Lockdown-induced eCommerce shift here to stay for supply chains

More than a third of businesses believe that the move to online shopping seen during the COVID-19 pandemic is now a permanent shift, according to new research from international supply chain and logistics consultancy SCALA.

From surveying business leaders across the grocery and homeware industries, 36% of companies believe that eCommerce will now remain at the inflated levels seen during the COVID-19 pandemic, wherein enforced social distancing restrictions prompted a surge in eCommerce activity.

Notably, the majority of businesses also reported a belief that eCommerce levels will increase further still over the coming months, with more than two-thirds (67%) of grocery businesses, and 89% of non-grocery businesses predicting that more growth is yet to come.

Increases to eCommerce activity is likely to impact businesses’ carbon footprints and so should be a key strategic consideration moving forwards. For instance, transport requirements have increased for more than two-thirds (67%) of businesses, with the majority of these coming from the non-grocery industries, which predict the most notable upcoming increases to their eCommerce activity.

The step-change towards eCommerce has also increased organisations’ warehousing needs, with more than a third (34%) of companies having seen an upsurge in the usage of warehouse space since the start of the pandemic. Two-thirds (65%) of businesses have in turn needed more warehousing staff to service this increased activity, and 50% of companies have seen a rise in packaging costs.

Despite up to 90% of an organisation’s carbon emissions being generated through its supply chain, the research also goes on to suggest that nearly two-thirds (64%) of the organisations surveyed have no plans in place to take any action to reduce the impact of their eCommerce operations, such as increased requirements for transport and warehousing. Furthermore, almost a third of businesses (32%) surveyed have no measures in place to monitor the total impact of their supply chain operation, meaning that thousands of businesses across the UK have no idea of the extent of their current carbon footprint.

Commenting on the research findings, John Perry, managing director at SCALA, said: “The events of the past two years have changed our shopping habits, and subsequently the demands placed upon our supply chains, irrecovably. Given this, the number of companies that currently have no plans or long-term strategies in place to address this step-change is both surprising and concerning.

“This lack of strategic foresight can, in many ways, be traced back to the lack of processes and frameworks in place to measure businesses’ increased carbon footprint, meaning that many may have no idea as to the scale of their current emissions profile. Put simply, without measurement, you can’t manage, and we would urge businesses that do not currently measure the full scope of their carbon footprint to take steps to address this shortfall as a matter of urgency.”

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