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Green shoots in the logistics chain through low carbon dividend

Green shoots in the logistics chain through low carbon dividend
Three years ago, an unusual project centred on ports in the East of England region was described at its launch by Local Government Minister Baroness Hanham as a “trailblazer” and a “very important scene-setter for other port”.

The Haven Gateway Partnership’s Low Carbon Freight Dividend set out to prove that with a little bit of encouragement – in terms of real money and practical help – SMEs could be persuaded to rethink their transport and logistics habits and make some more environmentally friendly choices.

The carrot? Up to £75 ($111) of support per container shifted away from the road and moved instead by rail or water, with up to £50,000 available to individual companies, and dedicated workshops to help SMEs learn about creating lower-carbon supply chains.

But as project manager Lisa Brazier points out, there is always been a bit of a stick, too; back in 2012, the team was predicting carbon taxes for the future and more legislation forcing all companies, whether global corporates or SMEs, to take more responsibility for their carbon footprints.

“When we first submitted our plans for the Low Carbon Freight Dividend, it was the only project of its type approved for support by the European Regional Development Fund,” she says. “Nothing like it had been attempted before and back in 2012 there was plenty of scepticism about its prospects.

“But fast-forward to 2015, and how attitudes have changed. Green transport and carbon are no longer an optional extra but at the centre of every company’s thinking. For example, the Environmental Savings Opportunity Scheme (ESOS), part of the EU Energy Efficiency Directive, will require companies to assess and declare their energy use by assets held and by activities and operations – and to assess how energy can be saved.”

So, a round of applause for the Low Carbon Freight Dividend, which is now into its final few weeks, with the team processing claims from plenty of SME “converts”.

“The project has done what it set out to do, which is to reduce the numbers of containers on the road and encourage SMEs to look at the alternatives,” says Brazier.

Of course, forcing companies to take responsibility for their carbon can be a puzzling process – the question can be: “Whose carbon is it, anyway?” For example, if a truck is due to deliver a container full of consumer goods but is turned around by the consignee because it arrives outside the delivery “window”, who takes responsibility for the carbon generated in the return journey and redelivery the next day?

But back in the general spirit of green transport, it was also good to hear of the launch of a shortsea shipping service from Corpach, in the shadow of Ben Nevis, to the Port of Tilbury. Boyd Brothers has launched the service with the support of nearly £960,000 from the Scottish Government’s Waterborne Freight Grant, and research predicts that more than 6,300 truck journeys will be removed from main Scottish roads during the first three years of operation.

In 2015, BSW Timber, which has a sawmill at Fort William, near Corpach, will use this service to ship more than 50,000 cu m of sawn timber to its southern distribution centre, via Tilbury. Volumes are expected to increase to more than 100,000 cu m by 2017.

Tony Hackney, BSW’s chief executive, said: “The new shipping service has allowed us to significantly expand our logistics operation in southern England, linked to our new Essex-based southern distribution centre which opened in 2014.”