Training and education: key steps towards logistics decarbonisation

By Dr. Susana Val, Director of ZLC and Dr. Beatriz Royo, Postdoctoral Research Fellow

An early finding from the EU-cofunded LEARN (Logistics Emissions Accounting and Reduction Network) project has been the need to develop comprehensive education and training provision around the topic of logistics and transport Carbon footprint accounting. ZLC as a major partner in LEARN has taken on this task, through a methodology which involves industry at all levels to design a detailed syllabus with appropriate training materials, under the leadership of Susana Val and Beatriz Royo.

A survey of existing provision, followed up by market research, showed that, although courses and materials relevant to Carbon accounting and reporting do exist, these are often patchy or incompatible in coverage, do not necessarily address the right audience, are poorly incorporated into wider schemes of education and training at whatever level, and are often only available in English.

It was clear from the research that there are several distinct audiences and requirements for training and education in Carbon accounting and reporting. At an operational level there is a need for training not just in how to acquire and process data, but in understanding the level of granularity and the quality (accuracy, precision, reliability, comparability) of data required. On the one hand, more senior managers require deeper education in how to assess their entire Corporate Value Chain or indirect emissions impact and identify where to focus reduction initiatives in the logistics and transport activities, either downstream or upstream.  On the other hand, the identified logistics services providers’ and carriers’ lack of knowledge and awareness about how to calculate their direct emissions clearly demonstrates they also need specific training to ensure compliance, to share and report information, and to create strategies and roadmaps so that the results of Carbon accounting can be used to drive improved environmental performance and sustainability in line with wider and collaborative business strategy. It is also clear that, while the logistics industry is concerned about its Carbon footprint, its main concern is cost: even so, many firms are implementing their own accounting methodologies, but even where these are intended to follow the International Standard, differences in how data is collected, processed and reported mean that it is hard to see the benefits for the company. Education and training programmes would need to address these issues as well.

Through an iterative process of workshops, webinars and face to face interviews with both academe and industry, a three-module syllabus has been written and refined, against which specific and customisable training materials can be written. Initially, materials were tested in three different languages (English, Spanish and Romanian), in order to cover different geographical areas and collect the maximum information. It is intended that delivery will be face to face and/or by e-learning. Case studies will be an important component. The initial materials are aimed at the road transport sector in this instance, although a similar approach could and should be adopted for other modes and for multi-modal operators.

The first module, on Carbon footprint measurement, it is intended should be available to anyone without prior training or experience. It cover the concept and background of emissions accounting; the Standards, protocols and reporting frameworks; the data, tools and key resources; and the methods of calculating the Carbon footprint. The use of ‘trusted third party’ data warehouses as promoted by LEARN is also be covered.

The second and third modules are aimed at more senior management and CSR staff, and assume that trainees have either completed module one or have received equivalent training. Module 2 focuses on verification and assurance with detailed instruction on how to implement the ISO Standard, how to prepare for verification and how to evaluate and report verified findings. Besides managers and CSR staff, a firm’s external consultants and auditors might also be included.

Module 3 addresses corporate strategy in the light of Carbon accounting. It discusses climate change science and the risks and opportunities climate change issues present to firms and supply chains. It looks at planning to mitigate risks, and how to leverage findings to drive operational improvements. The module discusses mitigation measures that might be appropriate, and how to perform financial analyses to support their adoption.

The modules have been trialled successfully both with industry partners and within ZLC Masters programmes. The next step is to further customise materials for different audiences from higher degree level down to vocational and shop floor training – there is a firm belief that environmental awareness training of this type should be mandatory practice, not just a cost-driven extra.

It is also hoped that widespread adoption of this syllabus will help inform continuing research agendas (not just at ZLC), especially in regard to new technologies and IT capabilities.

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