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Embracing new technology is vital for the third sector to sustain business and carbon efficiency

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We've had an efficiency agenda in place at The Canal and River Trust, for quite some time now.

We became a charity in 2012, so we were always trying to save money, not from the perspective of leaving it in the bank but to redeploy that money to our front line activities – maintaining and repairing our heritage buildings, our locks and bridges, keeping our canals in water and operational - things like that. We spend about £160m a year. We're still spending £160m, but we're spending it on the things that matter most. In total, we were able to redirect around 15% (£20m) of our total cost base in the past five years or so.

Carbon management came up the agenda because it's both the right thing to do and it makes economical sense too. We are an organisation with green credentials as well and that became more and more significant.

We enlisted some help from the Carbon Trust and published a Carbon Management Plan in 2010 setting ourselves a carbon reduction target of 25% to be delivered by the end of 2015. 14% of our carbon emissions comes from road vehicles and transport.

We have a fleet of 420 vans. They range from small car derived vans and transit vans to tipper trucks and an HGV. The fleet covers 6 million miles a year, across the UK. We also have 217 boats, of various shapes and sizes. We look after 2000 miles of canals and this is the front line maintenance force that is working on our waterways.

We didn’t know exactly where these 6 million miles were driven or indeed how they were driven. So we looked at vehicle tracking technology (telematics) from the perspective of trying to understand where we were spending all that money, on fuel and on the vehicles themselves. We spend about £1 million a year on renewals in the fleet, sometimes a little more, depending on the cycle of replacements.

This was an area of the business that we really didn't have as much control over as we wanted. We know where our canals are and we assumed the vans were going to the same place, but we really didn't know. Tracking allowed us to look closely at the usage of our vehicles to find out how they were being used, and how they were being driven. It also enabled us to judge vehicle performance from an overall economy perspective.

As a result of introducing the tracking, our operational vehicle mileage has reduced from 6.6m miles per year to 5.3m miles per year. Annual fuel spend has reduced from 993,000 litres of fuel to 915,000 litres, for the same number of vehicles. We have reduced our operational vehicle CO2 emissions from 2,650 tonnes to 2,444 tonnes.

Finally we have now been audited, a year ahead of schedule, by the Carbon Trust and have been accredited as achieving the "Carbon Reduction Standard" based on our performance since 2010. We are enormously proud of this achievement.

Additional information on this case study can be found on the Navman Wireless website.

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