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The decarbonisation goal: UK road transport’s journey to sustainability

20 June 2024 #Features & Interviews #TNB News

As an ever growing number of road transport companies look to improve their environmental performance while remaining profitable in a competitive market, demonstrating that commitment to customers – who have the same objective – is also becoming increasingly important.

Nottingham-based logistics firm Mitchells of Mansfield, for example, as a member of Palletways UK has launched a customer-facing Carbon Co-op initiative.

Building on the company’s ongoing partnership with climate action platform and B Corp Social Enterprise, Ecologi, it is developing a roadmap to become a climate positive company by 2027.

Once they join the Carbon Co-op, businesses working with Mitchells of Mansfield fund the offsetting of emissions generated from each of their consignments by paying a small additional fee.

This fee is calculated by the travelling distance of each consignment and is paid forward into climate-friendly projects around the world through Ecologi, which works with climate projects worldwide that align with the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Each business that signs up joins a community ‘virtual forest’ through Ecologi, where they can track key data such as the CO2 which has been avoided, and the number trees planted as part of the initiative.

As an initial welcome gift to each client that join its Carbon Co-op initiative, Mitchells of Mansfield finances the planting of 50 trees.

So far, Mitchells of Mansfield has funded about 2,000 trees and avoided 532.5 tons of CO2 – equivalent to 409 long haul flights or 1,321,133 miles driven in a car.

Richard Montgomery, Managing Director at Mitchells of Mansfield, said: “We recognise that, while many of our customers want to make greener choices, they can be stretched between other responsibilities and so this isn’t always achievable.

“With the launch of our Carbon Co-op, we are taking on the burden of reducing carbon emissions for businesses using our services. This way, they can have peace of mind that their products are not only being transported from A to B safely, but also more sustainably.”

From April 2024, all United Pallet Network (UPN) palletised freight deliveries handled by members across its UK-wide partner network have been carbon neutral, under a carbon offsetting scheme.

Established in 2001, UPN currently has more than 90 members covering the whole of the country.

Under the scheme, Carbon Neutral Britain (CNB) provides UPN with full Carbon Neutral Certification for every member, certifying all UPN deliveries as carbon neutral.

Each UPN member receives a Carbon Neutral Delivery Badge and licence enabling them to confirm and promote carbon neutral status.

Also, CNB provides a Carbon Emissions Report based on projected figures for 2024 to clearly, accurately, and transparently demonstrate how the carbon footprint of the UPN network has been calculated and offset via the ISO 14064 and GHG Emissions Protocol accounting standards.

In return, projects are funded across the developing world that help provide education, employment, clean water, energy and a positive impact on local wildlife and ecology.

David Brown, UPN Managing Director, said: “UPN are now working with Carbon Neutral Britain to offset our company’s carbon emissions by investing in carbon offsetting programmes upfront for each financial quarter so deliveries are offset in real time as a proactive measure to minimise our environmental impact.

“As the APN (Association of Pallet Networks) highlights, sector vehicle fill is 73% compared to a logistics industry average of 51%, reducing by around 800 per day the number of vehicles on our roads.

“We must recognise though that by the very nature of our business our industry will leave a carbon footprint, we can’t help that at the moment”

Meanwhile, Brit European Transport recently opened its Vita Nova Centre headquarters in Middlewich, Cheshire, designed to help the firm become carbon neutral within five to seven years and operate completely off-grid.

The business, which operates a fleet of more than 100 vehicles, developed its new sustainable facility on a five-acre brownfield site off Sanderson Way.

There are several eco-modular buildings at the site which utilise repurposed steel frames and feature enough solar panel technology and 3D-printed wind towers to produce 60kW of renewable energy.

It also features several electric vehicle charging points powered by compressed fugitive methane recovered from slurry pits, producing an additional 40kW.

Brit European is also planting more than 100 trees and 200 native plants in the surrounding area, with bat and bird boxes installed, to help return the local ecosystem to its pre-industrialisation state.

Rainwater harvesting is also in place across the site to reduce water usage by up to 85 per cent.

Graham Lackey, CEO at Brit European, said: “From innovative construction techniques to ground-breaking charging technology, we hope the centre will act as a prime example to other business of how new premises can be developed.”

In addition, Birmingham-based Mobile People.Powered.Logistics has been accredited as Carbon Neutral for the second consecutive year.

This recognition, certified by Carbon Neutral Britain in accordance with the UN’s internationally recognised ISO 14064 calculation, highlights the company’s commitment to sustainability and proactive measures in reducing carbon emissions throughout its operations.

Mobile People.Powered.Logistics has successfully lowered its carbon emissions output by 1.8% over the past year, by investing in new green technologies, new forklift trucks, and fostering a culture of sustainability within the organisation.

The company has included optimising route planning to reduce fuel consumption to investing in energy-efficient infrastructure and promoting awareness about environmental impact among employees and stakeholders.

Matthew Marriott, Managing Director of Mobile People.Powered.Logistics said: “Our journey towards sustainability and reducing our carbon footprint is a testament to the power of collective action and the shared values of our team.

“Achieving Carbon Neutral accreditation for the second year running, especially under the rigorous standards set by Carbon Neutral Britain and aligned with the UN’s ISO 14064, is not just an accolade for our business; it’s a beacon of what’s possible when an entire organisation aligns towards a common goal of environmental stewardship.”

As transport firms look to minimise their environmental impact, schemes and projects such as these set new benchmarks for sustainability in the logistics sector as well as inspire and enable others to embark on their own decarbonisation journeys.

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