Ethical spending is on the rise. As research from UK non-profit cooperative Ethical Consumer recently revealed, more people than ever are linking their consumption with environmental and social consequences.
The group’s most recent market report showed that ethical food and drink purchases in the UK rose by 16.3% in 2017, when sales of ‘ethical’ categories – from organic to fairtrade – totalled just over £11bn. The report suggested growth was supported by a resurgence in certification schemes as well as growing interest in plant-based foods.
The research revealed a majority of UK consumers have made purchase decisions based on environmental or animal welfare concerns. Of those surveyed, 64% said that this had impacted their dietary decisions. “This narrative of growing environmental concern helps to explain growth across the ethical food and drink section,” the Ethical Consumer report concluded.
While this presents an opportunity for brands that flaunt their ethical credentials, conversely it is also a threat to food businesses that are do not have transparent supply chains, Bureau Veritas senior sustainability consultant Filippo Cerini suggested.
“Almost half of consumers under 24 have admitted to avoiding a product or service in the past year due to its harmful impact on the environment.”
Likewise, investors are increasingly placing pressure on food firms to operate sustainably, Cerini continued.
“It’s not just consumers, investors and stakeholders alike are also driving a strong green agenda as sustainable business practices have been shown to offer significant tax breaks and boost share price. The reality is that businesses can no longer operate an opaque supply chain when it comes to purchasing and procurement.” - Filippo Cerini
‘Demonstrate a sustainable approach’
Companies need to both implement and communicate that their supply chains and operations are responsible, the sustainability expert continued.
“Rather, to thrive in this age of ‘ethical commerce’… companies need to implement and demonstrate a sustainable approach to their supply chain which aims to conserve natural resources, reduce carbon emissions and eradicate immoral activity.”
Bureau Veritas suggested the importance of sustainable schemes such as ISO 20400, the Ethical Trading Initiative and Supplier Ethical Data Exchange ‘cannot be overlooked’.
According to Cerini the additional investment required to take a more sustainable business approach will be worthwhile in the long-term. “Although this sustainable approach can, of course, mean extra investment and resource, it can also pay dividends in the long run – helping businesses to increase profitability, elevate their brand image and gain a competitive advantage. However, in today’s competitive world, it will be those companies who go the extra mile to lead the way in sustainable procurement which will truly reap the benefits.”
Bureau Veritas streamlines sustainability services
Bureau Veritas' technical director for sustainability, David Murray, said that the group is responding to the fact that ‘environmental and social risks are now a stronger reality for organisations of all sizes’ by reorganising its consultancy services.
Its range of services for organisations has now been streamlined into six key areas. These include:
- Circular economy services - helping organisations to optimise their waste strategy
- Sustainability strategy services - assessing the sustainability of a business or project to help drive improvement and monitor progress
- Sustainable procurement services - ensuring sustainable performance throughout the supply chain
- Environmental management services - achieving and demonstrating environmental compliance
- Carbon services - supporting the development of bespoke energy and carbon management strategies
- Assurance services - delivering personalised and robust assurance solutions that reflect each client’s individual needs
“New environmental and social risks are now a stronger reality for organisations of all sizes, from global climate change and dwindling resources, to exploitation of cheap labour. At the same time, consumers, owners and other stakeholders are adopting a zero-tolerance approach to failure or lack of transparency when it comes to sustainable performance,” Murray observed.
“This can have a real impact on the reputation and ultimately the performance of an organisation – and with an expert team combined with a new service focus, Bureau Veritas is expertly placed to assist our clients in making sure that they address current environmental and social concerns whilst maintaining a profit.”