Firms fail to monitor 'hidden environmental pandemic'

Eight in 10 (82%) businesses are failing to monitor their environmental impact effectively following the pandemic, according to a survey.

Research by supply chain and logistics consultancy Scala found almost a third (32%) had no measures in place to monitor the total impact of operations.

Only 18% had accurate measures to identify how the challenges of the pandemic had affected their environmental impact, while half had only “approximate” measures in place.

Scala described the situation as the “hidden environmental pandemic”.

Scala said restrictions last year due to the Covid-19 pandemic saw many UK businesses migrating to online sales, resulting in changes that had a significant environmental impact. 

Two thirds (67%) reported an increase in transport requirements and 34% an upsurge in warehouse space usage. Warehouse staffing requirements had increased for 65%, while 50% saw a rise in packaging costs.

None of those surveyed thought e-commerce activity would fall back to below pre-Covid levels, and 36% believed e-commerce would remain at the levels hit during the pandemic.

Nearly two-thirds (64%) had no plans to take any action to reduce the environmental impact of e-commerce operations and 27% did not intend to reduce the impact of supply chain operations generally.

Scala said given the current uncertainty surrounding Brexit and Covid’s impact on supply, manufacturing and consumer buying patterns, a full picture of a firm’s carbon footprint would be critical to achieve internal sustainability goals and legally-binding climate obligations.

Steps taken by businesses to reduce emissions included redesigning packaging to cut the number of pallets needed to store and handle products, and using longer trailers and double-deck trailers to reduce the number of journeys made, optimising supply chain networks, and collaborating to consider order frequency, order size, and backhauling opportunities

Scala managing director John Perry said it was understandable that business critical decisions had been prioritised over consideration of environmental impact during the pandemic but more businesses needed to understand the effect of this.

“Mapping the supply chain, measuring their emissions and identifying the specific areas of their organisation where environmental action can be prioritised is a great place to start,” said Perry.

“Further positive actions might include reducing waste packaging, increasing vehicle fills and improving vehicle efficiencies.”

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