Evolving the journey: putting carbon footprint top of the agenda
David Griffiths, Senior Product Marketing & Strategy Manager at retail supply chain Adjuno, looks at reduction of carbon footprints in the retail industry.
Consumers are thrilled by the speed and flexibility of e-commerce. But the proliferation of new retail channels and choices is changing their purchasing behaviour, and ultimately, that’s taking its toll on the environment. With next-day, same-day and one-hour delivery options starting to be commonplace with many retailers, consumers are fast becoming used to getting their chosen product not just quickly, but almost instantly.
At the same time, consumers are placing greater emphasis on the sustainability efforts of their favourite retailers. In fact, a third of consumers are now choosing to buy from brands they believe are doing social or environmental good. That’s a large proportion of the customer base that a retailer risks losing if they don’t meet this expectation. The good news is that retailers across the world are recognising this and starting to step up with commitments to address the sustainable agenda. But are they doing enough?
With the battle moving to the supply chain and concerns growing around air pollution and greenhouse gases, brands now have a responsibility to reduce their carbon emission levels and drive the creation of the green supply chain.
Independents vs retail giants
Independent retailers are currently rising above the competition when it comes to low carbon emissions. Transport is the second highest emitter of greenhouse gases, therefore the independents who have shorter product journeys will naturally have a smaller carbon footprint. It isn’t as easy for the retail giants. With longer journeys, more players in the supply chain and bigger product ranges to contend with, retail giants have a harder time of reducing their carbon footprint. But it certainly is possible.
Packaging should be at the top of every retailer’s list when it comes to making strides towards sustainability. A strategic approach to transit packaging that optimises carton, pallet and container fill will not only reduce packaging costs, with higher standards enforced, but it will also decrease shipping costs as a result of better container utilisation, with less empty space being shipped. Not only does this reduce the number of journeys that need to be made, but it will also enable more efficient use of DC space. Ultimately though, a strategic approach to packaging reduces waste and therefore improves the carbon footprint, putting retail giants one step closer to meeting their sustainability goals.
Many large retailers have already seen success in this area too, with effective changes to their packaging compliance resulting in huge reductions in the number of different packaging types used, and consequently the reduction in the amount of containers and DC space required. The retailers that are serious about reducing their carbon footprint have the tools at their disposal to make it happen, with simple changes making a world of difference to carbon-conscious consumers.
Shouting about success
At the start of this year, ALDI claimed it was the first grocer in the UK to be carbon-neutral, detailing that it had cut greenhouse gas emissions per square metre of sales floor space by 53% since 2012. That’s a big statement to make, but it shows ALDI’s commitment to make changes that have resulted in extremely positive outcomes. The fact is that changes are being made, but few retailers are shouting about their behind-the-scenes success, leaving the issue of reducing carbon footprint still far lower than it should be on the retail agenda. The lack of visibility for consumers is weakening the message and hindering their ability to trust the brand, so whilst retailers must ensure that first and foremost they are making sustainable changes for the right reasons, they also need to make sure they are letting consumers know what is really happening.
Simple changes to packaging will show consumers that the retailer is making an effort; for example, if a retailer can confidently say in its marketing materials that all items from one brand are being shipped into the store using 50% less packaging, every carbon-conscious consumer would know that steps are being taken and be more likely to buy from the retailer as a result.
Making a change
The potential is huge, but retailers must realise that the smallest changes can have the biggest impact. What’s important is for retailers to make these changes and then shout about it from the rooftops, moving carbon footprint to the top of the agenda and creating an ecosystem of retailers working towards a common goal to turn sustainability from talk to action.
For more information on business topics in the Middle East and Africa, please take a look at the latest edition of Business Chief MEA.
5 minutes with... Janthana Kaenprakhamroy, CEO, Tapoly
Founder and CEO of award-winning insurtech firm Tapoly, Janthana Kaenprakhamroy heads up Europe’s first on-demand insurance platform for the gig economy, winning industry awards, innovating in the digital insurance space, and leading with inclusivity.
Here, Business Chief talks to Janthana about her leadership style and skills.
What do you do, in a nutshell?
I’m founder and CEO of Tapoly, a digital MGA providing a full stack of commercial lines insurance specifically for SMEs and freelancers, as well as a SaaS solution to connect insurers with their distribution partners. We build bespoke, end-to-end platforms encompassing the whole customer journey, but can also integrate our APIs within existing systems. We were proud to win Insurance Provider of the Year at the British Small Business Awards 2018 and receive silver in the Insurtech category at the Efma & Accenture Innovation in Insurance Awards 2019.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I try to be as inclusive a leader as possible. I’m committed to creating space for everyone to shine. Many of the roles at Tapoly are performed by women and I speak at industry events to encourage more people to get involved in insurance/insurtech. Similarly, I always try to maintain a growth mindset. I think it’s important to retain values to support learning and development, like reliability, working hard and punctuality.
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?
Build your network and seek advice. As a leader, you need smart people around you to help you grow your business. It’s not about personally being the best, but being able to find resources and get help where needed.
How do you see leadership changing in a COVID world?
I think the pandemic has proven the importance of inclusive leadership so that everyone feels supported and valued. It’s also shown the importance of being flexible as a leader. We’ve had to remain adaptable to continue delivering high levels of customer service. This flexibility has also been important when supporting employees as everyone has had individual pressures to deal with during this time. Leaders should continue to embed this flexibility within their organisations moving forward.
They say ‘from every crisis comes opportunity’, what opportunities do you see?
The past year has been challenging, but it has also proven the importance of digital transformation in insurance. When working from home was required, it was much harder for insurers to adjust who had not embedded technology within their operating processes because they did not have data stored in the cloud and it caused communication delays with concerned customers at a time when this communication should have been a priority, which ultimately impacts the level of customer satisfaction. This demonstrates the importance of what we are trying to achieve at Tapoly in driving digitalisation in insurance and making communication between insurers and distribution partners seamless.
What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?
Start sooner, don’t be afraid to take (calculated) risks and make sure you raise enough money to get you through the initial seed stage.