Many businesses still have no sustainability strategy, new research says

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Many businesses still have no sustainability strategy, new research says


Despite increasing pressures to improve their carbon footprint, particularly following the COP26 conference, many organisations still do not have a sustainability strategy in place, according to new research from international supply chain and logistics consultancy SCALA.

From surveying business leaders across the grocery and homeware industries, the research found that nearly half of homeware organisations surveyed (40%) do not have a sustainability strategy in place at all, comparing unfavourably to the grocery industry, wherein 80% of businesses report having an environmental plan.

A lack of understanding around the scale of businesses’ carbon footprint may be why environmental planning has taken a back seat for many, with only 18% of businesses surveyed having accurate measures in place to identify how the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic have affected their businesses’ environmental impact.

In addition, almost a third of businesses (32%) have no measures in place to monitor the total impact of their operations. This means that a significant number of businesses across the UK have no idea of the extent of their current carbon footprint.

These revelations come at a time when a great many businesses have potentially seen their carbon footprint increase due to the myriad challenges presented by Covid-19 restrictions.

Specifically, the enforced shift to online shopping during lockdown resulted in additional transport, packaging, and warehousing needs – many of which had an additional, often-significant environmental impact. Two thirds (67%) of businesses surveyed reported an increase in transport requirements, 34% reported an upsurge in the usage of warehouse space – exacerbating the already-serious nationwide shortage – and 50% reported having seen a rise in packaging costs since the onset of the pandemic. 

Concerningly, while up to 90% of an organisation’s carbon emissions are generated through its supply chain, the research also goes on to suggest that only 40% of homeware manufacturers have tasked their supply chain and logistics function with decreasing their environmental impact, compared with 100% of the grocery businesses surveyed, indicating a potential lack of awareness in the industry around how to go about reducing their emissions profile.

Commenting on the research findings, John Perry, managing director at SCALA, said: “Both businesses, and their wider supply networks, are coming under increasing pressure to quantify and address their carbon footprint as part of the environmentally-conscious society in which we live. Given this, the fact that so many organisations still do not have a formal strategy in place is both surprising and concerning.

“The vast majority of organisations’ carbon footprint can be traced back to their supply network, meaning that companies serious about reducing their environmental impact long-term must take steps to measure and address emissions generated through their supply chains. Only then can we begin to put strategies in place that will have the genuine, long-lasting impact we need.”