Coming into work this morning, the headline news was that old vehicles were now going to have to pay an extra £10 to drive in the London Congestion Zone. On the channel I was listening to there was at least one spokesperson complaining that businesses would be hit by this. Considering this is only going to affect vehicles registered in 2006 or before, I wonder how many businesses are running vehicles this old – if so I would question how well those businesses are doing anyway! This followed a snippet of TV I saw last night where Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall was in Denmark on a programme called Scandimania. One island he visited in Denmark, was completely carbon neutral. They were generating all their own electricity, driving electric cars and all their food production was carbon neutral too.
Businesses in the UK are light years behind many other European countries and we have much to learn. Being a better business for the planet is one of the five key attributes of a B Corporation and something close to my heart. Whilst our supplier survey was encouraging in many aspects with those suppliers who returned it, making advances in “green” production and many suppliers showed that they are considering these issues seriously. However, there are an equal number of suppliers, who either have no way of measuring their environmental impact or simply don’t care – I hope it is the former. I am certainly unaware of any of our suppliers that have declared themselves carbon neutral. If a whole island in Denmark can do so, surely a business should also be able.
When it comes to retailers, I am sure the results would be less good. It is not down to us as a supplier to survey retailers, but eventually it may be their customers who vote with their feet. Many national retailers simply do not have reducing carbon as part of their strategy when more should take their lead from Marks and Spencer who are leading the way in this aspect with their Plan A strategy. Many others want deliveries of long shelf-life products several times a week to suit them, which is the opposite of aiming to be carbon neutral.
Independent retailers are generally just as bad often buying products from a new source when that same product could have arrived on a vehicle that was delivering to their business anyway. They may or may not have saved a few quid, but the environment has missed out. In any event the existing supplier they could have bought the same brand from would have probably matched the price anyway, due to their own efficiency savings. We started our chilled business due to one farm shop that had had enough of polystyrene boxes piling up outside her shop. An aesthetic reason in her cost, but with a serious knock-on effect for the environment. I am pleased to say that we have helped solve her problem by consolidating her chilled supply.
Like it or not, reducing carbon will become an increasingly important driver for us over the next few years. Whilst you may be going against the flow now by changing your business practices, you will soon be leading the way.