Sustainability in focus with Richard Lewis

Having spent 23 years serving in the Royal Air Force, with 14 in bomb disposal, Richard Lewis knows only too well the harm that man-made technology is capable of inflicting upon people and the environment. He sees parallels in making explosive devices safe and the objectives of his current role as Toyota Materials Handling’s Sustainable Development Lead.

Sustainability and climate change

“Ultimately my previous work in the RAF and the aims of Toyota’s sustainable development both come down to the same thing: saving lives,” he reflects.

Richard continues: “The planet needs our help. There is undeniable proof that man-made climate change is beginning to impact on people’s lives now. We still have a chance to stop the damage, but the clock is ticking."

"Glasgow’s COP26 in November 2021 shone a light on the impact that freight and logistics have on the planet and it is clear that every company in the industry has an important role to play if a sustainable future is going to be achieved.”

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Sustainability is essential moving forwards

In the business community, the definition of sustainability is ‘operating without negatively impacting the environment, community or society as a whole’. With more and more companies only willing to deal with organisations that share their values, sustainability has emerged as an essential corporate imperative.

Richard says: “Sustainability is going to have a significant impact on every business’s long-term viability. It's simply not acceptable to attempt to ‘green wash’ your company’s environmental performance or treat issues such as diversity and inclusion in the workplace as another ‘box ticking exercise’.

“Sustainable organisations consider a wide array of factors, such as a company’s carbon footprint, water usage, community development efforts and leadership diversity when making business decisions. I'm proud to say that sustainability has been high on Toyota’s agenda for many years. Indeed, the elimination of waste at every stage of the production process – or ‘zero muda’ - has been one of Toyota’s key principles since the company was founded.”


Every year, Toyota Material Handling UK undergoes an assessment by EcoVadis, the leading sustainability rating company. The assessment focuses on the company's commitment not only to the environment, but also to labor issues, human rights, sustainable procurement and ethics.

In March 2022 Toyota was granted an EcoVadis Platinum award for the third successive year. The highest possible score, the award ranks the company within the top one per cent of the tens of thousands organizations that undergo the EcoVadis program worldwide.

"Receiving an EcoVadis Platinum award enables us to build trust with our customers, suppliers and other stakeholders," says Richard Lewis.

What is EcoVadis?

Zero Muda

He continues: “At Toyota we’re committing to science-based targets, aiming to build a net-zero economy together with our customers, business partners and team members.”

For example, Toyota Hydrogen fuel cell-powered forklifts are already operating at sites across the Nordic region and Europe as well as Australia. For every 1kg of hydrogen fuel used, 3.7 litres of diesel and 10kg of CO2 emissions are saved.

“Operators of large materials handling equipment fleets are increasingly keen to embrace new technology with hydrogen just one of many new environmentally sustainable solutions we are working with,” says Richard.

But operating sustainably is about more than environmental issues.

We've become a member of the UN Global Compact

Corporate sustainability strategy

“When adopting a corporate sustainability strategy, businesses also have to consider their social, economic and cultural impact. In other words, a sustainable company will engage in business practices that are good for people as well as the environment,” explains Richard.

In addition to the investment it makes in the continual professional development of its team members (2681 days of technical training were delivered last year) and its commitment to team member wellbeing and mental health.

Toyota is engaging with various charitable organisations - both local and national. In the past 12 months TMHUK personnel raised nearly £25,000 for good causes and supporting projects within the local communities where its offices, production sites and regional depots are based is a cornerstone of Toyota Material Handling’s corporate sustainability strategy.

“Toyota’s approach to sustainability aims to make a difference to the wellbeing of those who maybe less fortunate than others across the country,” says Richard Lewis.

Sustainability in the community

For instance a counterbalance forklift and two hand pallet trucks have been provided completely free-of-charge to a foodbank in Leicester. Toyota is also maintaining and servicing the trucks at no cost and is providing driver training lessons to volunteer staff at the foodbank to ensure that the organisation derives maximum benefit from its new equipment.

For his part, Richard Lewis will be raising awareness of rough sleeping and generating some much needed funding for a homelessness charity when he spends a night in a sleeping bag at Wolverhampton Wanderers football stadium this Autumn.

“Colleagues joke that I won’t be the first person to have fallen asleep at the Wolves stadium!” laughs Richard. But of course, his night out under the stars is for a deadly serious cause. “Homelessness is a growing problem that can affect anyone and the money raised will hopefully go towards helping people to turn their lives around. To listen to the stories of those helped by the charity is a very humbling experience”

Read our full foodbank story

Sustainability at TMHUK

A sustainability group has been set up within TMHUK to identify ways that the company can contribute more to society and Richard is delighted by the number of team members who have come forward with suggestions or volunteered to help with various projects.

“It’s easy to pledge a few pounds to sponsor a friend, relative or work colleague but actually getting out and taking part in a fund-raising event is very satisfying,” he says.

Richard adds: “Sustainability is going to have a significant impact on every business’s long-term viability. A positive approach to social and environmental issues is essential and everyone within Toyota Material Handling UK is striving to integrate sustainability into everything we do.”

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