions, K+N. He received a degree in environmental science in 2006.

2001: logistics development manager, Retail

1997: logistics development manager, Home Services n 1992: national planning manager, Home Delivery

1990: operations manager, M&S Home Delivery at Hays.

1988: transport manager, Mars – Harris Distribution (TDG).

1978: operations controller to operations planning manager at P&O Containers.

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