Supply chain opinion

2021 will be the year of greener supply chains

By Dave Howorth

- Last updated on GMT

Howorth: 'The decisions businesses make over the coming months may shape the future of millions in the years to come'
Howorth: 'The decisions businesses make over the coming months may shape the future of millions in the years to come'

Related tags: Supply chain

Environmental impact has always been an important consideration for businesses, however the challenges of the past 12 months may have led to this having temporarily been put on hold.

Amid a perfect storm of COVID-19 disruption, rapidly-shifting consumer demand patterns and the need to – somehow – prepare for a Brexit that essentially remained a mystery until the 11th​ hour, simply surviving naturally took precedence for many. 

However, with the ongoing vaccine rollout providing a welcome light at the end of the tunnel, it is highly likely – and advisable – that businesses place a renewed focus on improving their impact on the planet this year. This view is shared by the public, with research from Unilever​ finding that one in three consumers now choose brands based on their social and environmental credentials. 

Rising consumer expectations, the UK's long journey to meet its legally-binding pledge of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 – and its hosting of the COP26 conference later this year – mean businesses and logistics firms that serve them need to ensure supply chain networks are as environmentally-friendly as possible.

Partners should share same goals

These efforts must be matched across the entire supply network. A business cannot be expected to have complete oversight of every third-party they partner with. However, efforts should be made to ensure that, wherever possible, they only partner with companies that share the same values, goals and environmentally-conscious processes as themselves. 

Customers will ultimately hold the businesses they interact with directly accountable for the products or services delivered. So, if it is discovered that products contain parts manufactured unsustainably, or supplied using unsustainable methods, it will be the customer-facing business that faces public backlash. 

SCALA has pledged to support businesses in their sustainability journey by ensuring every project we undertake in 2021 will include a detailed assessment of how all work across the supply network will impact the environment. Through this, we can ensure that environmentally-sustainable practices are front of mind at all times. 

Getting the UK back on track to meet our ambitious environmental pledges will be a challenge. However, with businesses and their suppliers all pulling together towards this crucial goal with a renewed focus, it is an achievable one. The decisions businesses make over the coming months may very well shape the future of millions in the years to come, and the time for action is now.

Dave Howorth is executive director at SCALA, a leading provider of management services for the supply chain and logistics sector.

Related topics: Supply Chain, COVID-19, Services

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