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A better future for all

26 October 2020

2020 will forever be remembered as the year that everything changed. Covid-19 altered the way we worked and the way our professions were viewed, pushing everything we do and the individuals and businesses The Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT) represents into the public limelight, says Chief Executive Kevin Richardson.

The start of lockdown in March 2020, came with headlines of empty supermarket shelves and a worrying lack of personal protective equipment, ventilators and hospital space, but supply chains rallied – as only they can – to ensure food, medicine and essential trade continued to flow and key workers continued to travel.

At the start of the pandemic, some logistics and supply chain sectors were overwhelmed with an increase in demand, while public transport was hit with significantly reduced passenger numbers. The pressure was on for our profession to step up to the challenge and we did so in incredible fashion. 

I was delighted to see government finally acknowledge that our profession is indeed ‘essential’ and that the importance of what you all do is now evident to everyone around the world. Of course, every business and sector has been affected by the pandemic in a different way, but, as a profession, we have risen to meet the tremendous pressure put upon us and continued to do what we do best.

CILT against Covid-19

Many of the sectors that CILT represents saw significant downturns in activity across non-food manufacturing and retail, aviation, ferry operations, passenger transport and in road freight activities. At the same time others were struggling to cope with activity due to increased demand in e-commerce, with final mile delivery, healthcare and food retail also having to manage increased absence due to sickness and self-isolation and adjusting to social distancing in operational environments.

At the start of the Covid-19 outbreak in the UK, we witnessed a rapid pivot in operational needs, with demands on the logistics sector soaring as home delivery and pharmaceutical supply chains were put under increasing pressure. As these sectors began to witness a rise in demand, CILT put together its CILT Coronavirus Response Database of available resources for cross-sector collaboration to ensure the UK was able to respond to this crisis. 

A request was issued asking the following to make contact with the Institute:

• Logistics or supply chain organisations with operational shortages including drivers, warehouse operators and vehicles

• Passenger transport operators with resource availability, including drivers and vehicles

• Vehicle rental companies with available vehicles

• Retired members of CILT not classified as high risk to offer services and expertise to logistics operations 

The initial response led to immediate support being made available to resolve specific issues for NHS Supply Chain (SCCL). By mid-April there were 1,600 entries on the database. CILT has also helped to put those organisations with capacity and expertise from within the brewery sector in touch with the NHS in order to supply oxygen tanks to those locations that require them.

CILT’s Patron, HRH The Princess Royal, welcomed our work stating: ‘Thank you to the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport who are keeping the UK’s air, water, road and rail transport networks operating, from keeping supermarkets stocked, to providing safe transport for NHS workers, to distributing essential medical supplies.’

Transport Minister Baroness Vere was also supportive: ‘Our response to the coronavirus outbreak is dependent on keeping the UK’s supply chain moving – so that our supermarkets can stay stocked up, and the NHS can access vital medicines. It’s incredible to see people working together to ensure drivers, vans and warehouse space are available to the organisations who need them. This sort of collaboration demonstrates the best of Britain.’

2021: A new world order

While our profession has risen with energy and adaptability to the challenges of Covid-19, protecting staff and customers while flexing to the peaks and troughs in demand, it is important that this transformation continues, particularly as the UK heads towards its exit from the EU.

At the time of writing, while the date of the UK's exit from the EU is known, there remain areas of uncertainty as we move towards a Free Trade Agreement or trading on WTO terms – or somewhere in between. Your Institute continues to engagement with government to ensure that frictionless borders and clarity on imports and exports processes are achieved. 

Routes to Net-Zero

Britain’s response to Covid-19 has highlighted the crucial and essential role of our profession. But, these recent challenges, amid a backdrop of political uncertainty, have forced the profession to re-think its models. The profession’s plans are also being made increasingly more difficult as we turn our attention to achieving the government’s target of net-zero emissions by 2050. 

In June 2019, the UK became the first major economy in the world to pass laws to end its contribution to global warming by 2050. The target will require the nation to bring all greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050, compared with the previous target of at least 80% reduction from 1990 levels. To achieve this goal, the current processes, organisation, information systems, consumer behaviour and infrastructure of supply chains will have to be radically altered. 

Hidden Heroes
CILT and ITN Productions Industry News have recently co-produced a new fast-turnaround report series. #HiddenHeroes showcases how the logistics and transport profession has responded in a huge national effort to meet the demands of the global pandemic crisis. As the country witnessed an unprecedented medical challenge, the profession played an integral role in providing an unprecedented logistical response to support it. The programme features key interviews and reports with sponsored editorial profiles. www.ciltuk.org.uk/hiddenheroes

The transport sector is the UK’s biggest contributor to climate change and one of the hardest to decarbonise. CILT understands that its members have a huge part to play in terms of sharing expertise and innovation with other industry sectors, and in taking action to make the UK sustainable and the best place to live and work.

To make change happen, we are going to have to think and behave differently, and we must begin to educate the consumer to better understand the impacts of their choices. We are all aware that our profession has had and will have a significant and long lasting impact on our environment. However, led by your Institute, we believe the profession is well placed and more focussed than ever to implement the opportunities we now have to tackle our environmental impact. 

CILT is uniquely placed as the only professional membership body able to examine the future of our supply chains and all modes of transport. With this commitment to Net Zero by 2050, CILT’s Public Policy community, is, over a series of modal-specific papers, events and workshops, consider the challenges and impacts ahead for the profession; highlighting areas of concern and advising government on the action it should take as we – as a profession – play our part in decarbonising the UK and improving global air quality.

Moving forward

As we move forward into our new normal, CILT remains an impartial, evidence-led professional body, here to advise government and help our members, with facts and expert-led research providing the foundations for logistics, transport and its associated supply chains to continue to thrive today and in our undoubtedly unpredictable future.

We will continue to work together; industry, academia and the public sector, to rebuild confidence in passenger transport and will ensure that government delivers on its promise to support our sectors to return to their pre-Covid-19 levels, while also encouraging active travel options remain safe and accessible to assist the UK in reaching its goal of net-zero carbon by 2050.

With our exit from the EU, decarbonisation and the recent Covid-19 pandemic all driving change, the professionals leading supply chain operations for the movement of goods and people have never been more important and more widely recognised than they are today. A return to normal may never be possible, and the challenge now, is that the profession remains at the top of everyone’s agenda, to provide a better future for us all.

About CILT
CILT is the professional membership body for professionals leading supply chain operations for the movement of goods and people. Members of the Institute are involved in the management and design of infrastructure, systems, processes and information flows, and in the creation, management and continuous improvement of effective organisations. The work of our members adds value to people and society and directly impacts the environment, business profitability and economic growth. www.ciltuk.org.uk