Nicola Davey l Palladium - Oct 23 2020
Four Ways Humanitarian Aid Can (and Must) Go Greener

Source: HSOT

Palladium’s Nicola Davey has been tasked with making procurement and logistics more sustainable, specifically when it comes to providing humanitarian aid. As Procurement Project Officer for the UK’s Humanitarian and Stabilisation Operations Team, she shares the steps her team is taking and considerations for others who rely on logistics to save lives.

Logistics – from transporting materials to storing goods for future use – creates 11 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions. For the humanitarian community (committed to the principle of ‘do no harm’), this is a significant concern as the immediate procurement and delivery of supplies in the aftermath of a crisis can mean the difference between life and death. How can we ensure that saving lives doesn’t mean harming the planet in the process?

For the UK’s Humanitarian and Stabilisation Operations Team (HSOT), the answer lies in overhauling the way we work and respond to crises globally, approaching the problem from four key perspectives.

1. Improving the Sustainability of Procurement

It’s not always straightforward to apply sustainability principles to procurement. Initiatives that seem environmentally friendly may have unanticipated consequences for our carbon footprint or cause increased waste further down the line.

To encourage our team to change procurement approaches, we developed a guidance document explaining how to apply environmental considerations to our work. Used together with an environmental review form, we’re ensuring that the environment is at the forefront in every procurement request.

Each response begins with a Supply Chain Plan with a key focus on environmental impact, allowing us to support wider Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office (FCDO) priorities such as the promotion of locally sourced procurement. Through an analysis of regional procurement options, often prepared with partners (such as the NGO Field Ready), we can reduce the carbon footprint of our freight while empowering the local economy.

We are also working with our existing suppliers to reduce the amount of packaging used for non-food items (such as tents and water filters) while encouraging the use of more environmentally friendly packaging where possible.

As we supply goods to the UK government, we are in a privileged position to exercise some influence over our suppliers’ environmental policies and procedures. As a result, we will be adding environmental criteria to due diligence assessments for suppliers with whom we spend over GBP 5,000. This will allow the development of a database of suppliers’ environmental policies and encourage them to develop policies where they are missing.

2. Carbon Offsetting and Reduction

Arranging and managing aircraft charters is one of the main areas of HSOT’s procurement and logistics supply chain. As part of this arrangement, Palladium’s air charter broker offers carbon offset credits through the Carbon Trade Exchange for FCDO flights chartered by HSOT.

In June 2020, we arranged a charter to Bangladesh, which delivered oxygen generation equipment to the International Organization for Migration using 73,000kg of fuel. Air Charter Services offset based on the assumption that each kg of fuel burnt produced 3.3kg of carbon dioxide. As the Bangladesh flight was a part charter using 20 percent of the aircraft capacity, 48,100kg of carbon dioxide was offset through this mechanism. In August, we transported medical supplies to Beirut in response to the port explosion, burning 22,500kg of fuel and offsetting 74,250kg of carbon dioxide.

To reduce the carbon footprint of courier and freight movements, we are developing framework agreements for international freight forwarding and haulage with environmental considerations as a key focus of the tender process.

We’ve already awarded an agreement to international courier service DPD in light of their strong environmental policies and competitive pricing. For example, they aim to ensure that 10 percent of their fleet will be electric by 2021 and that all parcel deliveries are carbon neutral for no additional cost.
Part of our research during a response focuses on regional supply of surface freight so that we can offer alternatives to air charter to reduce our carbon footprint. For example, during the recent response to the Camp Moria fire in Greece, we offered a surface freight option as an alternative to air charter and trucked solar lanterns from the UK to Athens.

3. Improving Overall Energy Efficiency and Water Conservation

We are focusing on improving the energy efficiency of our main operational base, the UK Aid Disaster Response Centre in Kemble, UK. This includes leasing an electric forklift for stock handling and an electric car to act as the primary vehicle in our fleet and installing solar panels on the roof for a solar generator and battery charging station.

We are also creating a rainwater capture system, initially to flush the lavatories. If this is successful, we will investigate whether the rainwater can be filtered to a potable level to supply the warehouse’s drinking water. LED bulbs will replace all lightbulbs, which use 75 percent less energy and last 25 times longer.

Our hope is to improve the green credentials of our standing operation through these adjustments.

4. Reduction of Waste Sent to Landfill

A key focus for improving the Disaster Response Centre’s sustainability has been reducing the amount of waste sent to landfill. We now receive monthly reports from the waste disposal company, demonstrating how the waste is disposed. Once a baseline is established, we will plan activities to maximise recycling and reuse.

Our procurement and logistics team have a strong track record in modifying pieces of equipment to increase their service life and utility, rather than disposing of them and purchasing new items. For example, we recently saved GBP 50,000 after refurbishing a heavy forklift that was repatriated from Mozambique when it was deployed for the Cyclone Idai response.

We are working closely with other HSOT team members to roll out further environmental initiatives, such as utilising only environmentally friendly office consumables and reducing the carbon footprint of deployments globally.

This will allow us to continue our mission to limit any negative environmental impact caused by the HSOT program and ensure that the work we’re doing continues to be sustainable for both people and planet.

Palladium manages the implementation of the Humanitarian and Stabilisation Operations Team, a program funded with UK Aid from the British people. HSOT provides the UK government with capacity and specialist expertise to support effective responses to sudden-onset disasters, crises, and complex emergencies around the world. To learn more, contact