“The COP event inevitably causes retailers and brands to take a ‘wait-and-see’ approach about any resulting policy change, rather than tackling energy commitment challenges head on,” says James Butcher, CEO at Supply Pilot, which helps businesses work more effectively with suppliers.
Although year on year the COP conference has grown in significance and visibility since the Paris Agreement of 2015, Butcher says that without “concerted legislative action to follow through on the promises” it remains “a talking shop for country-level commitments that are too focused on energy consumption.”
Butcher adds: “It is policy, not promises that drive change. Brands and retailers will wait on change to become mandated before taking action.”
He cites the UK Plastic Packaging Tax as evidence of this. During the pandemic, the British government put this legislation on ice rather than getting a head start for when the legislation came into force. “Brands and retailers pumped the brakes on their own changes,” says Butcher.
He adds: “Every five weeks brings us 1% closer to the 2030 target of reducing global emissions by 45%, set out in the Paris Agreement as a key waypoint on the journey to net zero. “By stalling, businesses create inertia at a vital time for net zero targets.”
Butcher urges businesses to study their entire supply chain and “start making the small gains needed to make an immediate difference.” “It’s all about marginal gains,” says Butcher. “There is no silver bullet that is going to magically make all supply chain processes sustainable. The key is identifying where to work with suppliers in achieving the small gains that can add up to significant results.”