Carlton Forest Group – Bringing Sustainability to Logistics

At heart, Carlton Forest Group is a successful logistics business, but from that platform, it intends to make a big impact on the environment.

Carlton Forest Group is built on three main pillars, a logistics proposition, a property proposition, and an innovative technology proposition. “The logistics business gives us our governance. We have a well-structured leadership team that has grown the business over the last ten years from a small parochial warehousing business to what stands at 1.3 million square feet of warehousing,” says company CEO, Mark Pepper. “Our driving force is what happens in the sheds, the safe management of goods into our warehouses, the picking and allocating to vehicles and delivery to a variety of different people.”

The logistics business lists household names such as TK Maxx and KP Foods among its regular clients. Carlton Forest offers not just warehousing, but a variety of complex order management services including picking and labelling products, running its own fleet of vehicles and full end-to-end service for those that require it.

In all these activities, the logistics sector of the business is supported by its property arm.

“We have over 1.3m square foot of warehouse space spread across four sites, with our main headquarters located in Nottinghamshire. We carry out a variety of activities at these facilities including sub-contracting property and supporting the main thrust of our business logistics,” Pepper explains.

Renewed Passion

Talking with Pepper it is clear there is one area of the business he is exceptionally passionate about, however.

“I’ve been focused on waste-to-energy for the last ten years, really gaining momentum in the last five years,” he tells us. “We have now achieved a position where we can take end-of-life tyres and turn those into recycled, recovered fuel and recycled and recovered carbon char. Both are raw state products that will need further refinement in one form or another, so as it stands when we start our plant in June of this year it will be the only continual operating pyrolysis plant in the UK. This is a different ballgame. What we have worked towards is a commercially viable pyrolysis plant with a small footprint, easily deployable with SME partners as opposed to big investor partners.”

This new plant is emblematic of Carlton Forest’s other function- as an incubator for new innovations.

“We like to feed new ideas in and develop those new ideas. One which we will be launching later this year is a filter,” says Pepper. “There is a lot of talk about tackling Covid SARs and there are filters out there that use UV to kill the bug. We use UV and a special filter that not only kills the bug but helps disperse pure air to keep a working environment going while the filtering’s going.”

There are other technologies also in the pipeline, particularly around recovering and renewing waste products.

“At the moment logistics is supporting renewables, but we hope that soon that side of the business will be able to fly solo,” Pepper tells us.

The issue of sustainability has always been one that Pepper has wanted to wrestle with, and logistics looks like the perfect angle of approach.

“I was born into logistics and warehousing. Building that business was an easier challenge than looking at these other areas,” he says. “I have always been personally focused on how we can tackle environmental problems in a way that your everyday person can access. The logistics business, because there are lorries and trucks involved in that, was a carbon-heavy, oil-based industry. So how can we deal with the issues that creates?”

The solutions Pepper has looked at include recovering oil from waste products such as old tires, which has had a domino effect as he has discovered oil from a pyrolysis kiln could have better uses in other industries.

“The benefits of the products that come out of that have structured other ideas,” Pepper says. “As time goes on, we can hopefully green up the logistics IDE by introducing electric trucks into the mix.”

Carlton Forest is no wealthy conglomerate, however, and Pepper makes his investments deliberately, and strategically.

“With less available cash to invest in these ideas, you have to be more focused and very savvy with the cash that you have,” he says. “My team are very focused on being as efficient as possible, but also very cost-conscious around the clientele we bring in. The root idea was to ask how we could utilise tires from trucks and cars, then the governance my team has provided helped me shape that side of the business.”

A key part of that approach has been to utilise Carlton Forest’s size to find the SME partnerships that will build effective, distributed infrastructure.

“When you’re trucking around the country, you want those technologies to be located regionally and be numerous rather than having them in one central processing plant which ends up being a government-supported scheme taking millions of pounds and burning more road miles,” Pepper explains. “We want small deployable plants supporting local businesses and actually cutting down on road miles.”

Incubating Talent

As Pepper explains what his company does, he is careful to point out that his role is facilitating a talented, and dedicated team.

“We’ve got some very strong women that work in the Carlton Forest Group, and that balance of strong women and competent males has put us in good stead,” he tells us. “My Chief Operating Officer, Diane Ward has been a big part of driving this business forward. The reason the business works is we have a competent team that delivers.”

Indeed, it is by empowering and building connections between people that Carlton Forest is able to generate the innovative solutions it has.

“It is about making connections with people in its simplest form. I have always put myself out there and sought links with people,” says Pepper. “I think of it as a cascade method of connecting with people. In the team, we have now got three fully qualified engineers. I actively encourage my team to reach out and see what is out there. Sometimes they will come across someone who has an invention that might have potential, but nobody will listen to them.”

Spotting potential is an area that Pepper excels in.

“I’ve been in the discovery phase for ten years, I can work out which ideas have legs, and which haven’t,” he says. “We want ideas that are commercially viable- green and profitable.”

Pepper wants to see Carlton Forest Group become the UK’s leading green logistics business, with his ambitions including green trucking and off-grid warehousing.

“I want to see a STEM manufacturing campus to support that side of the business with good green jobs,” Pepper tells us. “Technology got us into the environmental mess and commercially viable, green technology will get us out of it.”

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