Freight firms championing ‘ambitious’ low-carbon plan
Big brand names like The Warehouse and Countdown have pledged to change the way they freight goods in a bid to decarbonise the freight industry in the next 30 years.
Nine companies are leading the charge as members of the Sustainable Business Council’s freight group, which on Friday launched a graduated transition plan for the industry.
Both The Warehouse and Toll NZ are introducing lighter electric trucks for urban deliveries and exploring hydrogen fuel for longerhaul trips.
Meanwhile, supermarket chain Countdown was moving more freight outside peak hours, although it said there was ‘‘a long road ahead’’ to fully decarbonise.
‘‘As a business that moves products up and down the country on a daily basis, reducing our freight emissions is a huge part of our work,’’ Charlotte Haycock, Countdown senior adviser on sustainability and government, said.
‘‘The pathway that the freight group has developed is ambitious, but also really exciting.’’
Toll NZ executive general manager Jon Adams said the launch of the low-carbon freight plan was a ‘‘call to arms’’ for others to commit to a carbon-neutral freight industry by 2050. This was becoming more urgent as the country’s freight volumes took off.
‘‘On current projections our freight volumes will increase by 33 per cent well before 2050. If we do nothing, emissions will grow by over 37 per cent by 2050. We need to act now.’’
The seven other companies taking a stand are Fonterra, Lyttelton Port Company, New Zealand Post, Ports of Auckland, Swire Shipping, The Warehouse Group, and TIL Logistics Group.
Transport makes up about 17 per cent of New Zealand’s total carbon emissions, of which freight accounts for third, with 820,000 vehicles on the road, as well as rail, ships and planes.
Change to green energy would be costly in both capital and operational terms, the report said.
At the same time, fleet owners were loath to retire conventional trucks with another 20 to 25 years of life too early.
Key strategies would be replacing fossil fuels with biofuels, better efficiency and replacing older vehicles with zero carbon ones when they were retired.
Hydrogen, biofuels and electric batteries for lighter vehicles are all expected to play a part.
David Benattar, The Warehouse Group chief sustainability officer, said that as a leading retailer, the company felt a responsibility towards ‘‘the way we move goods from our suppliers to our stores and to our customers’’.
Over the next two years it was phasing out all its LPG forklifts and working towards fully electrifying its light commercial fleet.
Toll is also phasing in a fleet of Fuso electric light trucks to service metro Auckland and later Wellington, as well as pledging a third of its capital investment to sustainable vehicles.
Hydrogen was probably the best fuel for long-haul transport but Adams estimated it was five to 10 years away from being widely available so biofuels would have to fill the gap. But with the right investment, hydrogen was the right long-term solution.
Adams said Toll had previously taken steps to cut down on carbon but yesterday was the first time it had pledged to loftier industry goals.
‘‘We’re going to deliver that . . . through fuels, but also making sure that we’re supporting the drive to switch to different modes and, critically, to try find a different way to collaborate better as an industry, to find ways to take more trucks off the road. Because at the end of the day that’s what it’s all about.’’