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If there is one buzz-word for 2020 already it is sustainability. You can’t avoid yet another multinational making one claim or another about making its supply chain sustainable. All, I am sure, are well-meant and heartfelt by those at the very top. You just hope it isn’t lip-service to a more eco-conscious consumer.

I was taken by the open letter from Starbucks chief executive Kevin Johnson on Friday, and the approach the coffee chain in general is taking to making its supply chain sustainable. For Starbucks 2021 is a year of due diligence: it is taking a pragmatic approach with preliminary targets for 2030 that are the focus of its research and operational plans this year.

These preliminary targets include: A 50% reduction in carbon emissions from its direct operations and supply chain; 50% of its water withdrawal for direct operations and coffee production will be conserved or replenished and a 50% reduction in waste sent to landfill from stores and manufacturing.

If Starbucks is squeezing its sustainable credentials internally, other food chains are being squeezed externally.

In the US the Farm Animal Investment Risk & Return (FAIRR) initiative and sustainability organisation Ceres – an investment coalition with $11.4bn of assets – are working with Chipotle Mexican Grill, Domino’s Pizza, McDonald’s, Restaurant Brands International (owners of Burger King), Wendy’s and Yum! Brands (owners of KFC and Pizza Hut).  The firms are being asked to set aggressive targets to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, water usage and water quality impacts of their meat and dairy supply chains.

FAIRR itself warns that “failure by the global fast food sector to tackle the environmental issues in their supply chains puts the long-term financial sustainability of their businesses under threat”.

Ceres says “It is time for these companies to have a plan and take urgent steps to ensure their meat and dairy supply chains are resilient” and that “investors are not only demanding action, but they want more information about the concrete steps that companies are taking to tackle supply chain issues”.

With investors turning the screw it can only be a matter of time until sustainability is reported in the same way as profit and loss and operational performance. The pressure of the long-term return on a few trillion invested dollars will put supply chain sustainability right at the very top of the agenda. The hope is it produces results…

Meanwhile, it would be remiss of Logistics Manager not to mark the last week that the UK trades as a member of the European Union. Friday approaches not with jubilation, more resigned acceptance, the public and businesses bludgeoned into submission by the wafer-thin arguments and downright lies in favour of this policy, and an opposition that surrendered its democratic duty to challenge it.

Still, like some sadistic disease, the only way to cure Brexit is to go through with it. So here we are, embarking on an uncertain future for the logistics industry… However, all businesses calling for “certainty’ don’t actually know, according to the FTA, the exact processes and types of formalities required for goods moving across the borders, and the new systems, accreditations and training needed during the interim period, before we negotiate a deal with our largest trading partner in the world.

All of these are fundamental, and with the chancellor seemingly hardening his stance, emboldened by election victory, claiming that businesses have had enough time to prepare is not the kind of way to get this party started.

But we have a new 50 pence piece so I am sure it will all be worth it.

Christopher Walton, Editor, Logistics Manager