EXCLUSIVE: Transport industry ‘unlikely’ to collaborate on environmental impact says Porritt

Environmental regulation will only partly drive improvement in the transport industry as it stimulates "one part of the business brain" and does not engage the more creative, innovative side needed for change, says Jonathon Porritt.

Forum for the Future co-founder Jonathon Porritt told edie that it is pivotal to engage the “creative side of the business brain” to push the boundaries and encourage sectors to join up and develop a more resource efficient and sustainable transport industry.

“It’s a big [proposition] to get all transport sectors to work closer together to tackle their environmental impact collectively.

“It’s quite ambitious to get even one particular sector to get things focused but the bit where you’ve got the overlaps is the intermodal stuff, where you’ve got opportunities to combine, particularly with freight, innovations in how the freight moves between countries and in country,” he added.

Porritt said that containerization, the system of intermodal freight transport using intermodal containers made of weathering steel, has had a huge impact on the transport industry in terms of innovation and sustainability.

Developed after World War II, the system has reduced transport costs and also supported the rise in post-war international trade.

The system resulted in standardised dimensions which allowed the containers to be loaded, unloaded, stacked, transported efficiently over long distances, and transferred across ships, rail and trucks.

However, Porritt says the system has still not produced a fully linked up transport industry when it comes to its co2 emissions and waste. 

“We’ve seen a lot of this, and containerization of course created a huge surge in innovation between what can be done by shipping and what can be done by rail and how you then deal with the end points in distribution and logistics etc”.

Porritt stressed that he thought it was “unlikely” that transport sectors would come together more strategically, citing disagreements between the sectors as a barrier.

“The [UK] aviation sector will still argue its corner as an extremely efficient freight mover, whereas shipping tends to look down its nose at aviation, saying that it has a tiny share of the market”.

He added that it is a “straight competitive story” which will always restrict collaboration.

Leigh Stringer

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