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The Federation of Wholesale Distributors (FWD) has unveiled a strategic vision for the wholesale sector to reach net zero by 2040.

The trade body has spent nine months working on the plan, collaborating with the sustainability consultant 3Keel and the Scottish Wholesale Association (SWA).

The primary goal of the project has been to create a comprehensive climate action roadmap.

The roadmap element of the project sets out the case for climate action in the sector, highlighting the key issues and outlining the actions wholesalers need to take in order to decarbonise their operations and value chains.

To support members who are getting started on their climate journey, the roadmap includes a four-step guide.

Wholesalers must baseline their company’s current emissions, then set clear climate ambitions, develop an action plan and establish internal structures for tracking progress.

A free calculator will be provided to all FWD and SWA members to help them keep track of emissions.

The organisation has also calculated the carbon footprint of the entire UK wholesale sector, which it said produced 18 million tonnes of emissions in 2021.

The report found wholesalers were only directly responsible for around 4% of emissions, with the majority of output coming upstream from ingredient production and manufacturing processes.

The organisation therefore stressed the vital importance of a collaborative approach with manufacturers, suppliers and customers to reach net zero.

Vehicle use was found to be responsible for 63% of emissions from wholesalers’ direct operations, with electricity use at 17%, refrigerants at 7% and fuel use for buildings at 6%.

Key government policy asks which will be needed to support a climate transition are highlighted throughout the report.

These include a clear strategy for road freight decarbonisation; a long-term legislative plan for commercial and industrial building decarbonisation; and incentivisation of greater availability, consistency and quality of Scope 3 emissions data.

The FWD has been invited to present the report to the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs and the Department for Energy Security & Net Zero.

“It is clear wholesalers are acting across all areas of their business, but more help and encouragement is needed to enable the sector to fully measure progress towards net zero,” said FWD CEO James Bielby.

“This is no longer an added extra, it’s a business essential for a wholesale channel which is sustainable – in both senses of the word.

“This ground-breaking report provides a greater understanding of the direct emissions of our sector and offers help to members in understanding their emissions.”

3Keel director Richard Sheane said: “The impacts of a changing climate are being seen in supply chains today, and the expectations of employees, customers, investors and regulators continue to ratchet up.

“And while the decarbonisation of some emissions sources remain technically and economically challenging, we are seeing increasing demand for zero-carbon solutions driving innovation faster than ever before.”

Alongside the FWD announcement, the SWA has released its own ‘Decarbonising the Scottish wholesale sector’ report, which explores the sector’s carbon emissions and attitudes to climate action.

It said the report reinforced the FWD findings on the importance of addressing logistics emissions in order to reach net zero.

SWA CEO Colin Smith said: “The SWA and our members are sector leads in decarbonising our fleet emissions within Scotland’s food and drink supply chain.

“This report is an important step on our sustainability journey, during which the SWA will work hard to drive a just transition to a net-zero economy that can benefit all of Scotland’s wholesale sector.”