• Alison Folwell

"Go fast alone – go far together" - an industry's call to arms

The rallying call from the BMF’s virtual AGM and annual conference held on 17th September was clear. The UK’s economic recovery from Covid-19, in the face of environmental challenges and the looming issues of Brexit, is sure to be a difficult road - and one we all need to play a part in.

For many, business is currently booming. But the longer-term challenges are complex, with major hurdles of supply of materials and uncertain forecasting to overcome, compounded by the ever-changing Covid-19 regulations and overarching issues of climate change and sustainability. The roadmap to recovery is far from straightforward, and it will take sustained – and sustainable – effort throughout the supply chain to make it happen.

Climate change has shown us the path we need to be on. Sustainability is not an optional extra." Lord Deben

Building a Sustainable Future

Lord Deben was an inspiring speaker; engaging, relatable and compelling. His call to arms was not just inspiring though – it was direct, it was relevant, and it was actionable.

“Merchants,” he said, “Have a real role to play in helping customers make the right decisions in the purchases they make. You have a key commercial role and if you get it right, everyone will benefit.”

Climate change, as we know, is a reality, and sustainability is a choice we must all make for ourselves, and which we must actively promote with our customers.

“This is a future we know we have to have,” he said. “Climate change has shown us the path we need to be on. This is not an add-on, or an extra. It’s what you need to do, to be profitable and to safeguard your business. If you don’t, others will, and you will lose out. …To be a successful merchant, that’s where you need to go, and you’ll make the world a better place in the process.”

Profitability in business is not something to shy away from; it’s imperative for a sustainable future, and environmentally responsible products, processes and services are where the smart money is going.

“The industry needs to inform itself,” he reminded us, “To know what the most sustainable solutions are, understand what the real issues are, and make the most energy efficient products more readily available.”

We must all help our customers to make the right choices every day, and make more sustainable choices more readily and easily available, to play our part in achieving our goals. Because doing the “right thing” is not always easy, and it’s not always clear what that thing is, so it’s important that each of us plays a part in educating ourselves and passing on those learnings in a practical way to customers or suppliers at each stage of the supply chain from source to consumer.

“Agility is crucial” Megan Adlen – Head of Sustainability, Travis Perkins

His thoughts were echoed by Travis Perkins’ Head of Sustainability Megan Adlen, who spoke convincingly about the steps the company is taking to promote sustainable choices with suppliers ad customers alike.

“The resilience of businesses,” she said, “Is dependent on the resilience of supply chain.” We all have a part to play in that journey, and technology and digital platforms have a critical role.

Demand more from your software supplier

We are extremely proud to play a part in your supply chain, to make processes and systems easier for our merchants.

Your ERP system is critical for the commercial and operational functions of your business. The better your system, the better your profitability, availability, efficiency and productivity will be.

But a truly great ERP system can go further. It can help with staff engagement, flexible working, wellbeing and motivation. It can actively promote more sustainable choices in sourcing materials; it can reduce waste, both in terms of stock management efficiencies and also human time and effort.

We already work hard to promote efficiencies, reduce waste, and implement an increasing number of ways to help our customers be more environmentally responsible, from facilitating certification auditing and sourcing information to enhancing stock and supply management to reduce waste.

But we are sure there is more we can be doing. We want to do more, and we want to be challenged.

Is there an appetite for sustainability features within your ERP system? For example, a feature which automatically highlights during the order process if a more sustainable product alternative is available?

Go fast alone – go far together

This mantra, outlined by keynote speakers Steve Backley OBE and Roger Black MBE, will resonate with many.

Never before has there been such need for an industry to pull together to tackle the enormous challenges ahead. Real change, real improvement, and real success, will all depend on every part of the supply chain doing more, doing better; it will depend on every supplier, merchant and distributor to make better choices and influence customers to do the same.

We must all raise our game and continue striving for more sustainable solutions to construction and its associated industries. And that extends to software suppliers too. So demand more, DO more – and perhaps together we can create a brighter, more sustainable future.