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Aaron Lee

FOUNDER ON A MISSION TO HELP BUSINESSES GROW BY BUILDING MORE SUSTAINABLE SUPPLY CHAINS

An Oxfordshire entrepreneur and founder is encouraging businesses to create more environmentally sustainable supply chains to bring about reliable, long-term growth and better customer relationships.

Aaron Lee, who is the founder of Oxfordshire-based chemical procurement and distribution company, Alchem Trading Ltd, says businesses need to do more to make their supply chains a better fit for customers looking to trade ethically, who may be looking to meet regional or national net zero targets, and whose values are increasingly focused towards not causing any harm to the communities in which they operate. 

He says this is particularly important in businesses that need to procure chemicals to make their products, such as healthcare, cosmetics, household goods or engineering and manufacturing firms, as they are facing mounting pressure from different quarters to justify and be transparent about their practices. The risks of not putting new processes in place are high, says Aaron, not only for the planet and the local community, but also in terms of customer behaviour.

“Businesses are rightly increasingly concerned about the impact they have on both their immediate environment and the wider world around them,” says Aaron. “An integral part of this is having a clear understanding about the kinds of chemicals they are using to create their products, how those chemicals are developed in the first place, and what happens to any waste from those chemicals. It can be a tricky balancing act and it’s important to make sure you’re getting it right.”

Aaron, who has worked in chemical procurement and distribution for more than a decade, set up his own firm a year ago to make the process easier and more transparent, and he has highlighted three steps that businesses can take if they’re looking to create a more environmentally sustainable supply chain.

  • Conduct a Chemical Audit. Look at all the chemicals currently being used, detail where they have come from and how the business deals with any waste generated from their use. 
  • Identify Sustainable Alternatives. Bear in mind that, as well as looking at how the potentially sustainable alternatives are produced, collect information on how far they travel to get to you, their environmental impact, and any known health impact they may have.
  • Create and Communicate Sustainability Goals. It’s important to ensure you know what you want to achieve in your business with sustainability and that you have a clear plan for how you’re going to get there. This means creating realistic sustainable goals with timeframes and actions attached. Communicating these goals within the business is vital and it’s important to be honest and transparent with your customer base too, who are more likely to trust you if you are straightforward and up front.

“Implementing these three steps is a great start to making your supply chain more sustainable,” says Aaron. “You’ll then have clear objectives that you can track in terms of progress so you can see how you’re getting on and respond quickly to any bumps in the road. The transparency is likely to be really appreciated by the general public, too. 

“Even if you’ve made mistakes as a business with this in the past, most people will appreciate you being open about wanting to do better in the future. After all, everyone is having to change their behaviour to for the long-term health of the planet.”

Research shows that 78% of consumers feel that sustainability is important. Sustainable and eco-friendly products have experienced a 32% growth in the last 12 months, with 55% of people willing to pay more for these products. Most tellingly of all for businesses when it comes to long-term plans, though, is that 84% of customers say that poor environmental practices will alienate them from a brand or company. 

The UK is also aiming to become net zero by 2050, with some regions aiming to achieve this earlier, including Aaron’s own region, Oxfordshire, which has an ambitious net zero target set to 2030. He says it won’t be long before making these kinds of sustainable supply chain decisions won’t just be wise — it will be necessary for long term business survival. 

“It’s already the case that many people simply decide to shop elsewhere if you haven’t made the necessary changes in your supply chain,” says Aaron. “People become loyal to brands partly because they see the values of those brands aligning with their own, so it just makes sense in terms of brand image and attracting the right kinds of customers to put these changes in place. There’s also the issue of funding for small and medium sized businesses — increasingly this is being weighted towards businesses that are making better environmental choices.”

Most important of all however, says Aaron, are the wider implications of creating a more sustainable supply chain. 

“The bottom line is that this affects all of us, whether we’re working in the kind of business that uses chemicals or not,” says Aaron. “By making these changes in your firm, you’re not only making positive shifts for your company and your customers, you’re helping more broadly to reduce pollution, conserve natural resources, protect wildlife and look after the planet. There really is no downside to that.” 

More information about Aaron’s chemical procurement and distribution business can be found here: https://www.alchemtrading.com/

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