Much of the UK's carbon footprint is generated abroad in the extraction of raw materials © Mario Hommes/DeFodi Images via Getty Images
Much of the UK's carbon footprint is generated abroad in the extraction of raw materials © Mario Hommes/DeFodi Images via Getty Images

UK firms 'set to miss 2050 net zero target'

Will Green is news editor of Supply Management
9 September 2021

Just six in 10 (59%) supply chain managers believe their business will hit the UK’s 2050 net zero target, according to a survey.

The survey, conducted by CIPS, found despite much of the UK’s carbon footprint being generated in supply chains, one in five (19%) supply chain mangers were not involved at all in sustainability planning. A further 43% were only lightly involved and a fifth (18%) said they were unaware of any corporate sustainability strategy.

The survey found half (48%) did not believe their organisation was transparent enough with consumers, clients and regulators about sustainability. A fifth (19%) admitted not knowing how sustainable their products were, but only a 5% felt their marketing actively misled customers or clients.

CIPS said much of the country’s carbon footprint was generated abroad in the extraction of raw materials, manufacturing and transport, and procurement had a crucial role in understanding, measuring, and addressing sustainability issues.

Malcolm Harrison, group CEO at CIPS, said: “The choices UK businesses make ripple through their supply chains to impact everything from water security and carbon emissions, to waste management and deforestation in other countries.

“Much of an organisation’s environmental impact will be outside their internal boundaries, and it is important that organisations understand this complexity so they can begin to track, communicate, and address the sustainability of their own unique supply chain.”

The survey, involving 318 UK supply chain managers, found one in 10 (11%) said their business had done nothing since 2019 – when the UK government set a goal of reaching net zero emissions by 2050 – to improve sustainability.

However, 53% had begun taking sustainability into account when choosing suppliers and 36% had redesigned products to cut waste, increase use of recyclables, or introduce more sustainable materials.

Harrison said: “Collaboration is critical to tackling climate change. This includes internal collaboration, between marketing teams and the supply chain managers, and external collaboration between suppliers across the supply chain.

“No one organisation can solve climate change on their own and there needs to be more initiatives encouraging competitors to collaborate together to improve the sustainability of common supply chains.”

He added: “Sustainability strategy must be led by the CEO but it requires input from across the business and procurement is perhaps the most crucial ingredient.

“Supply chain managers can take a more active role by improving their skills in this area and being more vocal internally about the importance of supply chains in addressing sustainability issues. We all have a role to play to help meet our climate change goals and the time to act is now.”

The top barriers to more sustainable supply chains were Covid (43%), lack of data (27%), unwillingness to invest (27%), lack of skills (22%), and senior executives not seeing it as a priority (17%).

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