I wonder how many retailers and producers took part in the ‘Climate Strike’ a week or so ago. Answer: not enough. As a leading figure within the speciality food sector, I am concerned that this part of the food and drink industry is being left behind. Yes, as in many other areas, there has been a large focus on plastic, but whilst the levels of plastic in our oceans is horrible and should be eliminated, it is not remedying climate change.

There is a profound lack of consideration for the climate from retailers and producers alike when making supply chain decisions. I frequently have retailers complain to me that they have too many suppliers, but this is purely from an efficiency angle rather than any consideration for the impact on the climate of twenty white vans a day arriving at their back door. Many retailers still buy huge numbers of brands direct from producers, which they could buy from various wholesalers, thereby reducing the carbon in their supply chain. Likewise, many producers make no effort to encourage retailers to consolidate by simply not giving them the option to buy direct. 

For the sake of the planet, things must change. I realise that the speciality food sector is a tiny part of the problem, but I also believe that small businesses making small changes across the UK will make a massive difference. Everyone must do their part for the sake of our children. As an example, take a well-known department store this last week wanting to buy a brand of gin. Despite this customer having a regular delivery from Cotswold Fayre and their being no price disadvantage, the buyer made three attempts to pressurise the producer to supply direct. Why, no-one can work out, but this kind of behaviour is unacceptable by any businesses claiming to be sustainable. The chain of department stores in question don’t make such claims, by the way, but should, otherwise they are going to haemorrhage customers.

As we approach the third decade of the 21st Century, it is not business as usual any more, on all sorts of levels. The political mess this country is in will last for at least another decade, so let’s, at least, make sure we are not helping to worsen the environmental mess further in the way we do business.