Now that financial pressures are weighing heavily on companies, where do we stand on environmental and ethical sourcing issues? Has the distraction of fighting harder for a share of consumers’ shrinking discretionary spend put the corporate green agenda on the back burner, or are these two objectives complementary?
According to research by Transport Intelligence, for Kewill, corporate environmental enthusiasm is set to continue despite the economic downturn. However, cost savings are clearly a high priority, with two thirds of respondents identifying the ‘win-win’ of green initiatives bringing operational efficiencies. But where extra costs are encountered most expect their sub-contractors to pick up the bill, which might be a cause for concern for contract logistics service providers.
An encouraging initiative on the ethical sourcing front is the emergence of a new kind of business model used to bridge the gap between major global retailers looking for ethical products and developing world producers. Ethical agents act as a link between retailers and small-scale developing world producers, helping producers to build capacity and to meet market standards.
The Shell Foundation is behind the development of these ethical agents that have been established in South Africa and India, so far. In partnership with retailer, Marks & Spencer, the initiative has helped the production of goods made from Fairtrade cotton while at the same time improving the livelihoods of more than 1,500 Indian farmers. Ethical sourcing is one area that must not be impeded by a renewed and sustained focus on cutting costs.