review james bielby chief executive federation of wholesale distributor

No scientist of any repute denies that a process of global warming is taking place and that a significant proportion of that change is due to human rather than solar activity.

And one of the biggest issues facing our sector is how wholesalers mitigate future Government legislation to tackle climate change and the attendant costs that will mean.

From next year, businesses will be subject to the Government’s Carbon Reduction Commitment, which will penalise those who fail to cut their emissions. The Government also has a commitment to reduce the UK’s carbon footprint by 80 per cent by 2050. In order to do this, its Committee on Climate Change has recommended the introduction of legally binding carbon budgets, setting ceilings on the level of allowed emissions.

At a recent meeting with Defra I was asked to provide examples within the wholesaling sector of carbon emission reduction strategies. The FWD wants Defra officials to be able to demonstrate to ministers that wholesalers are already taking action, and not just in response to the threat of regulation.

The good news is that FWD members are fully committed to carbon saving energy efficiency measures in their operations, as well as other sustainability measures, such as reducing consumption of resources like water, and minimising waste.

Measures taken include de-carbonising energy supples by using bio-fuels, re-using cooking oil for generating power, and using green electricity, as well as reducing overall energy consumption. One wholesaler does not heat distribution depots, but instead issues staff with thermal clothing in winter! Others have ‘green monitors’ keeping an eye on branch energy use and waste.

The physical distribution of goods is clearly an area where CO2 emissions are potentially high. Strategic plans to build a more efficient supply chain are commonplace, with better planning and more backhauling, as well as new vehicle fleets, contributing to a reduction in carbon footprints.

One effective measure is to monitor carbon emissions in relation to sales per carbon tonnes and sales per diesel litre. In adopting some of the initiatives outlined above, members have increased both, thereby decreasing emissions.

It is clear that in looking for solutions to environmental challenges, wholesalers are going a long way to reducing their carbon footprints. It demonstrates, to Government officials through representations by the FWD, that over-regulation is not needed. Heavy-handed intervention could negatively impact on future growth and, like in so many areas, legislation where it is not needed could make wholesale operations a lot more difficult.

With that in mind, we at the Federation encourage all wholesalers, and indeed the wider sector, to adopt sustainability best practice now, rather than have it imposed by burdensome legislation in the future.

l For more detail on initiatives by wholesalers see pages 50-51

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