In 2023, sustainability is big business. Despite the economic pressures facing companies and consumers, sustainability remains high on the agenda, with 82% of shoppers wanting brands to embrace sustainable and people-first practices. This is especially pronounced among younger consumers, with three-quarters of Gen-Z shoppers seeing sustainability as more important than brand names.

However, the actual process of creating, pushing and perfecting sustainable practices in businesses themselves is still a challenge. While some within the organisation may be passionate about the issue, there will be others that prioritise other metrics, especially if those feel more immediate and relevant to the company’s success (and their employment).

For insight on how to change this mindset, we sat down with Charlotte Pumford, Head of Sustainability and Regenerative Impact from Vivobarefoot, a Zencargo customer, at our flagship virtual event, Navigate. Vivobarefoot is a certified B-Corp (more on that later) and holds sustainable and regenerative practices as a core principle. We talked to her to find out how to close the sustainability gap between will and results, the right way to approach partnerships and how the right data can make a difference, as well as the impact of implemented carbon-tracking with Zencargo.

The state of sustainability 

While companies like Vivobarefoot have been pioneers in the sustainability space, integrating sustainability into every facet of their business model from the outset, most are clearly not yet at this stage. However, momentum is growing. 

Larger organisations have been driven towards sustainability due to a combination of factors – not all of them entirely voluntary. ‘It often comes down to reputational risk and more being asked of them.’ explains Charlotte. ‘And often in terms of legislation, [large companies] are obviously the first that are legislated against.’

In addition to legislative pressure, companies are under more pressure from the growing trend of ESG as a consideration in investing, adding a market component. The idea is that businesses who score highly on a range of Equity, Diversity and Governance criteria will be better placed to weather not only increasing compliance demands, but also be more resilient to demographic, environmental and commercial trends. 

To B-Corp or not to B-Corp

Sustainability action from companies is often viewed with a sceptical eye by the public and regulators, with accusations of ‘greenwashing’ greeting announcements that offer little tangible value. One way to put your money where your name is: become a B-Corp.

The B Corp certification appealed to Vivobarefoot due to its holistic approach. Unlike other frameworks that focus on one or two aspects, B Corp encompasses the entire business model and offers opportunities for comprehensive change in business operations. This includes a rigorous B Corp impact assessment that covers various pillars such as environment, customers, community workers, and governance.

From a supply chain point of view, this includes scrutinising sourcing practices, payment structures, human rights considerations, and environmental impacts, as well as creating a roadmap for continuous improvement in these areas.

From a business point of view, becoming a B-Corp offers several advantages, including:

  • Creating a stronger appeal to sustainability conscious consumers
  • Attract investors with shared values in the ESG community
  • Achieving cost savings through more in-depth analysis 
  • Attracting forward-thinking talent more effectively

Practical approaches to sustainability 

Tangible approaches to sustainability focus on making measurable differences to emissions and other forms of environmental impact. Under UK regulation, emissions fall into three categories:

  • Scope 1 emissions: Emissions that a company makes directly, such as vehicles or heating.
  • Scope 2 emissions: Indirect emissions such as electricity or energy purchased.
  • Scope 3 emissions: All the emissions associated up and down its value chain

This third set is the hardest to measure, given the complexity of supply and value chains. But Charlotte explains this is their main focus in working with Zencargo. ‘Having access to a complete data set was really amazing and something that we hadn’t had before. And then we were able to analyse that of course, look at what our baselines are for both upstream and downstream logistics and use that to set roadmaps to reduce our impact.’ This accountability is a key part of the B-Corp mission. 

Supply chain collaboration

Given the complexity of supply chains and the number of stakeholders involved, it’s key to take a holistic approach to new initiatives.

  • Building transparent relationships with our partners including transparent data sharing on a regular basis. 
  • Using mutual buy-in to hold partners to account and for them to do the same for your business
  • Building sustainable practices into contracts and SLAs.

Everything starts with collaboration, getting the right data, and building trust to create long-term partnerships, explains Charlotte.

‘Making well-informed decisions in terms of understanding what our impact is, and having a look at the volumes that we’re shipping, having a look at the types of product coming from where, the partners we’re manufacturing with in the specific regions, all of those key aspects of strategy moving forwards and looking at how we can reduce impact and consolidating is so important.’

Whether talking with customers, regulators or investors, reliable, measurable data is the key for staying accountable, trustworthy and effective in your sustainability.

Making a measurable difference in the supply chain

Vivobarefoot work with Zencargo as their supply chain partner to implement practical strategies that can reduce emissions as well as enhancing end-to-end supply chain efficiency, including:

  • Improving Utilisation: By optimising the fill of each container, the overall number of transportations can be reduced.
  • Consolidation of Shipments: Origin consolidation and buyer consolidation can reduce the overall number of shipments, as well as overall shipping costs.
  • Offsetting and Insetting Initiatives: Zencargo supports customers with both offsetting and insetting initiatives. Offsetting involves compensating for emissions produced by investing in projects that reduce emissions elsewhere. Insetting, on the other hand, involves actions within a company’s own value chain that reduce emissions, such as using alternative fuels.
  • Alternative Fuels: The use of alternative fuels can directly reduce emissions at the source. Zencargo supports the purchase and use of these fuels as part of its sustainability strategy.
  • Sustainability Data: Zencargo’s metrics measure different efficiencies in the CO2 footprint, including factors such as volume shipped and general growth, helping customers track and improve their performance.

To find out more about how the right partnerships can help you support meaningful change in your supply chain, get in touch with our team today.