Shaping the Cold Chain of the Future: The Road to Net Zero

Tom Southall | Policy Director | Cold Chain Federation


September 2020

Cold Chain Live! finally sees the launch of the Cold Chain Federation’s Net Zero project, an initiative which has been long in the planning and lays down our commitment to supporting our industry to navigate the regulatory, economic and social pressures expected from the UK Government’s pledge to have a net zero economy by 2050.

Our project will seek to map out the road towards net zero and what this means for cold chain businesses. This week sees the release of Part One: Setting the Scene, which provides an outline of what we hope to achieve. Over the coming months and years we will be working to bring our industry together; to define what we mean by a net zero cold chain; and to ask ourselves where the gaps are in our knowledge and where the potential is for collaboration.

Part One details the 4 key areas we will develop further:

  • Defining the challenge: what do we mean by a net zero cold chain?
  • Improving energy management in cold stores: what does the cold store of 2050 look like?
  • Reducing emissions in temperature-controlled distribution: How and when can we transition away from diesel powered mobile refrigeration?
  • Rethinking the supply chain: how will whole supply chains need to adapt to meet the net zero challenge and how can we foster the collaboration between businesses which will be required?

On the face of it the cold chain is vulnerable. Long described as a ‘hidden’ part of the supply chain, refrigeration is also an energy intensive process. A crucial part of our project will be to collaborate with Government, NGO’s, charities and other stakeholders to increase visibility of the unique decarbonisation challenges of our industry as well as the achievements of cold chain businesses. We want the cold chain to be viewed as an example of how industry can proactively work towards a net zero future.

Cold chain businesses cannot afford to sit and wait and see what happens with climate change policy. We need to start adapting now. Large capital investments such as new cold stores or temperature-controlled vehicles will be expected to last for decades and so businesses need to make sure the decisions they make now are resilient to future energy and emission regulation and taxation.

Those businesses who adapt early will be futureproofing themselves from kneejerk policy making as we approach 2050, taking control of their energy management and putting themselves in a stronger position for winning future business, which will increasingly go to those who can demonstrate their environmental credentials.

In early 2021, we will publish our Towards a Net Zero Cold Chain Report. In it we will develop the concepts and questions introduced in Part One: setting the scene and set out ideas and recommendations for how to tackle the behavioural, structural and political hurdles which act as a barrier to progress and also what mitigation might be required to power the cold chain of the future.

We want all our members to be part of this exciting and critical journey. Throughout the next 6 months there will be opportunities to get involved and help shape the future of your cold chain.

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