Peter’s incredible speech

Peter MacLeod, Editor and Publisher of SHD Logistics, and Transaid Ambassador, gave an incredible speech at Transaid’s Annual Showcase. Now, you can read it here!

Your Royal Highness, ladies and gentlemen… my name is Peter MacLeod, and I have been the editor of industry magazine SHD Logistics for just under 10 years – and its publisher for just over one week.

I have to admit, when I signed up as a freelance journalist many years ago in the era of hot wax and telex machines, my intention was to spend my entire career hiding behind a desk. I have come a long way – not always intentionally – in the 30-odd years since I wrote my first article, and it’s fair to say that to be here standing before you in the presence of royalty, wearing a new suit, was never part of my grand plan.

Published monthly, my magazine covers the UK supply chain and logistics sector which has grown into a suite of products under the SHD Logistics brand to include a digital version, a website, awards, conferences, electronic newsletter, mobile app… all the things we desperate old-fashioned magazine publishers do as we attempt to stay in tune with the digital revolution.

But let me take you to the start of my relationship with Transaid, and how it has led to me presenting to you here today.

I first became aware of Transaid upon my appointment as editor of SHD Logistics, when I would post the odd story about the charity’s activities on our website, and take part in its prize raffles when attending various industry functions.

Then at the United Kingdom Warehousing Association’s annual lunch a couple of years ago, I vividly recall Transaid’s Gary Forster talking passionately about solutions Transaid was putting in place in sub-Saharan Africa to improve neo-natal maternal health. As a father, as well as an editor of a logistics title, it really started to resonate with me, as did the enthusiasm shown by the industry – my industry – for the work Gary was showcasing.

That day I pledged to do more, and my opportunity came in early 20-14 when we ran the inaugural SHD Logistics Awards.

We shook hands on a three-year agreement to make Transaid our official charity partner, which will take us up to next year when we host IMHX 2016, the largest trade event for our industry in the UK.

That agreement embraces fundraising for Transaid at our Awards, offering the charity a platform to address the guests, and promoting its campaigns through editorial and complimentary advertising in our magazine and on our website.

As the official charity partner of IMHX 2016, there is an opportunity next year to reach a potential audience of 20,000 industry professionals at Birmingham’s NEC. Meetings about how best to exploit this opportunity have recently taken place, and I’m delighted to say we are brimming with ideas about how to raise awareness of – and money for – Transaid around next September’s big event.

Transaid is a perfect fit for SHD Logistics and IMHX, because its activities are aligned with the industry which we address. I am constantly banging on about driver training or fork lift truck safety or efficiency of deliveries in the UK logistics industry, issues that are also being addressed in sub-Saharan Africa – albeit starting from a lower base point – thanks to Transaid and its programmes.

These past 12-18 months have seen me step beyond professional engagement with Transaid to more of a personal one, and I have in part your royal highness to thank for that. It all started when I was persuaded at an industry event by the lovely Transaid team to take part in the Cycle Tanzania Challenge. They really were leaning against an open door with me – as a regular cycle commuter in London, I jumped at the chance to take part in this exotic-sounding event whilst raising money for what was already my favourite charity.

Fundraising for that was a source of great satisfaction. I sailed – or should that be ‘pedalled furiously’? – past my personal target of £5,000 largely thanks to generous donations from companies in the logistics industry. I even sold my sister Tracey MacLeod – a restaurant critic and whom some of you may know as one of the ‘critics’ from BBCTV’s ‘Masterchef’ – in an auction at this year’s SHD Logistics Awards, with the help of comedian Romesh Ranganathan.

The winner paid a very generous £1,200 for dinner with her at a top restaurant. I understand this sort of family trading is quite common in some cultures, but for both Romesh and me it was a first.

In Tanzania, I developed a connection with – and affection for – a region about which I had previously little knowledge. I shall never forget the friendship shown by the locals as we engaged with them, high-fiving all along the route. The shouts of “Jambo! Jambo!” as we rode through communities are still ringing in my ears. It raised an enthusiasm in me that reached beyond my professional interest, which surprised me as I had always somehow previously managed to be too busy – or disconnected from a cause – to get involved in charity work.

The transport and communications programmes Transaid has established in developing countries are processes we have already refined to an extreme degree in this country – in fact, we take them for granted.

We click ‘buy’ on the website, and the next morning it’s there on our doorstep, without a second thought given to the ‘magic’ that makes it happen. Contrast that with developing countries, where provisions such as medicines may take days or even weeks to arrive, sometimes too late. In some regions, up to 60% of fresh produce is lost before making it to market, yet in the West we complain when a new iPad doesn’t get to us the next morning. My experience in Tanzania earlier this year strengthened my resolve to work with Transaid.

To run through all the highlights of my Tanzanian experience would take me well beyond my allocated time today. I published a daily blog during the challenge, and my initial raw thoughts are there for all to see. I made a new set of friends with a life-long bond in common, and even underwent a certain spiritual enlightenment. It was life-enriching, but also allowed me to see first-hand some of the issues which Transaid is campaigning to address.

On the occasions when we were cycling on the highway, the roads were busy and often in poor condition, the speeds were unchecked, vehicles were overloaded with both goods and people, driving standards were low, and the condition of commercial vehicles left a lot to be desired. My cycle buddies from Michelin were horrified by the state of the tyres on some of the vehicles as they sped past us.

Let me relate just one poignant incident to you. On the middle day of our five-day cycle challenge in Tanzania, we were dragging ourselves up a long, long hill when a fully laden LPG tanker pulled up to a halt ahead of us. Its handbrake seemingly inadequate for the task, the driver’s mate hopped out to pop a chuck under the rear wheel to prevent it from rolling back down the hill. The exhausted driver hadn’t slept for 48 hours and swapped with his driver’s mate. The driver’s mate taking over at the wheel of the laden fuel tanker was a 14-year-old child, most probably his son.

In this region 50-60% of drivers are paid per kilometre, so therefore they are incentivised to drive at maximum speeds and to skip sleep and breaks. Whilst many of us in this room may be familiar with the work Transaid does for example in remote communities, it is also carrying out important work at governmental level to end unsafe working practices such as those we witnessed, as well as to encourage governments to invest greater resource in policing the legislation that IS in place.

One of the issues we all face in our busy lives is time management. Post-recession, we all seem to be working longer and fighting harder to increase profitability.

I sometimes feel as though I’m doing the work of two or three people, with late nights and weekend working the norm rather than the exception. I can come up with every excuse in the book not to increase pressure on my time by getting involved with a charity. We all can.

When I sat in Canary Wharf at last year’s Transaid Royal Showcase listening to Your Royal Highness’s powerful and compelling speech, in which Your Highness highlighted areas where more work still needs to be done, it struck me there and then that I really had no excuse to avoid further engagement.

That day I was introduced to several Transaid Ambassadors – all busy professionals who had managed to overcome the same excuses that I was hiding behind – and at that stage I realised I was in the perfect professional role to evangelise about Transaid. I signed up as an Ambassador soon afterwards.

For those of you not familiar with the Ambassador Scheme, let me briefly describe what we do. Our primary role is to support the Transaid team, helping to raise its profile within the industry and our own workplaces. We will also provide expertise and knowledge, promote and help out at Transaid events, recruit challengers, and even undertake challenges ourselves.

Since becoming involved with Transaid, I have found it fulfilling to be working alongside people who care more about the fate of those less fortunate than themselves than they do about the everyday frustrations of modern life.

It has really made me appreciate the bigger picture, if that’s not too much of a cliché. My employer, Informa – a global academic publishing, business intelligence, knowledge and events business – is an organisation that serves specialist professional, commercial and scholarly communities, connecting people who work in a number of distinct business sectors.

For each of these sectors, there will be a charity that could be described as ‘a perfect fit’. As I said earlier, Transaid is a perfect fit for my industry sector, and, as the front man of the SHD Logistics brand, I am in a privileged position to highlight Transaid’s work to the UK logistics sector.

A commercial organisation, of course, must never lose its focus on the bottom line. But this shouldn’t come at a cost to personal fulfilment. I am fortunate to be employed by a company that has an enlightened view when it comes to engaging with the third sector, one which approaches its Corporate Responsibility as more than just a box-ticking exercise.

I believe I’m a stronger, more driven, more confident and more capable individual as a result of my charity work. I returned from Tanzania focused and hungry to get stuck into my next project. I won. My employer won. And most importantly, the communities which Transaid supports won.

So, your royal highness, ladies and gentlemen, I wish to thank you for joining me on my short journey this morning, from that of a work-absorbed editor to one whose horizons now extend way beyond the edges of my desk.

I will sign off by urging anyone thinking they are not capable of taking part in one of Transaid’s challenges, or finding a couple of spare hours a month to become an Ambassador, to step up to the mark and GO FOR IT! I shall be forever thankful that I did.

Thank you.


Find out more about our Ambassador scheme. Check out SHD Logistics, and follow them for updates.