Brendan Murphy, Chief Executive at waste container manufacturer, Egbert Taylor, looks at the impact of an over-reliance on Chinese imports in the face of both the Coronavirus outbreak, and climate change.
The uncertainty and tragedy surrounding the Coronavirus outbreak is uncomfortable viewing. The way in which it continues to unfold and enter new countries is a stark reminder that some things are beyond our control.
The last few weeks have undoubtedly given us pause for thought as we watch nations struggle to contain the virus. They may have also forced organisations to reassess their procurement strategies, particularly amidst growing reports that many UK businesses and manufacturers, reliant on Chinese raw materials, are grinding to a halt.
From small UK manufacturers to British multinational corporations such as JCB, the Coronavirus’ indiscriminate nature continues to make operational waves as the flow of materials out of China and into the UK is limited. Many organisations may now even remain vulnerable until restrictions are lifted. How long that will take is anybody’s guess.
Thankfully, as a UK manufacturer that sources its raw materials and produces its own products locally in the UK, we can only observe how this challenge impacts on other businesses from a distance.
We are proud of our UK heritage and committed to sourcing raw materials in a sustainable manner. We’ve also been unashamedly vocal on the importance of sourcing locally and supporting ‘Best of British’ businesses, regardless of the product or service they provide.
Sadly, organisations that prioritise price over origin are those that are most likely to suffer from the supply chain fallout that is now clear. Outbreaks like we’ve seen with the Coronavirus are impossible to predict.
However, the last few weeks will surely have made organisations reconsider their attitude to operational risk and examine whether the cost of sourcing cheaper materials from thousands of miles away adequately offsets the business cost when the tap providing business-critical materials is turned off.
Of course, the UK is also susceptible to its own crises. As with any raw material, supply and demand issues can translate to serious business challenges. However, it’s about limiting risk wherever possible. In Egbert Taylor’s case, that means sourcing as much locally as possible and procuring materials that are already on our doorstep rather than amassing a huge carbon footprint by bringing those same materials into the country from places such as China.
And that takes us to another pressing issue, certainly for homes and businesses located in the regions that neighbour Egbert Taylor’s home of Worcester, which is the impact of the recent storms and the damage caused by a deluge of rainfall – something that even the new Environment secretary, George Eustice, has linked to climate change.
If the recent supply chain issues brought about through an overreliance of Chinese imports, which have been elevated to public consciousness via the Coronavirus, aren’t enough to get organisations to re-evaluate the economic impact of procuring raw materials from overseas, then maybe the recent wave of storms is enough to get them to at least consider the environmental impact.