The construction and logistics sectors can – and must – work closer together to drive sustainability and navigate supply chain challenges

31 January 2023

The construction and logistics sectors can – and must – work closer together to drive sustainability and navigate supply chain challenges

By Claudio Veritiero, Chief Executive Officer, Peel Ports Group

Supply chain issues severely challenged industries on an international scale in 2022, and the construction and logistics sectors were no exception. The availability and cost of materials, sustainability demands and the growing need to embrace digitalisation are just some of the challenges the sectors have faced and these look set to continue in 2023.

Construction has been at the heart of my career for many years, taking up leadership roles at the equipment hire firm Speedy Hire and construction and infrastructure services company Kier Group, before joining Peel Ports Group in 2021. My experience as a leader across both sectors has afforded me an insight into the natural synergies between logistics and construction and the vast opportunities available to work more collaboratively in the face of supply chain disruption.

Navigating supply pressures together

As the availability of natural resources from within the UK continues to decrease, construction companies are increasingly seeking to secure supplies from overseas. This, alongside significant inflation, means that obtaining the materials required to keep the UK’s construction projects underway has become progressively more difficult.

The logistics sector can support construction companies with this ongoing issue, helping to identify the best-value, sustainable resources and facilitate their efficient transport into the UK. Alongside this vital need, they can also provide additional support to aid the completion of projects.

For example, many modern ports can do so much more than just handle cargo. They can be used as facilities for off-site processing, manufacturing and storage. With this, they become a point of consolidation for construction schemes, centralising off-site activity and minimising the number of deliveries required to a site.

Sharing greener best practice

While both construction and logistics are characterised by highly carbon-intensive activity, the former has recently taken a leading role in becoming more sustainable, similar to how it embraced health and safety requirements in recent decades.

The UK’s construction industry has historically been criticised for not acting quickly or thoroughly enough to push a sustainable agenda. However, in more recent times, it has made the area an unrivalled priority and the knowledge and experience used to make this change is something logistics leaders could hugely benefit from. 

I am proud that, as a business, Peel Ports has made an industry-leading commitment to become a net zero port operator by 2040. This now runs through the DNA of all of our operations and we are working with many customers, suppliers and partners to help them reduce their own carbon emissions too.

By working closely with construction partners, logistics professionals can profit from shared knowledge and best practice, helping to identify barriers to net zero and act accordingly to help the UK reach its 2050 decarbonisation target.

Sourcing international materials sustainably 

Similarly, the collaboration is a win-win relationship for all involved, with logistics able to play an important role in supporting the construction sector to further improve its sustainability credentials. 

With major projects like HS2, we have seen that the level of aggregates needed far exceeds the volumes available within the UK. This means construction businesses need to secure materials from more diverse sources around the world which, if not managed carefully, will lead to an increase in carbon emissions.

I have seen first-hand the critical role of marine-based transport and port-centric solutions in enabling such projects. Construction schemes that, on the surface, are based in a particular region – such as the Lower Thames Crossing or Sizewell C – in fact often have a national footprint when it comes to the transportation of materials and off-site construction activity.

As pressure builds on contractors to reduce the carbon emissions of projects, logistics specialists, such as port operators, offer unique rail connectivity that replaces road mileage and cuts down on transportation time, allowing for greater efficiency. 

Planning is key

Forming key partnerships between the two sectors will be vital in 2023. Both industries will face immense challenges in the current economic climate but working together will encourage agility and robustness – two key characteristics if the last three years are anything to go by.

Logistics have a profound effect on a construction site, particularly concerning project time and budgets, and planning is imperative to keep things running proficiently. Having existing cross-industry relationships will ensure plans are in place for the inventory of materials, equipment, and tools needed for each stage of the project. And when construction leaders effectively manage materials from their source, we all see the benefits.

On the flip side, construction can work in tandem with the logistics industry to make strides with its net zero agenda in 2023, as well as share best practice, knowledge and experience on health and safety.

With all this against a backdrop of emerging deadlines for reducing carbon emissions, as well as public sector contracts requiring bidders to demonstrate more substantial ESG credentials, it is a pivotal time for the construction and logistics sectors to forge truly symbiotic relationships and work much more collaboratively as we enter 2023. The potential for knowledge transfer between the sectors is considerable and, if embraced, could be transformative not only for how we work, but for what we produce and how our work impacts on the world around us.