Declare a Climate Emergency

04 June 2019, 07:47 am
Speciality Bites by Paul Hargreaves

Continuing my series on climate change following on from our Environmental conference three weeks ago, I am announcing this week that we, at Cotswold Fayre, have declared a climate emergency and I am encouraging you to do so too.

Of course, the government declared this a few weeks ago following the Extinction Rebellion demonstrations, but we are yet to see any change in government policy as a result. Hopefully as companies we can act rather quicker.  Next week I will give you a list of all the things you can do as companies to reduce your carbon impact, but this week I am encouraging you to think about the motivation of your business, your company DNA, if you like.

It was encouraging to see a four-page article in the Institute of Director’s monthly magazine, Director, this week discussing these issues and even more pleasing that around 50% of the article was taken, with credit, from my book, Forces for Good.  Rather than being on the edge of the business vernacular, environmental issues are front and centre all of a sudden. But how are we faring within the speciality food sector?

Through holding our conference, we discovered that many of our suppliers had far more environmental initiatives than we thought, so we need to trumpet louder what we are doing to help reverse climate change to rub off on others. As customers, we also need to be better at asking our suppliers. There is much to be encouraged in how our products are made. However, one of the largest carbon impacts is how the goods are delivered to the 5,000 or so speciality food retailers throughout the UK. Retailers are still moaning to us daily of having too many deliveries, which means, of course, a large carbon footprint as many deliveries are a few cases at once. Producers need to stop shipping tiny orders out to retailers direct and ensure that deliveries are consolidated. The situation is far worse for chilled supply will many deliveries arriving in polystyrene boxes which are almost impossible to recycle. This is almost criminal and should stop immediately.

When it comes to retailers, many buyers in larger shops and groups seem only to be focused on the single financial bottom line and will buy products from all and sundry simply to gain a couple of percentage points of margin. Not only does this unnecessarily increase the carbon within their supply chain, but even from a financial point of view, it increases costs within their retail business, as increased numbers of deliveries mean additional staff to order the goods, receive them in, sign them off and pay them. These margin-only focused buyers might make themselves look great, but they are costing the business more than they are saving in many cases and costing all of us with their lack of care for the planet.

I do think times are changing though. Only a couple of weeks ago we received a tender from one group that had sustainability at its heart, and it was clear that we, as a B Corp, certified on how we deal with people, our supply chain and the planet was going to have an advantage. This was the first time this has happened and is very encouraging for me as one of the leading voices on these issues in the sector. This customer is putting people and planet on an equal footing as profit too and businesses that continue only to look at the single bottom-line of profit only will be left behind over the next few years.

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