The futures not bright unless it's green

CILT anniversary report considers the next 80 years in logistics and transport

Smart radio frequency (RFID) credit cards that monitor our personal journeys and enable us to trade individual carbon emissions, door-to-door driverless trains, ships under modern sail and distribution centres and channels running underground, are some of the back to the future thoughts contained in the 80th anniversary report of the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport as it looks forward to the next eight decades.
The green theme running through the report is encapsulated by CILT(UK) president Professor Alan Waller who says: Transport is too cheap as an ingredient in the supply chain, goods vehicle utilisation is just 20 per cent and the West is throwing away around one third of the food it produces. This is no post apocalyptic vision of 2086 but a snapshot of todays inefficient supply chains. Our throw-away economy is propped up by a self-indulgent consumerism that is non-sustainable. He adds: We have a supply-chain that can deliver strawberries in February and chickens from Thailand when we rear them just around the corner. Until we as individuals and collectively as a society radically re-evaluate our lifestyles, there is no way we will be able to save the planet in the future.

The 24-page report, coming hot on the heels of the Stern Report, Rod Eddingtons Transport Review and the Chancellors eco-centric Pre-Budget Report (PBR), contains the thoughts of some of the Institutes leading academics who ponder the impact of global warming and the sustainability of transport and logistics in the year 2086. From post apocalyptic flooding across the UK, to people living, working and sourcing product closer to home, the report considers the timetable of necessary change in transport and supply-chain practices as we move from a car-loving democracy to carbon-free cities such as the experiment under consideration in Dantong, China. The report considers scenarios for each mode of transport including fuel-saving modern ships using giant parachute chambered sails leviathan liners or freight carriers that hold up to 12,000 containers, but travel as fast as lighter vessels by harnessing the elements.
Just in time delivery could be replaced by less time precious distribution through tunnels underground from manufacturing and consolidation centres closer to home to reduce wasteful food miles and cut the 78 billion kilometres of empty running that currently takes place across Europe every year. It could mean the end of the big commute to work as more people live and work virtually through the web and any miles travelled are measured within individual carbon parameters, so that when we do create C02 emissions, they can be traded with each other or sold to the National Grid.
The hardware of infrastructure will be replaced by the software of people development to think and plan us out of climate meltdown and help better manage environmental and humanitarian disasters in the future, strategies the Institute already specialises in, the report says. While history shapes the future, it is clear that the transport and logistics practices of the yesteryear are not sustainable and we now need to shift to reflect new travel and distribution needs, says Steve Agg, CEO of the CILT(UK) who commissioned the Back to the Future study. Moreover, we need to evolve and embrace ethical and responsible practices by reducing unnecessary journeys and empty running in the context of global warming and climate change. While we will no doubt be developing alternative and environmentally-friendlier fuels, we will also be re-evaluating older technologies as we go back to the future with developments in shipping, for example, that will once again harness the wind, he adds.
Some of the reports observations:-
Overground or underground, our distribution centres are likely to be closer to us to enable click of the mouse sustainable delivery, which too could be over or underground.  We will cease our obsession with manufacturing in low cost countries and focus upon developing the value chain. The stretching of supply-chains across the globe to deliver value to the customer has negative environmental implications as demonstrated by the story of shellfish from Scotland being flown to Thailand to be washed shelled before returning for consumption in the UK because it was cheaper to do so.

Consumers are going to become greater drivers and value in the future will not necessarily be defined solely by low cost ethical and environmental production is already a buzzword with the explosion in organic produce and the advent of fair trade products, trends that are set to accelerate. Production and purchase could become closer together to reduce food miles and provide greater protection from global terrorism the food chain is already recognised as a possible hostage to fortune. 

Carbon trading, so far the preserve of the heavy industries across the EU, is likely to cascade down into everyday living during the next 80 years. We may indeed see RFID smart cards that act as everything from passports, retail on-line loyalty cards, travel cards, but moreover allow us to trade our own carbon output with each other and the National Grid, making the swapping C02 credits as easy as any other credit card transaction.

However, we may park our obsession with IT hardware as the panacea for all transport and logistics needs and get back to the software the training and development of people to help think us out of global meltdown. However, to get to this point, we need to give the logistics and transport industries an image makeover to attract the right calibre of candidate those who can harness economic, ethical and environmental needs in their development of transport systems and supply-chains of the future. These same people will be expert in the flip side of supply and value - demand. Transport and logistics experts will hone their talents in the worlds killing fields dealing with environmental and man made disasters -  a trend that is already in evidence within CILT(UK) which has just developed the worlds first qualification in humanitarian logistics. E-commerce may now mean electronic trading, but in the brave new world, e will equally stand for environmental and ethical trading as people and the planet take centre stage.

About CILT (UK)
The Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport in the UK CILT (UK) - is the professional body for individuals and organisations involved in all disciplines, modes and aspects of logistics and transport. The Institutes 20,000 members have privileged access to a unique range of benefits and services, which are designed to support them, personally and professionally, throughout their careers and help connect them with worldwide expertise.  

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