Health effects of air pollution

Exploring the future of freight and deliveries in London

With Centre for London

Key partnership information

Partner: Centre for London

Funding amount: £35,000

Duration: March 2021 – October 2021

Programme: Health effects of air pollution


What we’ve done together 

We funded Centre for London to undertake a research project to look at the future of freight and deliveries in London. This research project looked at how we can create smarter, fairer and less polluting freight and logistics ecosystems. The research combined stakeholder interviews, data analysis, round tables and desk research to understand the future trends for freight and deliveries in London and make policy recommendations. 

It also included a “deep-dive” into Old Kent Road. This project will help inform the practical projects we might fund within our boroughs and the types of policy change we need to see across London to reduce emissions related to freight. We were delighted to co-fund this work alongside Prologis, the largest industrial real estate company in the world. 

Read the report

Worth the Weight: Making London’s deliveries greener and smarter

Read the full report

The impact of freight on local air pollution


of road transport carbon emissions in the capital come from goods vehicles


of particulate matter in Lambeth and Southwark comes from freight

Aims of the partnership 

This project explored questions such as: 

  • What freight and logistics journeys are being made across London; by what mode and why? 
  • What impacts can freight have on different Londoners, in terms of traffic, pollution, access? How can we ensure that policy changes don’t compound existing disadvantage? 
  • How could we decarbonise London’s freight and logistics industry by 2030? 
  • What role could new types of co-ordination, such as last-mile deliveries and consolidation hubs, play? 


Connection to our strategy 

In the develop phase of the programme, one of our key priority areas is working with businesses to reduce business-related emissions. Therefore, we started by focusing on freight and construction as two industries that contribute to air pollution in our boroughs. Specifically, we know that freight (which includes deliveries and waste collection) contributes to 20% of nitrogen dioxide and 10% of particulate matter in Lambeth and Southwark[1]. 

This project particularly enabled us to better understand the causes of air pollution from freight and to build a network of key stakeholders, particularly businesses and policy makers, who feed into strategic decision making. 

Now, this research with Centre for London sits alongside action-focused projects. For example, working with Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust on supply chain and working with a local business improvement district to scale up cargo bikes. 

Freight in a post-pandemic world

Freight and deliveries play a significant role in London’s transport mix, with more than 20 per cent of London’s road network capacity taken up by freight, deliveries and other commercial vehicles. Before the pandemic, Transport for London estimated that almost 25 per cent of road transport carbon emissions in the capital came from goods vehicles. 

Freight and deliveries have kept London ticking throughout lockdowns but the steep increase in online deliveries has made the need to create a more sustainable, less polluting and efficient freight system even more urgent. The further digitisation of retail and shift to more remote working, as well as the evolution of connected and autonomous vehicles and micromobility technology will interact with these challenges and trends in unpredictable ways. Crucially, these changes also present the freight and logistics industries with new opportunities, marking a period of action in a sector that must change and adapt quickly to avoid stalling its progress on decarbonisation and air quality. We wanted to understand these longer term trends and how they related to other policy changes such as the expansion of ULEZ.

As we move into a new, post-COVID-19 chapter in our history, this project looked at the future of transporting goods around London and other cities, and made recommendations as to how to create smarter, less polluting freight and logistics systems. It also considered how that can be done in a way that doesn’t compound existing inequalities. 

As co-sponsor of this research, we brought a specific focus on air pollution and health equity – and a focus on people whose health is impacted by air pollution from freight. This project helped inform where we focus our energy to have the greatest impact as our programme develops.

[1] KCL research for GSTC

More about Centre for London

Centre for London develop new solutions to London’s critical challenges

Visit their website
Ben Pearce

Have questions about our partnership with Centre for London?

Ben Pearce leads on our work to find solutions to air pollution

Contact Ben to find out more