Wholesale sector on the road to Net Zero


At the heart of our annual conference, FWDLive! 2023, was the unveiling of what is probably our biggest and most ambitious project to date, the Wholesale Sector Roadmap to Net Zero.

The project has been nine months in the making and was unveiled by 3Keel, Sustainability Advisors to the FWD.

The report consists of three key elements: A calculation of the carbon footprint of the UK wholesale sector, a calculator which will be free for all FWD and SWA members to keep a track of their own emissions, and a comprehensive step-by-step climate action guide.

The UK wholesale sector’s total carbon footprint, including impacts from across its value chain, was 18 million tonnes of emissions in 2021. However, wholesalers are only directly responsible for approximately 4% of these in the operation of their businesses (referred to as Scope 1 & 2 emissions), with the majority of value chain emissions upstream in ingredient production and manufacturing processes.

It is therefore vital for wholesalers to engage with manufacturers, suppliers and customers to reach net zero. All other points in the food and drink supply chain have committed to net zero by 2040.

The roadmap element of the project sets out the case for acting on climate change. 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 majority of impact comes from vehicle use, at 63% of Scope 1 and 2 emissions, followed by electricity use at 17%, refrigerants 7% and fuel use for buildings at 6%


“It is clear wholesalers are acting across all areas of their business, but more help and encouragement is needed to enable to the sector to fully measure progress towards Net Zero,” says James Bielby, FWD CEO. “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 groundbreaking report provides a greater understanding of the direct emissions of our sector and offers help to members in understanding their emissions, and the roadmap for members contains interim pledges as well steps to take.”


Many of FWD’s members are in the early stages of their climate action journey. To help wholesalers get started, the roadmap includes a four-step guide:

  1. Wholesalers must baseline their company’s current emissions
  2. Set clear climate ambitions
  3. Develop an action plan
  4. Establish internal structures for tracking progress.


Research conducted for the Wholesale Sector Net Zero roadmap identified key sources of Scope 1 and 2 emissions as road transport, followed by electricity use in depots and offices. Other sources of Scope 1 and 2 emissions identified were fuel used to heat buildings and refrigerant leakage from storage and HGVs.

We have been invited to present this report to Department for Environment, Food & Rural affairs and Department for Energy Security and Net Zero.

FWD commissioned sustainability consultant 3Keel to partner on this project and worked in collaboration with the Scottish Wholesale Association (SWA). Their report, Decarbonising the Scottish Wholesale Sector, can be read here.