Aaron Thomas, Consultant at Logistics and Supply Chain Consultancy, discusses the urgency of Net Zero, and how to achieve it.

The race to Net Zero is a global effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2050.

To prevent a global catastrophe, greenhouse gas emissions must be lowered to the point where they are no longer contributing to climate change.

As a result, companies are increasingly looking to reduce their carbon footprint and become more sustainable. In the supply chain sector, this means finding ways to reduce emissions throughout the entire supply chain, from sourcing materials to delivering products to customers.

Whilst a race to net zero is vital to avoid the catastrophic effects of climate change, should companies run with a marathon mindset to Net Zero rather than a race?


Net Zero – The same urgency but with long-term sustained effort


A marathon typically refers to a long-term endeavour or goal that requires sustained effort, dedication, and persistence to achieve. A race in the business context requires dynamic, often quick-thinking, and challenging environments that require companies and individuals to be agile, strategic, and resilient to succeed.

The enormity of the Net Zero challenge for supply chains and logistics perhaps would be better suited to a sustained and dedicated effort, as in a marathon. Instead of a race that can often result in quick decisions, knee-jerk reactions and being left to the last minute.

Is there enough understanding within the supply chain and logistics industry of the severity of the climate crises? Many companies recognise that climate change poses significant risks to their operations and are taking steps to mitigate risks.

Achieving Net Zero is a collective effort, and the supply chain and logistics industry has a significant role to play. By reducing emissions, increasing transparency, embracing the circular economy, using renewable energy, collaborating with suppliers, and innovating through technology, the industry can positively impact the environment and help contribute to the UK’s ambitious Net
Zero target.

But logistics and its supply chains are already at the mercy of sustained pressure and often hear confusing and mixed messaging about Net Zero. This adds additional complexity when knowing where to start a carbon-neutral journey, let alone creating long-term strategies to achieve the marathon of Net Zero and the race to quantifiable emission reduction initiatives.

Industry specialists and external support should not be overlooked when creating such strategies and initiatives. With those in supply chain and logistics already stretched and with varying levels of topic understanding, it’s vital to get it the right first time and where Net Zero specialists can help save time, effort and last-minute races to the finish.


The road to Net Zero – A journey of many routes


Supply chains and logistics must embrace Net Zero. The importance of buy-in lies in the fact that reducing greenhouse gas emissions requires changes in behaviour and often significant investments in the supply chain. These changes can only happen if stakeholders believe in the value of reducing emissions and are willing to take the necessary steps to achieve Net Zero.

There is a vast amount of real-world evidence in our industry that steps are being taken. The UK logistics industry is gradually embracing electric trucks as part of its efforts to reduce carbon emissions and achieve a greener supply chain. The UK government has also announced several initiatives to encourage the adoption of electric vehicles, including grants and tax incentives for companies investing in EVs, as well as the establishment of a network of electric vehicle charging stations across the country. In addition to electric trucks, there are several other types of alternative fuel vehicles that logistics companies are adopting, including hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, biofuels, and natural gas vehicles.

Warehouses, a critical component of supply chains are increasingly embracing sustainability practices as a way to reduce their carbon footprint and operate more efficiently. A greater emphasis is now placed on discovering and mitigating embodied carbon which encompasses the production, transportation, and disposal of materials used in the construction and operation of a warehouse.

Is there enough focus on operational carbon within existing warehouses? Operational carbon, emissions generated from the day-to-day activities of a warehouse, are often referred to as Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions. It is perhaps easier to design and implement emissions reduction measures and energy-efficient measures in new warehouses than in existing ones. There needs to be increased focus on carbon reduction improvement in those existing warehouses, often with legacy structures and equipment that can be improved but often with financial help.

A popular way to demonstrate a company’s commitment to Net Zero is certification. Certifying a warehouse or operational site recognises the commitment to continuous improvement; measuring and reducing carbon emissions, energy and water consumption, travel and waste. A Net Zero certification will also explore and calculate Scope 3 emissions. These are typically outside of a company’s direct control and often misunderstood but can have a significant impact on its overall carbon footprint. Certification, with a Net Zero specialist, will take a holistic overview of this often complicated but important measurement and be able to suggest further emission reduction opportunities.


Start your race and prepare for a marathon


The consequences of supply chains and logistics not embracing net zero could be significant, both for the companies themselves and for the planet.

The industry could continue to emit significant amounts of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, exacerbating the climate crisis. As consumers and governments become more concerned about the environmental impact of products and services, companies that don’t embrace net zero may face higher costs for non-compliance, fines, and reputational damage.

Supply chains and logistics are a competitive market. Those that don’t embrace Net Zero may find it harder to compete with those that do, as customers and stakeholders increasingly prioritise sustainability in their purchasing decisions.

In contrast, those actively on Net Zero journeys will build customer loyalty and enhance their brand reputation. Gain a competitive advantage by being seen as leaders in sustainability, attracting new customers and retaining existing ones. Improve employee engagement by demonstrating a commitment to sustainability and providing opportunities for employees to get involved in sustainability initiatives.

Whether a race or marathon approach to sustainability, it’s clear there are significant advantages for supply chains, logistics and customers. Acting now is critical to addressing the urgent and complex challenge of climate change within the industry and creating a more sustainable future for all.

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