Friday, 30 August 2013

Why 'green' logistics must not be ignored

Environmental issues are moving centre stage in business strategies so it is only logical that 'green' logistics  will dominate corporate thinking because of its huge carbon footprint. Any moves, therefore, to cut conventional electricity, alone responsible for 30% of Britain's carbon emissions, and other toxic fuels, will be welcomed but what are some of Britain's leading logistics companies and retailers doing to achieve that? To find out, readers could attend, or otherwise follow, the second Green Logistics Summit,* part of the Logistics Leaders Network, on September 17 at the B & Q Centre, Worksop, Nottinghamshire.

The theme will be how companies can profit from 'green' logistics strategies by saving money and helping the environment. Jaguar-Land Rover will be talking about their fleet improvement strategy reducing CO2, partly through lower mileage. B & Q will discuss steps it is taking to reduce the environmental impact of the supply chain, while others will be talking about reducing energy in the warehouse, reverse logistics, recycling and re-use of materials and fleet management, trucks, tyres and trailers. The keynote address will be all about the latest EU pronouncements on 50% of journeys within its borders not being eligible for going by road by 2030. Following the conference, there will be a tour of the large B & Q distribution centre, all of which is powered by one 2 megawatt capacity wind turbine, with enough energy left over for some local houses. The turbine reduces annual carbon emissions by 1,599 tonnes.

Whatever misgivings some may have over alternative clean power sources like wind and solar, owing to costs and their taxpayer subsidies which hit the poor much harder than the rich, the long-term cost of relying heavily on fossil fuels should convince most that there should be a hastening of clean, reusable, energy options adoption, as will become clear. However, there are other promising developments less painful to taxpayers' pockets These include dual-fuelled, gas-powered HGVs using a mixture of bio gas from waste food and liquid natural gas.

A leading pioneer in this work is the British company, Gasrec, who claims that an HGV fleet operator who seeks to lower his fuel costs and decarbonise the fleet will discover that Bio-LNG provides the optional solution. By their nature, HGV operations cover the highest mileage and use the most fuel in the logistics sector, accounting for over one third of all costs. Claimed benefits for the Gasrec  fuel are impressive. These include 25% cheaper fuel, up to 70 % cut in CO2 emissions and at least 85% in NOx. There is a 90% cut in particulates which all add up to the company's claim that environmentally speaking it is more advantageous than any other commercially available fuel.

Barriers to its adoption, like availability of vehicles, quality and availability of the fuel, are all being removed. Volvo and Mercedes are the dominant manufacturers, with Cleaner Power and Hardstaff providing conversion technology. Payback calculations for conversion can be difficult but Britain's leading food retailer, Tesco, claims a payback on converted vehicles in just over two years. Other leading Bio-LNG fuel users are B & Q, Coca-Cola, Sainsbury, UPS and DHL. Currently, Gasrec is building the UK's first refuelling network, enabling its customers to access the fuel from multiple locations on the UK road network.

Time, alas, is running out in the race to ameliorate the impact of global warming, and as indicated in my last report: "Nature threatens port centric logistics," even if the burning of all fossil fuels ended tomorrow "future generations have been irreversibly committed to a warmer world and rising seas." The cost of going 'green' may seem high for some but the cost of not doing so on a meaningful and timely scale will be incalculably higher. As hurricane Sandy showed last Winter, a perfect storm left defenceless New York with a US$19 billion damage bill but the legacy costs seem almost certain to be much more. Pity the unfortunate householders from Louisiana to New York (with west coast cities to be added by 2016) asked to raise their homes or suffer huge hikes in insurance premiums thanks to FEMA's redrawing of the country's flood maps in anticipation of future storms. But it is not just about storms. It also encompasses a combination of rising sea levels and storms. The former has risen eight inches over the last 100 years owing to global warming but the rate of rise began to accelerate over the last two decades. The consensus is that by the end of the century it will rise between 27 inches and six feet, provided the Damoclean sword of the huge Thwaites glacier in West Antarctica does not breakaway, a prospect rising sea levels enhances, for that alone would raise sea levels by 10 feet. Then the sparks would fly upwards.
*Further details from: Peter Acton, Tel: 01737 457002. Email:

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