This Scorecard is due to be updated in 2018
The position of successive governments and authoritative bodies has been that moving ever more people and goods, by whatever means, is both socially desirable and economically beneficial. Far less attention has traditionally been paid to either the significant costs that transport imposes on communities and on the environment - through environmental damage, greenhouse gas emissions, pollution, congestion, road wear and accidents - or in considering the best form that transport can take to enable sustainable living over the longer term.
Every business delivers products and services, has staff getting to and from work and, directly or indirectly, moves goods in or out. This means that transport, together with its environmental impact, has relevance for every business. 36 percent of total final consumption of UK energy products in 2012 came from the transport sector. Within this sector, road transport accounted for 74 percent of energy consumption, air transport 23 per cent and water transport only 3 percent. Road users included both passenger and road freight transport. These transport activities have significant environmental impact, with high levels of air and noise pollution associated with human ill health and premature death, causing immediate environmental damage and contributing to climate change. Yet, around 29% of HGV travel in the UK is empty running and 47% of those carrying goods are less than full (either by weight or volume).
Business can help to mitigate these negative impacts by implementing simple, practical steps which can both increase transport efficiency and potentially save money across their operations. However, identifying the most efficient means of freight movement or product delivery does require careful consideration. Variables include speed and/or time constraints, distance, the physical characteristics of the goods to be moved, and the particular pros and cons of the modes of transport (road, rail, air or water). As an example, Just-In-Time (JIT) production requires small but continuous batch delivery of materials combined with minimal warehouse inventory. JIT’s transport needs will differ from an e-commerce enterprise, which relies on a seamless system that can both deliver goods quickly and make any returns promptly. Meanwhile, a small business, such as one that infrequently sends out documents, may find a bike courier to be adequate over a small distance though over greater distances, another type of courier may be more appropriate. Whatever the business model, the approach to transport and transportation is highly specific.
Of course, transport needs are also combined with the business drivers of intense competition, tight margins, rising energy/fuel prices and, increasingly, a commitment to meet CO2 emission reduction targets. Through careful planning, businesses can devise appropriate transportation strategies to move things more efficiently, at a lower cost, using less fuel, and so mitigating environmental impact along the way. For example, becoming a member of a car club, as an individual or a business, is an innovative way to access a vehicle only for the period it will be needed. Taking steps to reduce use of the ‘grey fleet’ of vehicles, those owned by staff but used on company business, is another way to reduce costs and emissions.
Organisations often start ‘greening’ their transportation by reducing fuel use: fuel efficiency saves money, reduces waste and cuts pollution. The first steps can be as simple as checking how much fuel is used, when and where. From this, an organisation can map out its distribution/transport operations, together with associated fuel use and carbon footprint. Often couriers, freight haulage companies and shippers are also part of the pattern. Working with such businesses, as their clients or collaborators, and making use of their expertise in sustainable transport can help to put any business on a more sustainable path.
Further steps towards developing a more sustainable transport strategy include:
● Creating a simple document to summarise the business distribution/transport operations
● Assessing the carbon footprint of all such activities
● Choosing or reviewing the appropriate mode: road, rail, air, sea or non-motorised
● Considering network redesign: more effective use of what you have to reduce the need for transport
● Making access to public transport and bikeways a key criteria in selecting a business location
● Teleworking and other changes in working practices that reduce the need for staff travel
● Considering the possibility of flexible working practices
● Training company drivers to be more ‘eco-aware’ to reduce fuel consumption
● ‘Greening’ the company fleet such as using electric or hybrid vehicles
● Conducting regular ‘vehicle needs analyses’ by reviewing whether new vehicles are needed
● Upgrading fleet vehicles, reducing cost and CO2 emissions by improving fuel consumption
● Consolidating pallet or container use, so a quantity of cargo is bundled into a single unit
● Ensuring employees consolidate business travel with each other
● Collaborative distribution: sharing spare capacity, even with a business in a different sector.