Cold Chain News reports from the Cold Chain Federation’s first ever Climate Summit

The Cold Chain Federation hosted a pioneering Climate Summit in March, sponsored by ISD Solutions, Zestec Renewable Energy and Blue Cube PCS. More than 200 cold chain colleagues met to explore the key issues, challenges and opportunities in responding to and preparing for net zero.

Claire Walters, regional vice president at Lineage Logistics, described how Lineage achieved a 33% energy reduction since 2015. She outlined the business’ impetus for making these changes and taking the Climate Pledge, highlighting the changing requirements of customers and stakeholders, concerns over energy security and the focus on energy as the business’ second highest expense. 

As well as headline projects such as installing solar on 12 sites in the UK, Walters explained why Lineage is acting on “a million little things: we aren’t going to move the needle without attacking from every angle.” Measures to improve energy efficiency have included Waste Walks and upgrading old refrigeration, a new modular system at Bellshill bringing 20% energy savings.

On transport, Walters explains that Lineage is creating a “roadmap for the future”, including using software to optimise routes, working with customers to maximise load fill and trialling electric vehicle options.

A suite of options to cut carbon emissions

Professor Alan McKinnon of Kuehne Logistics University led the macro conversation about achieving net zero in logistics, which he stated accounts for 11-12% of global emissions. He examined the challenges and opportunities in decarbonising freight in the context of expected future growth in cold chain.

A shift to lower carbon transport modes could help decarbonise, said McKinnon, and while railways have not been a strong option for moving temperature-controlled products, Tesco’s refrigerated rail freight operation is a promising step.

McKinnon detailed how optimising use of assets offers large potential CO₂ saving, low carbon mitigation costs and short- to medium-term implementation through collaboration, digitisation, high-capacity transport, relaxation of Just in Time, and adoption of the “physical internet”. Energy efficiency improvements through uptake of new technologies, introduction of fuel economy standards, retrofitting fuel saving devices, and enhanced maintenance and training could also support decarbonisation, as could switching to alternative fuels such as battery, hydrogen, e-methanol, green ammonia and e-kerosene. 

With the scale of the challenge ahead, and with the industry “currently still in the low hanging fruit phase” of decarbonisation, McKinnon advised: “All levers will be required.”

Reducing global cold chain inequality

Dr Leyla Sayin of The Centre for Sustainable Cooling spoke on global inequity in sustainable, resilient cold chains. She detailed why, with 12% of total food produced globally being lost, there is an urgent need for public-private-community partnership to address this inequitable access. Pointing to the disconnect between low and high income countries, Sayin said: “In the future, food and health here will depend on what happens over there”. She added that a system-level, global approach is needed. “Food resilience doesn’t start at Heathrow. We need a more globally connected approach,” she said.

In the Climate Summit’s cold storage panel discussion, Lisa Rowbotham, UK sales manager at Blue Cube Portable Cold Stores, highlighted the increasing demand for units tailored to minimise a customer’s power draw. She outlined innovations allowing Blue Cube to introduce software to reduce power draw through invertor-driven controls on compressors, valves and fans, and explained how the business’ hybrid air flow technology can bring 33% reduction in a blast freezing programme.

Will Watson, commercial director at Zestec, agreed that organisations have become less passive about mitigation, with a shift in attitude at board level. He discussed ongoing research into making solar panels operate most effectively, including close monitoring and combining use of solar panels, wind turbines and battery storage technologies to complement each other. 

Joanne Moore, group sustainability manager at ISD Solutions (part of The P&M Group), emphasised that many energy efficiency measures such as properly treated and insulated pipework are not only important for cutting carbon but also bring other gains such as cost savings and health and safety improvements.

 Diesel-free transport refrigeration

The second panel of the day, examining diesel-free transport refrigeration, began with an overview from the Department for Transport’s Mollie Johnson and Tom Froggatt of the government’s decarbonisation plan and support on offer such as plug-in grants, an online freight portal and a £7m freight innovation fund. 
Graham Thomas, fleet operations manager at Ocado Group, was optimistic about the transition to emission-free transport refrigeration units (TRUs), with disruptors coming to the market and the range of options growing. Ocado is trialling Marshall Fleet Solutions’ Titan technology. “We believe that over the course of this trial period we’ll be able to actually eliminate diesel from that operation, on that trailer,” Thomas said.

Zero emission zones

Thomas’ warning that the introduction of different air quality measures, such as zero emission zones, by individual local authorities is hard to manage was echoed by James Bielby, chief executive of the Federation of Wholesale Distributors. Bielby advised that the current uncoordinated patchwork of clean air regulations will eventually join up with regulations across all areas, and highlighted the role for government as well as industry in investing in the technology needed for this transition.
Discussing the development of hydrogen fuel options, Dr Harsh Pershad, head of hydrogen at Tevva Motors, predicted that by the 2030s, many countries should have hydrogen refuelling stations and the next 10 years will be crucial to deciding whether the UK exports our solutions elsewhere, or has to import the solutions we will need from other countries instead.

Resources at your fingertips

The Climate Summit created an important chance for cold chain colleagues to look at the role of future-facing technologies and consider the path forward. The CCF has created a range of resources to support its members in preparing for change and new opportunities, visit for more information.