Sustainable Supply Chain Conference: morning highlights

Logistics Manager’s Sustainable Supply Chain Conference got underway this morning – a one-day face-to-face event where delegates can hear directly from industry-leading speakers about how business sustainability can influence their bottom line.

The event kicked off at 9:50am, with Logistics Manager Editor Michelle Mooney, who is chairing the event, making her opening remarks.

At 10:00am, the crowd heard from Esther Tsang, The Body Shop’s Scope 3 NetZero & Sustainable Assurance Manager, about the company’s sustainability strategy and the challenges that it faces in the pursuit of its sustainability targets.

She explained the importance of The Body Shop’s B CORP certification to helping the company achieve its sustainability goals, including reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 42% by 2030 to reach net zero GHG emissions by 2030 without offsetting.

“Our B CORP certification helps us get our mindset ready and our people ready”, Tsang said. She noted that engaging all employees in the company’s sustainability practises is hugely beneficial. “It is important to bring the whole company with you in this process to achieve success” she explained, adding: “Everyone can deliver sustainability in their own way”.

Tsang emphasised: “Sustainability is a journey. It is not a one-off thing. We have made a 2030 goal [for net zero]and it really takes discipline and determination in order to achieve that”.

Then, after a break, REAMIT Project Manager Katarzyna Pelc from the University of Bedfordshire explained how digital technologies can be taken advantage of to reduce waste and improve the efficiency of food supply chains.

As well as projects across Europe, REAMIT has been involved in several projects in the UK, including the use of sensors and Internet of Things (IoT) technology to reduce waste in abattoirs and in the transportation of donated human milk.

Another project saw REAMIT work with YumChop, a provider of ‘authentic African meals’ that are frozen and can be sold in vending machines. YumChop worked with REAMIT to “monitor conditions in which food is stored” to prevent food spoiling if freezers malfunction, something that Pelc identifies would have significant impact on the company, being an SME.

This was followed by a presentation from Samuel Bird, a Senior Consultant at the Carbon Trust, focusing on strategic approaches to the decarbonisation of supply chains. He explained the importance of monitoring Scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions as well as the difference between upstream and downstream Scope 3 emissions.

He spoke about how important it was to engage the whole supply chain and work with suppliers to create a strategy to drive emissions reductions. According to Bird, “a well-defined supplier engagement programme” is vital, especially where upstream Scope 3 emissions are material to an organisation.

With regards to Scope 3 emissions, he added: “These often account for a huge portion of a company’s overall value chain emissions; quite often those emissions can be 60-90% of the overall carbon footprint”. This certainly seems to be a key theme today for both the speakers and delegates, with Esther Tsang previously mentioning the significance of Scope 3 emissions to retailers that aren’t heavily involved in the manufacturing of the products they sell.

He also alluded to the importance of collecting and analysing high-quality data to inform decisions when it comes to reducing carbon emissions, sharing examples of how the Carbon Trust has worked with Carlsberg to track data surrounding their direct and indirect emissions.

At 11:50, Dr Helen Benton, Associate Professor in Supply Chain Management and Project Management at Anglia Ruskin University, took the stage to offer insight into the importance of making supply chains circular, as well as the challenges associated with such a transformation. 

She took the example of jeans to demonstrate the life cycle of a product and what can be done to make this process more circular. She identified that “clothing is a difficult industry for circularity due to the increase in fast fashion” and, interestingly, identified that moving from a linear economy to a recycling economy is no longer sufficient if sustainability goals are to be met. “Data now suggests that we will no longer be able to recycle our way out of our current situation in terms of climate change”, Benton revealed.

She acknowledged some challenges with convincing consumers to engage in more sustainable purchasing habits, saying: “Consumers are getting on board, but they still see it as expensive and don’t trust the information provided.”

In the final session before lunch, Head of Sustainability and Improvement at The Cotswold Company Jacquie Silvester discussed the concept of decarbonisation. In her presentation, she gave her take on the debate about whether or not firms should be carbon offsetting. She concluded that offsetting can be extremely beneficial, but should only be done after a company ensures that it has done all it can to “eliminate, reduce, and substitute” emissions.

Silvester also raised some interesting points about the future of road transportation. She explained that despite research showing numerous benefits to switching from diesel fuel to HVO, at 5-10% more expensive than diesel, HVO is not yet feasible for the Cotswold Company and other businesses where mileage is high. In addition to this, she suggested that electrification may not be the “panacea” it seems, only showing significant emissions cuts if the electricity source is renewable and with issues surrounding the mining of lithium for batteries.

After a morning of fascinating talks and invaluable networking, the conference continues into the afternoon. Logistics Manager will bring you all the coverage of the second half of the event later today.


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