Gilroy’s Viewpoint: Wholesalers need to be keeping pace with sustainability has it grows in importance

Sustainability wholesale

Sad, I know, but I love my mobile device. Managing all aspects of my life on the move: communication, navigation, finances, research and acquiring lots of new friends. Dr Lee has located a long-lost uncle of mine who has bequeathed $10m to me in his will. All I have to do is send him my account details and he will go halves on the proceeds. Mr Smeaton has arranged for me to enjoy an upfront payment of £400 towards my energy bill. He also simply needs my bank details. And Curtis has kindly checked all my household appliance insurances. He is concerned my washing machine cover is inadequate, so is kindly recommending a five-year plan. “But hold on,” I say to Curtis. “The machine is over eight years old. Why would I waste money insuring it? Next time it breaks down, I’m going to junk it and buy a new one.”

Herein lies one of the fundamental issues with today’s society. We are completely wedded to convenience, disposal and consumerism. The concept of having my machine fixed is totally alien and economically non-viable. When did you last see a TV repair man? No, nor me. However, all is not lost. There are signs that things are turning. Jay Blade’s The Repair Shop on BBC is a brilliant showcase for the revival of trade craft skills and for the art of repairing and renovating. Websites like Facebook Marketplace are great for buying and selling previously loved items (second hand to the rest of us).

Okay, some need fixing or cleaning, but better that than sending to landfill. I confess I am addicted to it. I have even sold half-cans of paint. How do you dispose of paint without polluting?

Sustainable solutionists 

The conundrum facing us all is whether continuous economic growth is compatible with extracting and destroying parts of Earth and its finite resources. Environmentalists and economists argue the green agenda and the transition to net zero will itself create many economic opportunities.

Macroeconomics is way above my pay grade, but I am clear that the route to a sustainable future will be from the bottom up, not from the top down.

Read more: Gilroy’s viewpoint: Can wholesalers learn from the field of elite sport?

Small incremental steps taken by businesses and individuals making a difference. This is elegantly argued by Solitare Townsend, a sustainability expert in an article for the National Trust (NT). Almost three-quarters of the land cared for by NT is vulnerable to climate change and changing weather patterns. Solitaire’s article details the impressive work underway to prepare the various landscapes for the changes ahead. NT has a clear and tangible plan to be net zero in all their operations by 2030.

She talks about NT seeing problems and responding with “excitement to the solutions”. She calls this being “solutionists”. A great starting point with relevance for our industry.

Starting the journey 

In an article in last year’s December edition of BWI, I set out what I called my “commercially based sustainability starter pack” for wholesalers. Six main elements of focus for even the most resource-constrained enterprises to start their sustainability journey: energy; vehicle fuel; food waste; packaging/ recycling; product selection; and people; selected to add value to the bottom line.

Work in these areas will involve only small capital investments – if any – while yielding significant financial benefits. I urge every business to nominate a sustainability champion. This is a good first step on the sustainability road, but if you want to see the job done brilliantly, check out Bidfoods’ website and read its latest sustainability report, ‘Future Forward’. This comprehensive

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David Gilroy is the founder and managing director of Store Excel. He was previously the convenience retail lead at W2 Commercial and held operations director roles at Bestway Wholesale and Nurdin & Peacock.

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