An industry whose whole reason to be is the movement of goods is always going to use a lot of energy – and managing the emissions is always going to be challenging.
So perhaps it is not surprising that Professor Alan McKinnon is now warning that we risk falling way short of the targets set by the Paris Climate Change Agreement unless businesses intensify their efforts to address the problem.
His new book, Decarbonizing Logistics, McKinnon points out that the worldwide movement of freight is forecast to grow three-fold by 2050. “On a business-as-usual basis freight transport alone could account around a third of allowable emissions in 2050, if we are to keep the increase average global temperature by 2100 within 1.5- 2o C as agreed by the 2015 Paris Climate Change conference.”
A UK case study suggests that the carbon footprint of freight transport contracted by around 18 per cent between 2006 and 2016, but this rate of CO2 reduction is not enough to meet the government’s longer-term carbon reduction targets.
McKinnon argues that so far there has been too much focus on technological solutions and a switch to alternative fuels, while the potential contribution of managerial and operational changes has been under-estimated.
And, he says, decarbonisation will have to be approached systematically and comprehensively across every aspect of the global supply chain. No single technology, software tool or business practice has the potential to deliver the necessary cut in emissions, so it is vital that all decision makers understand the steps that contribute towards achieving the goal.
Supply chains face some big challenges at the moment, including: Brexit, global trade disputes, and digitalisation, and it is all too easy for lose focus on improving environmental performance.
But, companies should not lose sight of the real business benefits to be had from greener logistics.