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Transport and logistics: Balancing sustainability and resilience

Sustainability and resilience in supply chains was the focus of a recent webinar hosted by The Open University (OU) in association with the Chartered Institute for Logistics and Transport. Balancing sustainability and resilience looked at the importance of sustainability and resilience in the logistics and transport sector, the impact of Covid-19 and Brexit and lessons learnt through the turmoil of the past 18 months.

“With a global pandemic and the reality of Brexit now in the UK, what does that mean in the world of supply chains and can it really be sustainable?” asked Liz Ponting, Sector Lead for Transport and Logistics at the OU, when starting the panel discussion.

Also on the webinar were Nicoleta Tipi, Senior Lecturer in Operations and Supply Chain, at the OU, Ian Clough, MD, Network Logistics and Transport, at the international courier, package delivery and express mail service DHL and Nick McCullough, MD of the international shipping and logistics company DFDS Northern Ireland. Edward Gamble, MD at Worktime TV, led the panel discussion.

According to Nicoleta, there are three core elements to supply chain sustainability. 

From an economic point of view, being able to operate over a period of time is important. From an environmental point of view, it is to maintain a green agenda – to minimise and reduce the harmful impact on the environment. And from a social perspective, to have up to date skills, knowledge and training.”

Nicoleta Tipi, Senior Lecturer in Operations and Supply Chain, The Open University

Nicoletta went on to say that resilience is about being able to cope during a crisis, keep operations and the supply chain going, and then emerge stronger on the other side. She also said it’s really important that organisations think about what sustainability and resilience mean for them and to do it during the design stage of operations. That way, organisations can implement clear performance measures that enable sustainability and resilience to be measured over time.

Ian said environmental sustainability has shot up the priority agenda in recent years, for DHL, its customers and the sector at large. One of the key success factors as a logistics business is eliminating waste in the supply chain so DHL is also increasingly investing in more efficient fuels and vehicles.

When Covid-19 struck in 2020, Ian said it soon became apparent that the organisation and employees had to adapt. For that to happen, the workforce had to be on board with change and engaged with the situation. And they had to feel safe at work and in their roles. 

It taught us so many things about resilience. It’s about communication and engagement – with your team and with your employees as a whole. We would never have got through it without their support and without their additional effort. That’s the thing that makes the impossible possible.

Ian Clough, MD, Network Logistics and Transport, DHL

Nick agreed with Ian that keeping employees safe during the pandemic has been a top priority. This was achieved through listening and working together, he says. 

First thing we did was listen. It was about engaging with every person and working towards an almost new way of working and adapting. We had to re-engage with colleagues, re-engage with every level of customer and every level of management.

Nick McCullough, MD, DFDS Northern Ireland

Nick also agreed that the logistics and transport sector is taking environmental issues much more seriously now. He said DFDS is committed to reducing its climate impact, citing initiatives such as a target to achieve a 45% reduction in carbon emissions by 2020 and a target to have the first carbon free vessel by 2025.

Liz closed the webinar with a few words on the importance of future proofing skills and training employees to ensure they can deal with change as it arises. Any organisations that are interested in finding out how the OU can help with skills and workforce planning can contact Liz at liz.ponting@open.ac.uk 

The webinar recording is now available to view on-demand. To access the recording, complete the form below to watch the webinar on demand.

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