May 26, 2023
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As consumers we have seen prices of everyday items rise around 10% over the past year. Following on from the global pandemic, it became clear that supply chains were struggling to meet demand, as manufacturing output had declined and consumer habits had changed. Whilst most of the world is now back to a more normal way of living, many of those habits have remained. But consumer demand is once again on the increase, with supply unable to keep the pace.
The overall cost of goods has increased due to many factors, not least logistics and transportation, which is at the mercy of the cost of oil. The instability of prices in Europe due to the Ukraine conflict has affected many basic food ingredients such as sunflower oil and wheat, plus any industries with high energy consumption such as paper manufacturers have seen costs spiralling.
So how do companies and consumers now faced with an increased cost of living, keep a sustainable mindset?
For consumers there are endless places to turn to for advice, but what about small companies? While the support network is different the same rules can also apply to businesses. Consider your office or buildings, and improve the heat retention, lower the maximum heat of the boiler and turn down the heating in lesser used rooms. Check for draughts, and improve those areas. For manufacturers it is not such an easy win, how can they maintain output and reduce energy? One such saving could be in making the production line more efficient, reducing plant downtime and improving changeovers to run faster and more smoothly.
One of the obstacles for manufacturers to moving from plastic packaging to a more sustainable option is that the machinery may not be capable of a direct switch from one to the other. As greener solutions develop, often with closer replication to the original, this is less likely to be the case. Perhaps when manufacturers plan to invest in new machinery, they should also consider moving from one substrate to another, greener option.
Buy less but buy better has long been a mantra of the ethical fashion set, but is there value in this for manufacturers or small businesses? Buying in bulk was always the privilege of businesses, with access to Wholesale distributors, but when Supermarkets caught on that bulk-buy prices were very attractive to everyday consumers they started stocking larger pack sizes. Purchasing in bulk can be a more environmental way to cut down on packaging and save money.
Buying better quality will, in the long run give you better gains but why not consider renting? That way your equipment can be upgraded when an improvement is made, at very little additional cost to you.
There are times when companies need to invest in new equipment in order to save money in the longer-term. For example, it may cost more to initially purchase an electric vehicle, but the running costs are considerably lower including a saving on any ULEZ or LEZ charges, and tax (temporarily). There are still limited incentives around to purchase, and new vehicles with better ranges entering the market which makes it worth investigating. Public charging is also improving with many more service stations offering ultra-fast charging points, and many car parks also now establishing charging points.
Manufacturers are catching on to the demands for lower energy usage products, and developing products with those concerns in mind. Perhaps though, it is about achieving balance as sustainability and saving money are not mutually exclusive.
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