Wednesday 6th Nov 2019
The recent publicity of Extinction Rebellion’s occupation of various places in London, and Greta Thunberg’s shaming of global inaction has once again brought climate change to the forefront of the news. And while many will take issue with the methods of such political activists, few can doubt the seriousness of the cause. For businesses, climate change is an issue that can touch all operational areas; from revenue opportunities in eco-friendly products, to compliance issues, to public opinion.
And one of the largest considerations is of course the environmental considerations of importing and exporting. The principle of ‘flight-shaming’, whether rightly or wrongly, is gaining traction in the media, and while it’s currently focused towards individuals, there’s no doubt that an eye will be cast towards businesses in the near future - particularly those that contribute to climate change through large import and export volume.
The question for businesses then, is how can they keep costs down and meet demand, while still being conscious of the environmental impacts of their business? The answer of course is multifaceted.
The method of shipping imports and exports is going to be the most significant issue. Flights are the fastest method of moving goods between countries, and for certain products they can be cost-effective too, making them essential for many businesses. But they’re also one of the most polluting methods - while shipping takes an overall highest share of pollution, flights are worse individually. Getting round this is difficult, but transport such as trains can be far more efficient, and there are strides being made to offer shipping that uses more eco-friendly fuels, particularly as fuel prices can be high.
The products themselves are also really important. It’s not easy to make a large difference to the physical product, but the packaging it comes in can certainly be modified. Larger, heavier packaging means more emissions transporting the stock, and also more cost. Thinking carefully about how packaging can be reduced has both an environmental and cost benefit.
And finally, being creative with the timing of logistics is really important too. Exporters and importers should plan carefully to reduce the number of individual shipments that have to be made. Sound supply chain planning can cut down on excessive journeys that contribute to increased pollution.
Ultimately, the drive to be more environmentally-friendly is seen as an expense for many importers and exporters, but with some careful consideration, it can cut costs, as well as improve outside opinion.