How Temporary Offices Can Change the Landscape of Workspaces

In recent years, the definition of what constitutes a workspace has been shifting. As such, business owners are becoming more aware of the alternatives to traditional office space.

With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, many businesses have embraced the benefits of socially distanced working. According to a study by the Office of National Statistics, 69.6 per cent of employees in 2020 were completing duties at home. Working at home has been useful for some industries, however, others could not rely on this adjustment. For example, only 14.9 per cent of workers in sectors such as care and leisure worked from home.

Service, hospitality, and entertainment businesses have instead been searching for alternative workspaces that can accommodate their needs and save on cash. Storage containers have long been reliably used in the shipping industry, and now more industries are discovering their varied uses. This article will investigate the unique ways that storage containers are being used as workspaces across the country.

Somewhere to eat

Across the UK’s cities, there has been an emerging trend of storage container retail parks. These parks offer compact, affordable workspaces for business owners, often within the heart of the city centre, and all for a fraction of the price of permanent buildings.

Many of these container retail parks are focused not only on independent businesses but food and drink venues too. The concentration of storage containers as a venue is a unique, industrial sight in the cityscape, whether it is Manchester’s ‘The Hatch’ or Newcastle’s ‘STACK’. These containers are self-contained, and despite their industrial façade, act as communities that feel more like a rustic marketplace than a hectic city-centre location.

Using storage containers as the accommodation for these units saves on hefty long-term construction bills. In turn, these savings allow for smaller businesses to take advantage of lower rent costs, whereas they might be priced out of other workspaces.

Somewhere to stay

After a lengthy lockdown, holiday-goers are keen to do just that: go on holiday. Unfortunately, Michael O’Leary, chief executive of Ryanair, has predicted that the price of holidays is going to be “dramatically higher” next year.

In response, Brits are increasingly opting for a staycation rather than travelling abroad, with enquiries for 2022 staycations up by 74 per cent. It’s clear that holidaymakers are very conscious of finding a good deal on their holidays. Converted storage containers offer a cheap, stylish option for lodgings.

British holiday accommodation businesses can take advantage of this increased interest in staycations by expanding their capacity. However, constructing new accommodation can be a costly affair.

‘Glamping’ (glam camping) has been on the rise, and storage containers offer an affordable alternative for businesses looking to expand. Not only that, but a storage container stay in the British countryside can be a unique holiday destination for vacationers.

Somewhere to work

Storage container office space can give a great first impression to customers and onlookers. If you want your workplace to give off sleek, modern energy, then storage containers are a great choice.

Aside from being a cost-effective alternative, storage container workspaces have other advantages. First of all, storage containers are easily adaptable to the needs of your business. You can modify your container to reflect the style of your business and set it out from others.

Similarly, storage containers are entirely modular. If your workforce grows, you can adapt your space to accommodate your employees. As long as you have ground space to cover, storage containers can continue to be added.

Alternatively, your business might only require a workspace during busier periods, such as Christmas or summer. In these cases, temporary accommodation might be beneficial. A storage container can be hired if you’re looking for accommodation without a long-term commitment.

Somewhere to entertain

While many businesses require a consistent hub of activity all year round, this is not true of all companies. A business may thrive in certain seasons or regularly work from home, but a physical presence can still be beneficial.

For independent companies, a permanent office space may not be financially feasible. Pop-up events and temporary workspaces are an affordable way for brands to avoid costly year-long lease obligations and maintain a street presence. Storage containers can be hired temporarily as an affordable workspace alternative.

Pop-up events can be a bit of a risk for small and independent businesses, but the affordability of storage containers as venues can minimise this risk. In particular, entertainment brands and businesses could capitalise on the use of storage containers.

A storage container could act as a stage for a gig, performance, or festival. It could house a short-term art installation for local artists to showcase their work.

As businesses continue to seek alternative solutions to workspaces, we’re bound to see more ideas for how companies can adapt their spaces. Given their affordable prices, style, and compact spacing, it’s no surprise that temporary workspaces have been chosen by independent businesses as a fashionable and useful choice.

Are UK Businesses Right to Consider International Expansion Beyond the EU?

By Atul Bhakta, CEO of One World Express

 

Brexit upended many businesses’ operations within both the EU and the UK. Even the agreement of an eleventh-hour deal, just one week before the Brexit deadline, gave organisations too little time to develop and implement the appropriate measures to counteract potential disruption.

Consequently, traders on both sides of the channel experienced issues with additional customs checks, complex administrative rules, and visa problems for members of the workforce. It comes as little wonder, therefore, that trade between UK and EU countries declined dramatically in the immediate aftermath of the UK leaving the EU.

Indeed, figures from the UK’s Office of National Statistics (ONS) highlighted the extend of the issue; the UK’s exports to the EU throughout January 2021 suffered a 40.7% decline, compared to the previous year.

The decline is certainly striking. After all, the EU was one of the UK’s largest trading partners, and such a significant decline inevitably dented the confidence of many EU companies. A survey conducted by One World Express in January 2021 captured this national concern, revealing that a quarter (25%) of UK businesses feared that they would not be capable of surviving until the end of the year.

Of course, given the unknowns of Brexit, at least from the UK’s side, such a dip in confidence was to be expected. However, as the year progressed, organisations noticed scope for potentially lucrative opportunities further afield.

Wider international demand

As stated earlier, the UK saw a significant dip in trade immediately following its exit from the EU. And whilst trade with EU countries is starting to recover, it should be noted that trade with non-EU countries has remained, for the most part, stable throughout the year.

For example, the ONS’ aforementioned figures saw UK exports to non-EU countries experience a year-on-year increase of 1.7% in January 2021. Whilst a modest figure, it suggested a glimmer of hope for UK businesses that, despite the turmoil of Brexit, international trading remained a viable possibility.

Consequently, in the months that followed, UK businesses became more open to exploring opportunities further afield. Indeed, One World Express’ most recent survey amongst 752 decision makers within UK businesses – 61% of which were either already operating abroad or planning to do so within the coming twelve months – revealed that more than six in ten (62%) felt Brexit had prompted them to expand their organisation beyond the EU.

Evidence also suggests that plans for expansion were not just based on moderately positive trading uplifts. One World Express’ aforementioned research also found that over two thirds (68%) of exporters have experienced increased international demand for their goods or services throughout the previous year. A further 63% claim that markets outside of the EU were more willing to pay a premium for their goods.

Interestingly, it seems that this growing international demand for UK products has been largely driven by branding. For the previous decade, UK products have gained a strong reputation for quality, which has in turn, driven a rapid rise in demand within lucrative markets within South Asia and India. As such, more and more UK businesses have found it easier to start out amongst potential customers. Indeed, One World Express’ survey found that a strong majority (67%) of exporters found that having a British brand, or UK-based operations had enhanced their products or services reputation and demand amongst international audiences.

This is certainly positive news for UK businesses, particularly after such a massive dip in confidence at the beginning of 2021. However, companies can’t afford to base their entire international expansion strategy on “Brand UK” alone. After all, a reputation for quality does not guarantee immediate success within new markets.

Indeed, UK companies must ensure they’ve considered numerous other factors, before they are even able to consider international expansion.

A comprehensive plan

Whilst this may sound like an obvious point, it is surprising how many businesses overlook the importance of planning. For example, almost a third (32%) of exporters do not have a clear international expansion strategy in place. Failure to plan certainly increases the chances of failure within a new market, so it is vital that certain points are addressed.

An important starting point for UK businesses will be research. Understanding the new market and target audiences, as well as the culture and laws within a new country will certainly contribute to a successful trading debut. Doing so will allow a business to effectively appeal to new demographics, and provide substantial building blocks for the company’s international longevity.

Next, businesses should consider forging connections within their target market. This could involve various stakeholders, from mentors who can offer further valuable insight into market activities, and distributors, to eCommerce marketplaces – all of whom could give businesses a platform to getting their product or service to their new audience. Luckily, many companies appear to see the value in this; according to One World Express’ research, 72% of exporters have already done this.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, UK organisations must acknowledge the importance of a sustainable logistics strategy. For example, with their product being shipped across the world, companies must ensure that they have a transparent tracking system, efficient returns process, along with further shipping software, to facilitate a streamline shipping process. Without one, companies risk damaging “Brand UK’s” reputation for quality, as customers will be unlikely to pay a premium if they experience a poor courier service. And vitally, companies must remember that logistics consultants are on hand to help create a tailored logistics strategy, which will meet the specific needs of both the organisation and its clients.

Of course, the EU will remain one of the UK’s most prominent trading partners – it is too large, and too geographically convenient to be overlooked. However, over the next few years, I anticipate more and more businesses to explore opportunities further afield. And with international demand for “Brand UK” growing stronger, there certainly appears scope to do so. And provided that UK companies conduct thorough research, I see no reason why such companies should not enjoy successful expansion.

Atul Bhakta is the CEO of One World Express, a position he has held for over 20 years. He also holds senior titles for other retail companies, underlining his vast experience and expertise in the world of eCommerce, trade and business management.

6 Ways the Manufacturing Sector Can Reduce Carbon Emissions

As the UK begins to move towards its net-zero carbon emissions target by 2050, businesses in all sectors must reduce their CO2 output. According to the March 2021 Industrial Decarbonisation Strategy, the manufacturing sector accounts for a sixth of all UK greenhouse gas emissions, highlighting the work needed in the sector to reduce emissions.

It’s no surprise to see that manufacturing is one of the biggest contributors to carbon emissions in the UK due to the sector’s energy-intensive processes. While it’s not possible for the sector to completely eliminate those emissions, there are ways it can reduce them and balance them out to reach a point of carbon neutrality.

In this article, we’ll explore how using the right machinery and components is key to helping your manufacturing organisation not only reduce its greenhouse gas emissions but also save money in the long run.

Invest in quality machine parts

Many manufacturers will often opt for cheaper machinery and parts to minimise a hefty upfront cost, but this can end up more expensive in the long run. In many cases, cheaper machinery and parts are made with cheaper materials. This means that they’ll have a shorter shelf-life than higher-quality items, so you’ll be required to replace these parts more frequently. This also creates more waste, which has a serious impact on the environment.

Consider the equipment’s energy requirements

Some machines and their component parts run on fossil fuels, which are some of the biggest contributors to climate change. Switching to equipment that runs on renewable energy will save you money in the long run and allow you to dramatically reduce your carbon emissions.

The manufacture of certain materials is also especially energy-intensive, such as the production of liquid silicone rubber, which requires temperatures of 179–198oC. Other materials, like most plastics, are well-known for their reliance on fossil fuels. By reviewing the raw materials you work with and the products you create, you can further cut down your energy requirements and move to renewable sources.

Use multi-tasking equipment

A key way you can cut down on your energy costs and therefore your carbon emissions is to make use of multi-tasking equipment. These machines combine several processes – for example, cutting processes – which would have traditionally been carried out by multiple machines in one solution. This helps you reduce setup and manufacturing time dramatically by getting more processes done in one go.

Having fewer machines on the go for one project will reduce the amount of energy you require to produce materials or items, which has the double benefit of reducing your business’ energy costs and carbon emissions. It also means you’ll require fewer component parts for multiple machines. Fewer machines mean you can also make better use of your factory space and increase your business’ output efficiency.

Maintain your equipment effectively

We know that one of the best ways to extend the life of our manufacturing equipment is to maintain it effectively. Equipment maintenance will vary based on the machinery itself, but generally speaking, maintenance is straightforward. Setting up processes for qualified technicians to regularly review your machinery is essential, but there are steps you can take yourself.

Keeping your equipment and its component parts clean and free from debris is an essential step, because this can heavily impact its efficiency. In the shipping industry, energy-efficiency regulations have come into place that include keeping the propellors and other underwater parts of the ships clean, reducing waste heat production and the need for frequent new replacement parts.

Prevent energy-wasting leaks

One of the most common energy-wasting problems with manufacturing equipment is leakages. While checking your equipment is essential for general maintenance, including leak checks is recommended. This will allow you to spot and fix any leaks before they become a bigger problem. Using the right type of seal on your cylinder parts will help prevent leakages in the long run.

Embed sustainability into your supply chain

You’ve begun to address the sustainability of your business practices, and you’ve taken measures to reduce your carbon emissions. But can the same be said about your suppliers? If the businesses you’re sourcing your machinery and raw materials from aren’t sustainable, you may still be indirectly contributing to greenhouse gas emissions.

Many businesses are now including sustainability as a key requirement in their tender process, with others reviewing their suppliers based on their green credentials. A brand’s sustainability credentials are more important than ever, with research showing customers are seeking companies that are environmentally friendly. But large businesses including Nike and Adidas have come under scrutiny for poor practices in their supply chains. The fashion giants were found to use suppliers that discarded toxic waste in rivers in China, but the backlash was primarily aimed at those brands.

Sustainability and reducing carbon emissions is essential for all businesses in order for the UK to meet its net-zero target by 2050. As one of the biggest contributors to greenhouse gases in the UK, the manufacturing sector has a large role to play. By addressing the machinery and component parts your business uses, including how and where you source them, how you use them, and how you maintain them, you can reduce your emissions to support important environmental causes.

Benefit From Following a Procurement Process

By Adam Thomas, Co-founder of oboloo, a self-service cloud procurement software designed for SMEs who want to work with suppliers who share their values

As we approach the end of the 2021, companies are looking for ways that they can strengthen their finances after Covid and against the threat of inflation and interest rate rises next year. Following on from Cop 26 companies are also beginning to place more importance on sustainability and want to reduce their carbon footprint, which includes working more closely with their suppliers to achieve this.

One way that companies can help to achieve this is by improving their procurement processes; from how they source goods and services to how they manage suppliers and contracts. It’s estimated that effective management of third-party spend can on average release savings of between 7-12%. This means that for every £1 million of supplier spend there is a potential saving of between £70,000 to £120,000 per annum to be made.

Improving consistency, visibility, and control over every part of the procurement process will help companies to save both time and money, reduce fraud and contribute towards sustainability. If there is a lack of resource and high staff turnover a digital procurement solution can help to make this even easier to achieve.

Sourcing

The first part of the sourcing process is to specify exactly what is required. This may be based on what has been purchased previously or may require revised specifications because of changes in circumstances. It’s also an opportunity to learn what’s new and improved as it may help to identify opportunities to reduce consumption and waste that will save time and money and be better for the environment.  

Some of the goods and services purchased are in-direct, such as utilities. Therefore, when sourcing these commodities, the main consideration is getting the best price from a reputable supplier.

Goods and services which have more of an impact on the end user require their preferences to be considered and whenever possible embedded into the specifications. It’s important to be realistic as sometimes there is a fine balance between quality and the budget available, which may result in having to manage the expectations of users. There may be an opportunity for suppliers to suggest alternative products that are of equal quality as preferred products but cost less.

As well as quality and price, Environmental Social & Corporate Governance (ESG) is also becoming increasingly important as a way of differentiating between suppliers. There are many different parts to ESG, such as sustainability, social impact on local communities and supporting SME suppliers and it’s important to remember that everyone may have different objectives.

Having specified the goods or service required, decided upon what criteria are important to compare the suppliers upon, its then a case of selecting the potential suppliers. It’s always best to invite at least three suppliers to respond to a sourcing activity with the incumbent being one of them.

Evaluating the suppliers’ responses against all the selection criteria using an objective scoring system is key to finding the supplier that offers best value. It’s possible going forwards, taking sustainability requirements into account, that price may no longer be the key differentiator.

Once the supplier is selected, negotiations completed, and the contract is signed the new supply can be implemented. Its good practice to run sourcing activities towards the end of every contract or every couple of years to ensure the continued receipt of best value from the suppliers.

Tip: Create a simple sourcing process that everyone can follow and keep permanent records of all activities or use a Sourcing software.

 

Contract Management

On-going contract management is key to continuing to receive best value from the supplier throughout the lifetime of the contract and when done properly provides further opportunities to save time and money.

It’s important to actively manage any notice periods and contract end dates, so that no deadlines are missed as these can prove to be expensive. Some contracts may automatically roll-over meaning price increases or having to pay for goods or services that are no longer delivering value or worse still are no longer required. It also means potentially missing an opportunity to change any requirements or reduce consumption and waste and thus save money.

Having easy access to any contract documents associated with the contract such as Service Level Agreements helps to ensure that users are consistently satisfied and provides a basis on which to rectify any failings with a supplier before it becomes a more serious issue.

Tip: Create an easily accessible contract database that contains all the relevant contract information, key dates, and documents in one place or use a contract management software.

 

Supplier Management

When working with a new supplier, or indeed any supplier, its good practise to have an on-boarding and vetting process to check that the supplier has all the necessary valid documentation as proof that they have what they say they have, e.g., suitable levels of insurance cover, sustainability accreditations etc. The last thing that any company wants is to be put at unnecessary risk by a supplier not having insurance or awarding business under false pretences. The types of documentation and accreditations etc. will vary by industry with some more highly regulated than others.

These documents usually have an expiry date and will require the supplier to renew them, often annually. Its therefore a good idea to monitor that the suppliers continue to renew them to remain compliant and that there’s a record kept of those that are renewed and those that have expired. Any that have expired can then be queried with the supplier directly.   

Far too often supplier performance is not regularly monitored which can mean that both positive and negative experiences are not properly recorded and fed back to suppliers. Suppliers can only respond to issues if they’re made aware of them, and they also appreciate the feedback when they’re doing something well. This is especially important towards the end of a contract when the incumbent is being considered as part of the sourcing process.

Having a Preferred Supplier List means that it’s easy for employees to know which suppliers to go to for different products and services. Sometimes there’s preferred supplier in place and there is leakage to other suppliers because employees either don’t know about the deal or because they have their own favoured suppliers. This is not ideal for the company as it may put them at unnecessary risk due to lack of due diligence on the supplier and compliance and going forward will make carbon reporting more complicated. It’s also not great for the suppliers as they would have entered the contract with the expectation of receiving all the available business. To put it into perspective, how would you feel if your company’s customers were doing the same thing to you and leaking business to competitors?

Tip: Create an easily accessible supplier database that contains all the relevant supplier information, associated compliance documents and records of performance and risk in one place or use a supplier management software.

How Can the Government Provide Support to the Engineering Sector?

The engineering sector has had a torrid time in the past 18 months. From project cancellations to a growing skills gap, the industry is in need of government support.

The Autumn Budget came with mixed news for the sector, with some skills funding announced, but critical R&D spending postponed.

Here, piston rings supplier FPE Seals will explore how the government can support engineering businesses.

Addressing the skills gap

The engineering industry has a pressing skills gap. The sector is experiencing the second-highest rate of vacancies behind the IT/computing sector, highlighting how vital it is to address this shortage sooner rather than later.

The announcement of an additional £3.8 billion in funding to improve apprenticeships and T Levels is welcome news because many engineering qualifications fall into vocational education. However, EngineeringUK expressed disappointment that the government didn’t heed its call for an extra £40 million dedicated to STEM education in schools and further education.

As well as a specific skills gap in a range of engineering roles, the Royal Academy of Engineering has called upon the government to invest in a net-zero skills plan. These skills will be necessary if the UK is to hit its net-zero emissions target by 2050, but currently aren’t being routinely taught in engineering, manufacturing, or construction courses.

The government can support the engineering sector by focusing not only on funding STEM subjects to increase participation but by also mandating a net-zero approach to engineering education. It’s well-established that engineering is essential to the UK’s infrastructure, but a 2021 report also highlighted its effect on boosting social mobility. The report calls on the government to increase provision to maths and science at GCSE level to open up engineering to more young people.

Re-prioritise investment in research and development

The decision to postpone an annual £2 billion spend on research and development (R&D) has been met with criticism from the sector. The Institution of Engineering and Technology commented: “It’s disappointing the government has delayed the important R&D target for two years. If we are to remain globally competitive and achieve our net-zero targets, we must prioritise measures now that encourage businesses to invest in R&D in the UK.”

The commitment to delivering £20 billion of R&D funding by 2025 is positive, but for the UK to remain a leader in R&D on the global stage, funding should be prioritised now. Funding will also be reinstated for the Aerospace Technology Institute, having been frozen previously. This is good news for the rising aerospace sector, whose output increased by 45 per cent between 2010 and 2018.

R&D funding is a mixed bag in the sector at present. While we have future promises of £20 billion in funding and specific grants for important subsectors, we also have delays to a lot of this funding at a time when the engineering industry needs support now. The UK is the second-highest-ranking country in the world for R&D output, and in order for us to maintain our high standards, immediate funding is required.

Committing to infrastructure funding

Transport and city infrastructure is one of the biggest opportunities for the engineering sector in the UK. While we’ve seen many commitments for important rail infrastructure upgrades like HS2 and the Integrated Rail Plan in recent years, these projects are all stalling.

In order to maintain momentum in the sector, government-mandated infrastructure plans need to be prioritised and pushed ahead. These projects provide essential work to engineering firms, but they also highlight the importance of the industry to the UK economy.

In addition to the recently announced funding for vital local infrastructure projects, the government can further support the engineering sector by providing clear action plans on these large infrastructure projects. Forward-planning and considering future infrastructure requirements, especially in the developing area of smart cities, is also important.

As a sector, engineering has had a turbulent couple of years. Now that lockdowns are no longer shutting down onsite projects, engineering businesses are recovering. But with a number of pressing challenges still in play, including delayed R&D funding and a widening skills gap, the industry would certainly benefit from additional government support.

Sustainable Dining: How the Food and Drinks Market Is Becoming Eco-Friendly

As things stand, our planet is not in a good shape. With the effects of climate change becoming more and more apparent every year, many are trying to do their bit in a bid to save our run-down environment. In this respect, it is fair to say that the food and drink market is gradually adapting to this new ‘reality’ too.

Indeed, while biting into the cheese and ham sandwich you bought on your way to work, you may notice that its packaging has a green recyclable sign on it. At the same time, you may realise that you are sipping a hot, flavoursome coffee from an eco-friendly wood-pulp paper cup as well.

Electrix, manufacturer of Kabelkanal, explores the topic of sustainability within the food and drinks market. What is this industry doing to ensure it provides green, sustainable products?

Growth of fair trade

As the name suggests, fair trade is an arrangement designed to assist farmers and workers in developing countries through better working conditions and equitable trade relationships. Not only this, but it also strives to support and promote good agricultural practices which – in the long run – encourage environmentally sustainable production.

Indeed, from prohibiting the use of harmful agrochemicals and focusing on the reduction of pesticides, fair trade ensures that farms are limiting their waste while enhancing biodiversity. Stretching from Western Africa to Latin America, fair trade’s positive influence on the food and drink market is constantly growing.

By allowing small farmers from all over the world to implement sustainable agricultural practices, workers are able to mitigate their impact on the environment and ultimately challenge climate change.

 

Eco-friendly packaging

Packaging is crucial in many different ways. Whether we like it or not, first impressions count – and this is particularly true for the food and drinks market. If a product looks good on the outside, the consumer is likely to automatically think it tastes nice too. But design is not the only aspect brands are concerned about.

With the future of our environment in mind, the industry is looking at alternative and innovative methods of making packaging as sustainable as possible. For instance, beer cans are gradually ditching the infamous six-pack plastic rings in favour of eco-friendlier dots of glue, which keep the beverages together just as well.

Moreover, brands are constantly exploring solutions that will help reduce plastic and glass waste. Indeed, wood-pulp paper bottles and sustainable plastic-free food packaging are slowly starting to stack supermarket shelves.

What is more, some food and drinks businesses are opting for sleek carved-in branding on their products as opposed to wrap-around labels. This said, however, most labels nowadays are recyclable and biodegradable anyway.

 

Transport

It is easy to forget that food and drinks often travel hundreds (if not thousands) of miles to get to our local supermarket. As heavy-goods vehicles account for 25% of CO2 emissions from transportation, it becomes clear that the way in which products reach our shelves should be carefully monitored.

In this respect, to contrast the negative impact food and drinks transportation has on our environment, many farmers markets do not allow vendors to sell products that have travelled more than 200 miles. In some cases, the threshold is 50 miles.

Not only is this an excellent way to support the local economy, but it also allows consumers to enjoy fresher products while actively reducing their carbon footprint.

 

Conscious consumers

There is no hiding that buyers play a fundamental role in shaping the way the food and drinks market operates. Ultimately, is it not consumers that brands are trying to appeal to?

For instance, health is an important component in people’s decision-making. As well as considering its environmental benefits, sustainable and organic food is particularly inviting, as it is healthier and safer to eat. Furthermore, by providing buyers with eco-friendly packaging options, brands have the chance to increase consumer interest. Indeed, anybody who has at heart the future of our planet will tendentially opt for a product that has gone out of its way to be as green as possible.

Finally, with the increase in vegetarian and vegan diets, the demand for sustainable alternatives is on the rise – and the food and drinks market will inevitably have to keep pace with people’s new style of living.

With the repercussions of climate change in plain sight, sustainability is the way forward to preserve our planet. To make sure it both plays its part and satisfies people’s new necessities, the food and drinks market is slowly shifting towards an eco-friendlier approach that suits both the environment and its consumers.

Christmas Staff Shortage: Vacant Roles in Hospitality Jump by Another 26% Month-on-Month

According to new data from the recruitment site, CV Library, job postings in October 2021 were up 26% month-on-month for roles in the hospitality industry, and there was a huge 383% increase compared to the same month last year.

What’s more, a recent report by the online training provider, High Speed Training found that a third (33%) of the public feel that roles in hospitality offer little progression and are not considered ‘careers for life’, with further negative perceptions around low salaries and workplace stress.

With high levels of Covid 19 providing an additional factor to the shortage, business owners are now at breaking point – struggling to fill staff vacancies in order to cater to the huge influx in customer demand resulting in longer hours, lower pay, and poor mental health.

Sharif Uddin, owner of the Kushi chain of Indian restaurants in London and Essex, plus DUSK fine dining fusion restaurant in Brentwood has felt the full impact of the staff shortages and is concerned about the festive season, he comments:

“Staff shortages mean we can not get skilled professional front of house staff so currently we are making do with what is available and filling gaps with students. The impact of this is huge in terms of front of house service, the basics of serving etiquette you can not teach in a day, often by the time you train them they have found better opportunities and unskilled work elsewhere and they move on, so the cycle starts again.

“In terms of kitchen staff, skilled quality chefs aren’t on the market for the salaries that make our restaurants viable.  Trying to recruit young people to train is like trying to locate the proverbial needle in a very large haystack. Most would prefer to be trained at large chains who can offer better starting salaries, offer structured training programmes and career progression with shorter shifts and more desirable working hours.

“These factors mean you can only deliver to the maximum capability with the staff you have, taking on less custom to make sure you are satisfying customers and not overworking staff.

“Christmas will not be the same as it was before the pandemic.  It’s normally the busiest period in the hospitality sector, but with the severe staff shortages we will only be able to operate at half of our usual capacity.”

So with the hospitality industry seriously struggling,  how can business owners attract more applicants for vacant roles? Below, leading industry experts share their top tips on how to recruit, retain, and train staff:

1.Start with a great job ad

Brett Smith, Customer Success Director at the workplace management platform Planday, comments: “Just because your business is a bar, restaurant, cafe or hotel as opposed to an office, doesn’t mean you can’t create a healthy, open culture.

“Make it really clear when sharing a job ad, that by applying for the role – the applicant will be joining a friendly, growing team. Spell out some of the perks that you’re able to offer – whether that be staff social events and team lunches, or giving everyone the opportunity to put forward suggestions on how to grow the business. 

“Could your staff put forward monthly menu suggestions, collaborate with other businesses, or take part in staff social media takeovers for example?” 

Sarah Taylor, expert in hospitality business operations at the leading online training provider, High Speed Training, comments: “If you’re able to provide a  progression path for applicants with as much extra training as necessary, then this is definitely something to state in your job ad. 

“The job will then appeal to those looking for a long-term career with a passion for the food and drink industry rather than those looking for a stop-gap.” 

2.Make retention a priority 

Brett at Planday continues: “Of course, when you have a shift-based rota, the majority of staff won’t have the option to work from home or remotely.  However, that doesn’t mean you can’t create a flexible working model that caters to the needs and preferences of each person.  

“Consider creating a hybrid working model that’s typified by scheduling flexibility, using digital staff rota planners or employee scheduling software. This way, employees can set their own availability and swap shifts among themselves so your operations are not affected by last-minute changes in someone’s schedule.

“Again, you can clearly explain you have a flexible working model in the job advert – to appeal to people who are working around childcare demands or other commitments.”

3.Provide training for new and current staff

Sarah Taylor at High Speed Training comments: “A lot of people may be put off applying for roles if they don’t feel they have the adequate skills or experience. 

“If possible, offer to pay for training courses in food hygiene and safety, or health and safety in the workplace. The majority of courses can be taken online and can be completed in a matter of hours, but are crucial in order to carry out tasks safely whilst adhering to regulations. 

“If an applicant has minimal skills but requires more training, or has very little training in the first place, make it clear that you can help them to upskill. You should also make this clear in the job advert itself, so people are more inclined to apply in the first place.”

Sarah continues: “Not only should you be looking to train new members of staff, it’s also really important to train up  the members of staff you already have in different areas so that they can continue to progress. This eliminates some of the pressures of rehiring and is also a great way to do it as they already know so much about your business and how it’s run.

“There’s already the preconception that hospitality provides little progression, it’s about time we changed that and press reset on the industry after a particularly tough few years.”  

4.Shout out about your culture

Sarah comments: “The ‘stop-gap’ mentality and dismissal of ‘real skills’ from the public overlooks the fact that hospitality can be an amazing industry to work in. Some people see the hospitality industry as an art form, expressing their creativity through food, drink, and vibrant venues – without this industry some of the many amazing experiences we look forward to every day would simply not be possible.

“It’s absolutely necessary that you shout about your culture, your passion for your job, and your team’s great work. Make it clear that whoever joins you will be joining a like-minded community of people who have a passion for the industry. It may take openly stating some of the stereotypes around your job advertisement, such as low pay and unreasonable hours, and showing applicants that this simply isn’t true for your business.” 

Eurovision Sport Engage with Blackbird to Drive Cloud Native Video Production Workflow Efficiencies

Blackbird plc, the technology licensor, developer and seller of the market-leading cloud native video editing platform, Blackbird, announced today that Eurovision Sport has engaged with Blackbird to drive cloud native video production workflow efficiencies for its members in a multi-year deal.

Eurovision Sport is utilising Blackbird for professional, collaborative and scalable cloud native video editing and publishing of sports content. Blackbird has been deployed to enable Eurovision Sport to complement its digital services, providing cloud native editing tools for its members to take advantage of within their media supply chains.

Eurovision Sport – a division of the European Broadcasting Union (“EBU”) – manages the media rights for 17 sports on behalf of its public service media members, delivering up to 30,000 hours of sport a year through agreements with international sports federations.

Blackbird is enabling the Eurovision Sport editorial team and EBU Members to immediately access multiple live streams, seconds behind live, from any location in the world through its browser-based editor. Not only can users perform fast, collaborative clipping in Blackbird, but they can also take advantage of a multi-track non-linear editor with a professional toolset, creating high quality content that would be impossible with any other video editing technology. Content can be rapidly published to media partners and multiple digital endpoints including social, web and OTT platforms for viewers to enjoy.

Blackbird is enabling remote production, removing the need to travel to a facility or event and also eliminating the need to transit material to and from multiple local storage environments. Proven to reduce carbon emissions by up to 91% compared to traditional video editing workflows, Blackbird is playing an active role in supporting Eurovision Sport’s sustainability goals. Blackbird also reduces infrastructure costs by up to 75% due to its cloud native architecture.

Eurovision Sport Head of Content & services, Franck Choquard said: “In this time of Digital Transformation where not only EBU members but also all our Federations’ partners are aiming at publishing more content on their various platforms, having the possibility to quickly turn around content and enrich it through the Blackbird solution is really effective for us. We are now able to reach more fans in a more effective way and are aiming at developing our ecosystem further within the coming months. Last but not least for the EBU community, we are aiming at being more sustainable within our workflow and Blackbird is definitely a great partner in this journey.”

Blackbird plc CEO, Ian McDonough, added: “As part of the European Broadcast Union, with Members in over 50 countries, Eurovision Sport is a giant in sports broadcasting. In its role in helping stakeholders navigate technological innovation in sports production, Blackbird is delighted to be playing a part as a central hub for cloud native video editing. We are really excited to add Eurovision to our growing roster of large global OEM partners and to be directly enabling their members in efficient cloud migration.”

Blackbird drives awareness, monetization and efficiencies for brands in the sports, news, entertainment and enterprise sectors. Customers include Univision, Tata Communications, EVS, IMG, Deltatre, Sky News Arabia, A+E Networks, BT, NHL, Eleven Sports, Cheddar News, Riot Games, the U.S Department of State and 75 local US news stations with TownNews.

As Part of COP26, NCH Europe Releases a Guide to Industrial Products Highlighting the Sustainable Changes Needed Across the Modern Industrial Landscape to Combat the Ecological Factors of Climate Change

NCH Europe today released a sustainable guide to industrial products, highlighting the company’s continuing drive towards better products for a healthier planet.

Across industrial operations, there are many products and processes that contribute to ecological decline. Whether it’s the type of waste they create, the energy and resources that they use or the suboptimal performance of a product that creates waste, industrial products have an associated ecological cost.

Realistically, no product of human industry can be truly sustainable in the natural sense, NCH’s team of chemists are committed to the continual optimisation of products to minimise their ecological cost. Whether it’s optimisation to remove harmful components from formulations, or finding better formats for those formulations, continual improvements made by industry leaders such as NCH allow customers to make more sustainable choices.

The guide examines several common industrial products and highlights the dangerous components to be avoided that pose a threat to workers and the ecology such as:

  • Dichloromethane (DCM) in paint removal processes
  • Harsh acids used for the removal of rust from parts
  • Lithium in lubrication products
  • Corrosive components used to clear blockages in water treatment
  • Move away from solvents to water based parts cleaning

The guide also addresses how changes in format, such a concentrating water treatment products to be smaller solids, can be an effective way of reducing production and transport pollution as well as more responsible with the use of global resources like water.

John Paul Surdo, Chief Operating Officer at NCH Europe said, “A number of the goals for this years COP26 conference are collaboration, adaptation and mitigation as means to reducing climate change with a core rooted in sustainability.”

“Collaboration, adaptation and mitigation are reflected in NCH Europe’s work to constantly develop what we do to make the incremental sustainable changes that are needed to address the ecological threats our planet faces.”

“Our team of over 40 chemists collaborate to ensure that changes in one product can feed into the formulation of another. When we adjust a lubricant used for parts, we work to make sure our detergents are effective at removing that lubricant, without an unacceptable ecological cost.”

“This process of continually adapting the products we sell and those we develop don’t just mitigate our impact on resources and the environment, but those of our customers too. Whether it’s corporate procurement, or supermarket consumers, better products create better, more sustainable choices.”

“NCH Europe is committed to always finding new ways to improve our work, because that is the true sense of sustainability, constant improvement.”

As COP26 plays out over the coming days, many interested organisations will be looking to see what they can do better, to create better outcomes for people and planets. NCH is proud of the part it plays in helping industrial organisations improve the sustainability of their facilities and their operations.

The NCH guide to industrial products is available for download from the NCH Europe website.

New Report Reveals Growing Belonging Crisis Amongst UK Employees

  • 16 million UK office workers don’t feel as though they belong within their current company
  • 72 percent of these individuals are considering leaving their role in the next 12 months
  • This means 11.5 million workers are seriously reconsidering their roles
  • The belonging crisis is 10 times bigger and twice as important than is being realised

The Belonging Crisis

New research has revealed a looming HR crisis amongst British businesses, with just a third of UK office workers feeling as though they belong within a company. This means that as many at 16 million employees are currently suffering from a feeling of isolation in the workplace.

This is set to have serious consequences for UK employers, with almost three quarters (72 percent) of those who don’t feel as though they belong considering leaving their job in the next 12 months. This equates to an incredible 11.5 million people thinking about imminently walking out of their current roles.

The research, conducted amongst UK office workers and HR professionals by Connectr, the leading HR tech platform for building businesses where people belong, reveals that the pandemic has changed employees’ priorities significantly, with emotional support and a sense of belonging valued more highly than ever before.

Whilst salary remains the number one priority for employees, only 63 percent of workers now view this as key to their happiness at work, seven percent less than in February 2020. This is making way for cultural benefits, with feeling valued being cited as the second most important workplace perk for UK office staff, overtaking the likes of annual bonuses and health insurance.

Similarly, 20 percent of workers now believe that having their individuality recognised is one of the most important workplace benefits. This has more than doubled since February 2020. Other benefits that have become more important to employees since the pandemic include being proud of the company they work for, having their opinions listened to, and being part of a supportive and inclusive team.

Millennials and Gen Z employees were found to be the driving force behind these workplace trends. Just 44 percent of 16-24-year-olds consider salary as the most important workplace benefit. With Millennials set to make up over 75 percent of the global workforce by 2025, this demonstrates a significant shift that employers will need to actively respond to in order to attract and retain talented and diverse individuals.

Challenges Being Overlooked by Employers

The research, published in a new report that explores the UK’s growing belonging crisis, demonstrates that this shift in priorities is going largely unnoticed by business heads, which is compounding the crisis. Just 14 percent of HR heads believe not fitting in is a key reason why employees leave a business, demonstrating a clear misunderstanding of the scale of the problem.

Even for those businesses which do want to focus on belonging, resource is preventing them from doing so. Four in five HR heads say they don’t have time to prioritise building a sense of inclusion, whilst a staggering 92 percent struggle to get buy-in from senior leadership. The pandemic has worsened the situation, with 89 percent admitting that belonging has become less of a focus as a result of COVID-19.

As well as increasing staff turnover, this oversight could also be having an impact on a business’s productivity, reputation, level of diversity and inclusion, and ultimately its bottom line. The research found that a strong sense of belonging makes employees more motivated, loyal, engaged, and ambitious, which has a huge impact on productivity.

Building a Sense of Belonging

When it comes to building a sense of belonging, nearly half of office workers state that feeling valued is crucial, with a third claiming that clear progression opportunities are essential if they are to feel as though they belong. A significant number of employees also cited access to digital employee engagement platforms and mentoring schemes as key to cultivating a sense of belonging. These digital tools are particularly important for employees who are working from home. Almost half (44 percent) of remote workers who managed to maintain a sense of belonging during the pandemic put this down to online support platforms or mentoring schemes.

Despite clear demand from UK workers for digital platforms designed to support staff, just a third of organisations use them, whilst only 28 percent offer mentoring schemes. This demonstrates a clear disparity when it comes to employees’ needs and the provisions being offered by employers.

What the Experts Say

Will Akerman, Founder and Managing Director at Connectr, comments: “The research demonstrates a huge imbalance between employee demands and businesses’ priorities. What’s more, the growing belonging crisis amongst British employees is going largely unnoticed, with many employers still failing to recognise the importance of building a sense of inclusion. In fact, the belonging crisis is 10 times bigger and twice as important than is being realised. If this isn’t addressed quickly, UK businesses are set to face a huge resourcing challenge which could be catastrophic for many who are still coping with financial impact of the pandemic.

“The good news is, there are solutions to the challenge. Our research clearly shows the important role that online employee engagement tools and mentoring platforms can have in building a vital sense of belonging amongst staff. The digital nature of these platforms makes them accessible to all and easy to roll out at scale, meaning that all employees can benefit, regardless of their background, level of seniority or where they are based. More needs to be done to tackle the UK workforce’s belonging crisis, and it’s the businesses that make a conscious and active effort to truly engage, support and nurture their staff that will come out on top.”  

Could the Interim Save Christmas?

By Leigh Anderson, Managing Director at Bis Henderson Recruitment

As supply chains struggle to meet the challenges of a fast-recovering economy, labour scarcity and post- Brexit trading complexity, fears are growing of empty shelves leading into peak season. Rising ecommerce volumes and the driver shortage are creating the perfect storm. Interim managers can provide the skills needed to save Christmas, but firms need to act now to secure the best talent.


At almost every point in every supply chain, companies are facing unprecedented levels of change and uncertainty. Challenges from Covid to Brexit, driver shortages to microchip shortages, eCommerce to ethical consumerism, mean that businesses are having to learn, change and adapt their logistics operations at great speed, and often in areas where they lack high-level skills and expertise.

Existing managers and executives may be highly competent within business models that have evolved over decades with clear goals, but they aren’t necessarily well suited to drive through rapid and radical changes, or to identify and implement viable solutions to multiple crises.

Critically, companies need to access the talents of individuals with quite unique skill sets and experience, often at a level that would be considered unaffordable and unjustifiable when stability returns. Nor indeed are these talents possessed by the sort of people who settle down for the long term. In these conditions the professional ‘interim’ manager, executive or technologist comes into his or her own. While pre-Covid, this had been a market in decline; in the past year Bis Henderson Recruitment has seen a very significant uplift in requests by companies seeking our help in making short-term appointments. This is even more pronounced now as supply chains enter the run-up to the crucial Christmas season, with every day bringing a new challenge.

Demand for interim assistance is up by around 500% – and there is a clear correlation with a comparable collapse in responses to advertisements for conventional, long-term employment.

In particular, we are fielding urgent requirements for Warehouse and Operations Managers, Transport Managers and Planners, and Shift Managers to plan and execute additional pick and delivery volumes through the peak.

However, we find that many companies, small and large, are cautious, even fearful about going down the interim route to meet their short-term skill needs. In this paper we explore the reasons for this, and reveal our poll findings that refute some of the myths and misconceptions around interims.

What is an Interim?

Firstly, let’s be clear what we mean by an interim manager or executive. This is not a catch-all term for any short or fixed term employment: indeed, technically, it isn’t employment at all.

An interim is someone who brings a particular and rare combination of skills and experience to bear on a specific task, well-defined by goals and duration, typically of a project nature – although the approach can be applied to short-term senior management cover, or in ‘disaster recovery’ situations.

The emphasis is usually on successful implementation on time and to budget, rather than strategic planning and evaluation of options, which is more the realm of a consultancy. In our field the task may be bringing a new DC into operation, or implementing a new WMS, or, very topically, reconfiguring the transport network to make better use of available drivers.

Often, the appointment is additional to, rather than replacing, existing management – the latter of course still have the challenges of the day-to-day running of the business. There is often an expectation of significant skills transfer, to enable the permanent staff to successfully operate the new arrangements after the interim has moved on. Typically, an interim assignment will be for six months or less.

We say ‘assignment’ not ‘employment’ because the interim is not an employee – the relationship is that of a contract for services, not a contract of employment. The interim may be contracted with directly as a self-employed individual or via their own personal service company, or through an intermediate such as Bis Henderson Recruitment.

However, an interim is not a substitute for what would normally be a payroll position. It isn’t a tax avoidance scheme, for either party, although if appropriately applied, an interim appointment can reduce taxation paid. Nor is its purpose to allow the company to avoid non salary labour costs – a sort of gig economy for the higher paid – although reduced employment costs can also be the result.

Importantly, it isn’t appropriate, or lawful, if for example it is envisaged that the same interim will carry out a whole series of back-to-back projects – which has been a common abuse in IT and other fields. Less clear-cut, but it may also not be appropriate when the appointment is simply to ‘hold the fort’ while the search is on for a long-term employee. In these cases, a short or fixed term contract of employment is the way to go and Bis Henderson Recruitment can help here too.

What Our Survey Reveals

Although our in-box is full with enquiries about interims, we know many companies still have reservations. To better understand the reasons for this we recently ran a survey among our contacts on LinkedIn, with interesting results. Four particular concerns stood out.

Cultural Alignment

Nearly a fifth of our respondents cited concerns over the linked themes of ‘Slow Integration’ and ‘Cultural Alignment’.

Worries about the speed at which the interim can be integrated into the organisation are misplaced – one of the virtues of appointing an interim is precisely that these are people who expect to hit the ground running from hour one, day one. This is how they make their reputations. In practice it may be the interim who is more concerned about how quickly the permanent staff that he or she will be working with can come up to the required sense of urgency.

Cultural alignment can be somewhat more problematic, especially since one of the reasons for bringing an interim in may be precisely to over-ride ‘not invented here’, ‘we’ve always done it this way’ attitudes. A lot depends on the ability of the company’s managers and directors to pave the way, explaining why the interim is being brought in and what it is intended should be achieved. This has to be done skillfully, without suggesting that existing staff have in any way failed or are in some sense inferior – after all, they will still be with the business long after the interim has moved on to their next assignment.

The Dreaded IR35

Some 25% of our respondents voiced concerns about their liabilities under the famous ‘IR35’ rules, which were finally introduced for larger private companies in April this year, after a long period of controversy and, some might say, scaremongering.

Bis Henderson has worked hard to create a seamless process for recruiting interim managers and has taken the hard work and risk out of ensuring that contracts are ‘IR35 proof’.

The rules exist to prevent individuals and companies evading tax, especially National Insurance, by falsely claiming self-employed or contractor status. The rules themselves haven’t changed much – what is new is that whereas it used to be for the individual to assert their self-employed status, for larger companies the onus is now on them to show that they have considered each case and that the self-employed/ contractor status is genuinely ‘outside IR35’ and therefore off the payroll.

Consequently, some businesses have panicked and placed a blanket ban on off-payroll appointments. This is quite unnecessary and, in so far as it denies them access to the skills they need, positively harmful. We can help businesses who are unsure how to navigate the legislation, and find that in practice most cases are fairly obvious. If the assignment is tightly defined, of limited duration and unlikely to be renewed or extended, and it requires skills and experience at a level the company wouldn’t normally need, or can’t maintain in-house, then that should be safely outside IR35.

On the other hand, if it is contemplated that the interim will be tackling a series of back-to-back assignments of a similar nature, or the timescale is open-ended, or a significant part of the task is normally carried out by a salaried employee, then that may well attract the attention of HMRC, which can involve payment of back taxes, penalties, possibly retrospective benefit payments to the ‘employee’ and general unpleasantness. If you really have to go through hoops to justify off-payroll status, then you probably shouldn’t.

In our experience, though, it is a mistake to think just in terms of IR35. If the requirement is indeed ongoing, regular, or recurrent, surely it is a core element of the business – why wouldn’t you make every effort to bring that in house rather than relying on external parties (interims or consultants or various third-party support services) at considerable extra-long term cost.

 

Cost and Value

Which brings us to our clients’ principal concern around interims – that of cost: a worry for 39% of our sample – and therefore, a far bigger concern than the IR35 issue.

Of course, an interim will expect a day rate equating to significantly more than the salary of a full-time employee in a similar role. However, any comparison should consider all the costs.

In the first place, a comparison assumes that similar skills are readily and immediately available on the conventional jobs market, which is less than likely. And the extra money is limited to the short duration of the contract, usually just a few months. It should have no impact on future employment costs once the interim has moved on. In the end, the client company is paying a premium for instant access to high-grade skills. Is it worth making that investment? Is it worth taking the risk of not making the investment?

Your Call

And when we look at the bottom line, the cost difference, while still real, is substantially less. As every company director knows, there is a lot more to employment costs than annual salary, and a lot of these disappear under an interim contract for service.

Most obviously, there is no employer’s National Insurance to pay, which would be £30,429 extra on a £140,000 salary. There is no holiday pay. There is no employer contribution to pension schemes. There may be savings on a range of other employment benefits, depending on what the company offers, but these might include bonus schemes, healthcare plans, gym memberships, stock options. The company isn’t paying for a laptop or a company car, or unless otherwise agreed a range of business expenses. Being off payroll, the contract doesn’t increase the firm’s Apprenticeship Levy payments.

Taken all together, the difference in employment cost between an interim and a permanent staffer of comparable abilities, if such were available, looks not unreasonable.

There are other less tangible benefits. There are no extra HR, Payroll and other admin costs (the interim is paid by Bis Henderson Recruitment, and we invoice the client for our services). There should be no training or on-boarding costs. A large part of the recruitment costs, from scoping the requirement to conducting interviews and assessments, are included in our service charge as are necessary background checks, verification of adequate Professional Indemnity insurance, work permits if relevant, and so forth.

Crucially, the interim route delivers results fast – we average seven days from initial client contact to a contract being signed, and there is a negligible learning curve: interims start making a contribution on their first day.

In the current climate and with a Christmas peak looming that may be quite unlike previous years, firms need to be asking themselves some critical questions:

1. What could possibly go wrong?

2. Do we have a full management team in place for the peak, with the support they will need?

3. Are they all battle-ready and war- gamed?

4. Are we confident that our plan is robust?

5. Do we have contingencies in place for most eventualities?

 

If this reveals vulnerabilities, discuss with us the potential for appointing interim managers to reinforce the team.

In Summary

We don’t claim that the interim route is the way to go for every situation – we can offer objective advice and indeed, we can help with your short or fixed term employment requirements as well. But in twenty years we have made more than 2,000 very successful high-level appointments, with repeat business from our clients and our interims.

In these turbulent times, logistics and supply chain companies need motivated individuals with the right skills who can quickly understand and augment a rapid response to a given challenge. Interim appointments offer a keyway of achieving the necessary agility quickly – and for many businesses, if they can see past some of the perceived barriers, they might just save Christmas.

Bis Henderson has seen the supply chain sector through numerous stages of its evolution; from high street to internet, from paper to handheld, from spreadsheets to blockchain. This next era whilst daunting, may just herald the most exciting changes in supply chain recruitment since the emergence of the Web.

If you need an Interim to support you during the upcoming Peak Period, someone who can hit the ground running and bring value from day one – our interim recruiters have access to a pool of hand-picked, personally vetted specialists. Act now to secure the top talent you need.

InfoComm 21: PPDS Announces Partnership with Logitech to Bring ‘World Class’ Capabilities to Philips Professional Displays for Corporate and Education Settings

This latest PPDS partnership combines Logitech’s advanced range of video conferencing and audio solutions with the dedicated Philips-branded corporate and education display ranges to offer extensive, unrivalled online meeting and collaboration capabilities for hybrid working and learning.

PPDS is delighted to announce the latest evolution of its ‘total solutions’ strategy, partnering with Logitech – the world’s #1 provider of USB video conferencing devices – to create one of the most complete and inclusive collaborative meeting and learning experiences for the corporate and education markets on Philips-branded professional displays.

Adding even more choice to PPDS’ ever-growing global base of partners and customers, this exciting strategic collaboration with Logitech has been formed to address the current and future needs for video conferencing and audio for business and education customers – whether on site or remotely – for more inclusive outcomes.

Video conferencing has become a preferred way to communicate with peers, partners, customers and, within education (hybrid, blended, absent and distance learning), with many businesses adopting a video-first culture to help energise and empower their workforce.

Pre-pandemic, the market was already thriving, valued at more than €4.8 billion, with forecast growth topping €9.2 billion by 2027. With the current global conditions, the role and need for reliable, high quality, professional video conferencing solutions has never been greater, nor more important. One popular video conferencing platform provider experienced a 354 percent increase in subscribers during 2020, hosting approximately 300 million meetings per day.

Plug and play

Working together, PPDS and Logitech bring plug-and-play connectivity and validated compatibility and seamless integration between a range of collaboration-inspired Philips professional displays for both corporate and education settings and a range of Logitech products. Each designed to meet specific needs and requirements based on the environments in which they will be used, whether at the desktop or a small office at home, a huddle space, vast boardroom, a classroom or lecture theatre.

For corporate environments, these include the Crestron Connected certified, Windows or Android powered, UHD Philips C-Line interactive range, and the Crestron Connected, Extron and Neets compatible, Chromecast built-in Philips B-Line range for smaller meeting rooms and huddle spaces.

For education, a range of Logitech solutions can now connect seamlessly with PPDS’ multi-touch, 4K Philips T-Line range for smarter, more engaging in-class and hybrid or blended learning experiences.

With Logitech products – which include the Brio, Rally Bar Mini, Rally Bar and Rally Plus – starting video conferencing meetings has never been easier, with one-touch, seamless connection on a solution that works for the user, including GoTo, Microsoft, Zoom, Pexip and RingCentral. 

High quality, flexible solutions

Tim de Ruiter, International Business Manager at PPDS, commented: “We are thrilled to have partnered with Logitech, adding even more incredible quality to our range of dedicated Philips professional displays for the corporate and education markets.

“Combining Logitech’s advanced technologies for unrivalled, world class video conferencing quality with our own market-leading range – designed and inspired by market feedback to meet every business need – we’re confident that there is no stronger or more complete all-in-one solution. With Logitech and PPDS, customers never have to settle for second best.”

Angie Mayo, Global Alliance & Go-to-Market Manager at Logitech, concluded: “With video becoming a must-have collaboration tool in any workspace, our customers are looking for high quality, flexible solutions that are easy to deploy at scale. We are very excited to partner with PPDS to combine Logitech’s family of products with the wide range of Philips professional displays to easily video-enable every meeting space of any size.”

Facebook is Promising to Hire 10,000 EU Workers Over the Next Several Years

Facebook stated that it will hire 10,000 European Union workers over the next five-years to work on its new computing platform. It promises to connect people virtually, but there are concerns about privacy and how the social network can gain more control over users’ online lives.

In a blog posting Sunday, the company stated that these high-skilled workers would help to build “the metaverse”, a futuristic concept for connecting online using augmented and virtual realities.

Although Facebook executives are promoting the metaverse as the next great thing after mobile internet, their track record in predicting future trends is shaky. Four years ago, CEO Mark Zuckerberg had hoped to take virtual vacations with loved ones through a headset. Or that he could use a smartphone camera to virtually improve his apartment.

It is also facing antitrust investigations by former whistleblowers and concerns over how it handles political and vaccine-related misinformation.

According to Javier Olivan (vp of central products), and Nick Clegg (vp of global affairs), “As We Begin the Journey of Bringing the Metaverse to Life, the Need for Highly Specified Engineers is One of Facebook’s Most Pressing Priorities,” the blog post was written by Javier Olivan, vp of central products, and Nick Clegg.

Facebook’s recruiters target Germany, France and Spain for their hiring drive. According to the company, it had more than 63,000 employees around the world as of June 2013, up 21% from last year.

Metaverse is basically a huge virtual world that millions can access in real-time using avatars. They can use it to buy virtual land or clothing, or even pay with cryptocurrency.

Facebook acknowledges that not all companies will be able to operate the metaverse. Epic Games, Fortnite’s maker, has raised $1 billion from investors in order to fund its long-term plans to build the metaverse.

“There are not going to be any metaverses that cater to particular companies,” said Tuong Nguyen, an analyst who tracks immersive technology for Gartner.

However, there are concerns that Facebook and a few other Silicon Valley giants could end up monopolizing this metaverse and using it to profit from personal information. This mirrors the current situation with the internet.

Facebook announced last month a $50 million investment in global research and partnerships to support civil rights groups, non-profits, governments, and universities to develop responsible products for the metaverse. However, the company stated that many of these products would not be fully realized in 10 to 15 years.

Neal Stephenson, a writer of science fiction novel “Snow Crash”, coined the term metaverse. However, it has been revived in the tech industry as tech giants and startups try to claim a new trend.

Nguyen stated that some of this involves “a little bit of metaverse washing,” which is applying the term to existing initiatives for augmented reality to capitalize on the hype.

He said that Facebook’s latest push would help boost their profile as a leader in metaverse initiatives, at least temporarily. “But, like any major technology trend there will be competing ideas. There will also be competing standards.”

Facebook responded to an article in the Wall Street Journal that highlighted Facebook’s inability to detect hateful and violent posts and posted a blog post Sunday defending its anti-hate speech approach.

Two Facebook whistleblowers were invited to testify before a British parliamentary committee working on legislation regarding online safety. The bill proposes large fines and other penalties for internet firms that fail to remove or limit harmful material, such as child sexual abuse and terrorist content.

Sophie Zhang is a data scientist who raised concerns after discovering evidence of online manipulation in countries like Honduras before she was fired. She stated that social media companies should be required by law to follow consistent policies, and added that this is not what happened at Facebook.

She said that fake accounts that were not directly linked to political figures were much easier to remove than the ones that were.

Zhang stated that this had a “perverse impact in that it creates incentives for major political figures essentially to commit a crime openly.” Zhang compared it with police taking one year to arrest a burglar, who was a member in Parliament but didn’t wear masks.

Zhang stated, “That’s an analogy for what is happening at Facebook.”

Next week, Frances Haugen will testify before the committee. She made public internal Facebook research she had copied earlier in the year and then quit her job. Haugen, who was accused of using Facebook to incite violence against children and harm their privacy, testified before the U.S. Senate panel. Her appearance in Britain will mark the beginning of a European tour that will include European regulators and lawmakers.

Women in Engineering and Maritime: Real Experiences

Currently, women represent only two per cent of the maritime industry, while only eight per cent of employees in engineering are women. This is in stark contrast to the UK workforce as a whole, of which women make up 47%.

For many women, entering a sector that’s perceived as a “boy’s club” isn’t always appealing. If a sector looks unwelcoming to women from the outside, it’s unlikely to attract female employees in any role. But this means these workers are potentially missing out on a rich experience, and businesses are losing out on some top female talent. This is especially concerning given the recruitment crisis the engineering sector is facing. With a recruitment gap of up to 186,000 according to Engineering UK, businesses must tap into new candidate pools in order to repair this talent hole.

It’s clear these sectors need to do more to increase their gender equality, and one of the best ways to do that is to promote existing female role models in the industry. We’ve spoken to Abi Thompson, Project Manager, and Georgia Jones, Senior Strategic Buyer, at subsea engineering company SMD to find out more about their roles and experience in the sector, as well as to get their advice for women new to the sector.

 

Varying roles in the sector

The two women’s roles in the business are varied and completely different. Abi describes project management as “the umbrella to the operation.” She elaborates: “We make sure the process is right and that there’s communication all the way through. We’re always asking questions, we’re always looking for results. If there’s a problem, where’s the fix?”

Georgia’s role, meanwhile, focuses around sourcing and onboarding suppliers for SMD’s critical supply chain, as well as identifying the need for new products or technologies. For her, the key part of her role is “Managing high-risk, high-volume, high-value electrical commodities in the business across all projects and divisions.”

Both women have roles that require collaboration across the entire business, meaning they’re well-known and highly valued within SMD. According to Abi, “Project management is very hands-on. We’re always buzzing around the place and there’s a lot of interaction with the whole team. We oversee the whole process from the sales stage all the way through to delivery and the sea trials.”

For Georgia, she collaborates both internally and externally. “I work really closely with the electrical engineering department looking at new solutions, whether that’s new tech or suppliers.”

Career progression

Both women have successfully progressed in their career since joining SMD. Georgia came into the business as an Electrical Buyer and worked her way up to Senior Strategic Buyer. Abi began her SMD career in a junior admin role, progressing to Associate Project Manager before eventually being appointed in a full Project Manager role.

Both women had hugely different career paths and entry points into SMD. Following the completion of an admin apprenticeship after what she described as a career “lightbulb moment”, Abi saw the junior admin role advertised. Her father was a Group Production Manager, so she utilised her network to get the foot in the door. From that point, she says, “I worked my way up the ranks with hard graft.” Her career path is not one we hear about often due to how her education panned out. “I left school with no GCSEs. I’ve got nothing on paper, but now I’m a Project Manager and I smash it.

“I didn’t know which way I wanted to go in my career, which I think most people don’t know at 16. I got into a good market at a good time, worked hard and proved myself in the business.” Thanks to SMD, Abi has now completed a foundation degree in Business Management and is currently studying a top-up degree – something she never thought she’d achieve. This is an inspiring message to any young women who haven’t taken traditional routes through education.

Georgia came to SMD from the manufacturing sector, so maritime engineering was a new environment to her. “I’d just had a baby and was looking for something new. I’d been in purchasing supply chain for years, and the advert was out there at the right time. This was completely different – what SMD does is completely different in general.” Georgia’s vast experience in the supply chain meant she was able to hit the ground running in this new, exciting sector.

These different experiences highlight the fact that there’s no right way to get into a new career or sector. Utilising a network can be beneficial to getting your foot in the door and rising through the ranks to prove yourself. Equally, Georgia proves that you don’t need to be in the same sector your whole career to add value to a business.

The most rewarding part of the roles

Although they’re in very different roles, there’s a common theme in what both Georgia and Abi find most rewarding in their jobs. According to Georgia, “The obvious area for me is when you get to the end of a project, you look back and see the cost-savings in your area for the commodity.”

Abi agrees that seeing a project come to fruition is fulfilling. “For me, it’s when you see the product go into production and everything comes together. All the work you’ve put in at the front end starts paying off. The materials are right, parts are right, it’s slotting together, and you start seeing something being built.”

Nurturing a relationship from start to finish is also important to Georgia. She says: “Finding a new supplier and working with them from the tender all the way through to approved status, developing a relationship, and seeing them integrated into SMD as a valued member of the supply chain is really rewarding.”

 

Advice to women in engineering

Unsurprisingly, there are times when Georgia and Abigail are the only women in the room. So, how do they cope with that? According to Georgia, “I was told to not be afraid to speak up and get your opinion across. Engineering is male-dominated and you’re quite often the only female in a room full of men. Don’t be afraid to put your opinions across and challenge other people’s views. You’ll also have your views challenged, so you can provide a good argument for them.”

Abi says SMD has provided a supportive environment that has allowed her to progress in her career. She’s also supported as a mother of a young child who is juggling higher learning. She comments: “I’ve got my daughter, assignments to write, and projects to kick off, and the SMD team is so good about it. One day, when I was struggling, my manager told me I’d be able to do my hours whenever I could, giving me some important flexibility.”

These women’s experiences in a male-dominated industry show there’s no one right way to approach a career in maritime and engineering. Abi left school without GCSEs but, by utilising her network and working incredibly hard once she’d secured a role, she has risen through the ranks into a highly demanding role, as well as taking on an apprenticeship and a degree. Georgia used her vast experience in multiple stages of the supply chain to adapt to her role in a new environment. Her advice is important: in a male-dominated industry, don’t be afraid to speak your mind. And don’t be afraid to enter a brand-new industry. In order to achieve gender equality in these industries, we need more trailblazers like Abi and Georgia.

How Shoppers’ Habits Have Changed

As time goes on, the way things are conducted changes. Whether this is to keep up with changing times or to reinvent the way things are done, industries must adapt, evolve, and innovate. Something that is no stranger to change is shopping habits. In 2020, the Office for National Statistics reported that consumers spent around £436 billion.

Significant change has been demonstrated in consumer behaviour and subsequently retail — ranging from technological advances to consumer expectations. In this article, we’ll look at the different shopping habits consumers have experienced over the years.

The Dot Com Explosion

The UK is home to the world’s third largest ecommerce market in the world. At the end of 2020, statistics show that roughly 31.3 cent of retail transactions were conducted online. But it wasn’t always like this.

Just over a decade ago, the high street was where shopping mainly occurred. Back to a simpler time when Donald Trump was just another celebrity with a questionable tan and people did their dating face-to-face rather than on Tinder, in 2006, a mere 2.8 per cent of sales occurred online. The internet has opened a whole new avenue of shopping experiences, changing our high streets forever. Even food shopping is done online — online grocery shopping is one of the fastest growing retail channels. The UK is forecasted to be the world’s second largest online grocery market in 2020, following China.

With stores being accessible at our literal fingertips, why wouldn’t we online shop?

Research by Royal Mail found that most of the online shopping was conducted on smartphones throughout the day, with use peaking on laptops in the evening. The study also found that 22 per cent of consumers are likely to purchase something after seeing it on social media, particularly with young shoppers and women.

Not only is it convenient to shop online, but there are new options created to facilitate this behaviour — free delivery, try-before-you-buy schemes, discount codes. Those suit trousers that you wanted but the store is 30 miles away? Order it online.

Conscious Consumerism

A major current trend within shopping habits at the moment is definitely a reflection of the current concerns of the planet — the environment. A report by Critero found that the psychological motivation behind shopping is based around the premise of ‘green’ consumerism. The sustainable food and drink market grew around 9.7 per cent, being one of the fastest growing sectors of UK retail.

Consumers are actively looking for greener alternatives from the typical brands they’re purchasing from, with the internet and social media exposing companies for their large carbon footprint. For example, a recent article by The Guardian reported that Coca-Cola is the world’s largest plastics polluter for the second year in a row. Around half of UK shoppers are inclined to make informed decisions and purchase from brands who are transparent about their processes and openly publish their ethical contributions. From Gregg’s vegan sausage roll to Topshop’s vegan shoe line, shopping habits are shifting towards ethical consciousness.

 

Promiscuous Shopping

Corporate transparency also ties into the fact that consumers are less brand loyal than ever before. With information and reviews available online combined with the ability to compare prices, customers are better equipped to switch between brands quickly and smartly.

Bad customer experiences aren’t the top reason for brand switching, 62 per cent switched in the last year simply because another brand interested them. Consumers are more curious and are willing to try new things — why would you stick with one brand when you can try them all?

 

Nightcrawlers

Online shopping, but at night. While it’s beyond us why anyone would be doing anything but catching up on those important zzzs between these hours, data from John Lewis found that one in 15 online transactions are made between the hours of midnight and 6am. Although this might not sound like an awful lot, it’s an increase of 23 per cent from 2018.

More women are shopping online in the middle of the night than men. And it’s hardly surprising, with there being no closing times on ecommerce and millions of websites to browse.

Shopping habits have certainly changed over the years, with the internet boosting sales as well as trends in environmental concern. It’s hard to imagine how we’ll be shopping in the next 50 years. Maybe we’ll just 3D print everything at home?

Harnessing the Influence of Business to Fight Climate Change

After various lockdowns and the return to normality, small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) need to play their part in helping the UK achieve net-zero emissions. However, a report carried out by a coalition of top business groups, energy networks, and expert bodies reported that many don’t know how they can cut their carbon emissions, are unsure where to start, don’t know where they can get help, and don’t have time to research a net-zero strategy. Furthermore, SMBs need such a strategy to be financially viable.

By 2050, the UK aims to emit zero emissions. There are a number of schemes involved in helping both the public and industries achieve this. For example, in order to encourage people to move to electric vehicles (EV), the government offers subsidised EV charger installation.

The research commissioned by the Zero Carbon Business Partnership coalition (‘Small businesses advice on net zero: discovery phase’) is the first coalition of this magnitude working together to support small businesses in their journey to hitting the zero-emissions target. Other bodies included in the coalition include:

  • The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB)
  • The British Chambers of Commerce
  • Confederation of British Industry (CBI)
  • The British Retail Consortium (BRC)
  • Make UK
  • Electricity North West
  • Northern Powergrid
  • Western Power Distribution

CEO of East Lancashire Chamber of Commerce Miranda Barker said: “Small businesses are the lifeblood of the UK economy, which means they have a critical role in ensuring we meet our net-zero target. In order to help us get there, they need to be able to understand what net zero means, along with clear guidance from trustworthy partners.”

The findings of the report have called for an advice service targeted towards SMB needs, as they account for more than 99% of UK businesses, create 60% of jobs, and contribute to half of the emissions in business. The impact of the environment is a major concern for SMBs with COVID-19 and growth.

DEFRA Policy Unit and Vice Chair EPU UK Policy Committee Allen Creedy said:  “The UK government’s ambition for net zero cannot be realised without an empowered and supportive small business community. Evidence suggests that while small businesses support net-zero objectives, they do not yet understand their pathways to achieve this.

“That’s why this platform is fundamental. It’s an exciting project which will light a clear and consistent path to net zero, enabling the UK to become a powerhouse for low-carbon infrastructure, technology, goods, and services.”

A survey of 254 SMBs found that:

  • 71% could not recommend a single web source for help on decarbonisation.
  • One third were not familiar with the phrase “net zero”.
  • 57% rated the perceived importance of their environmental impact the top two scores of 4 or 5 out of 5.
  • 40% said money was a blocker to taking action.

Deputy Director of Electricity Distribution and Cross-Sector Policy at Ofgem Steven McMahon said: “Businesses want to play their part in tackling the climate emergency. It’s timely that they are being given the tools to do this in the year that the UK hosts the UN climate change conference in Glasgow.

“This is just the start. It’s great that some of the big players in the energy sector are joining the Zero Carbon Business Partnership to help small- and medium-sized businesses cut their greenhouse gas emissions and play a wider role in a cleaner, greener energy system.”

The report brings seven requirements to attention for SMBs to achieve net zero:

  • Clear information – with one-third of businesses not familiar with the phrase “net zero”, they are unsure about how and what policy changes will affect them. Simplified language is needed to avoid confusion, as well as a joined-up narrative to cut through the confusing jargon.
  • Staying in business – SMBs know they need to take action to decarbonise but need help doing so while remaining financially viable. This should be a key message when discussing carbon reduction.
  • Financial and digital literacy support – financial skills and digital literacy is essential in achieving net zero as those who are making faster progress have these. 90% of all jobs will involve digital skills by 2025. Without these integrated solutions, SMBs will struggle.
  • Trust and transparency – trade bodies and business groups are a source of trust for SMBs rather than institutions and official narratives. Within a tailored information service targeted towards SMBs, trade bodies could offer feedback to help SMBs progress.
  • Peer-to-peer relationships – SMBs need examples of successful carbon reduction strategies from other businesses. Peer support, particularly between local businesses, will create feelings of trust, capacity, and confidence.
  • Meeting the challenge of COVID-19 – for the time being, SMBs have got a lot to think about around keeping their business alive following a pandemic. Guidance needs to emphasise that green business policies will meet the challenges of COVID-19.

Northern Powergrid’s Policy and Markets Director Patrick Erwin said: “Decarbonisation requires significant action from every corner of our society. We’re proud to be part of the Zero Carbon Business Partnership so we can help SMEs – which are crucial to the UK’s economy – get the advice and support they need to contribute to net zero and benefit from a green recovery.

“Northern Powergrid has a vital role to play in enabling businesses to reduce their emissions and be part of a greener energy future.  Our distribution network powers the region today  – but we’re also working to create tomorrow’s network which will support the significant growth in connection of technologies like electric cars, solar panels, and heat pumps needed to create a low carbon economy. This will be critical in helping the businesses and communities we serve achieve net zero and delivering a cleaner energy system for our customers across the North East, Yorkshire, and northern Lincolnshire.”

Richard Hagan, Managing Director of Crystal Doors SME in Rochdale, said: “I was in a proper crisis in 2015. I had to change, or I’d have had to close my business. So, I learnt as much as I could about climate change as quickly as possible – which is what everybody needs to do – and I turned it all around.”

In November this year, Glasgow is hosting the COP26 climate conference. The Zero Carbon Business Partnership is working on developing an advice and information service that focuses on providing SMBs with tools to achieve decarbonisation, as well as resolving the points discussed above.

This year, Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng addressed firms, detailing the UK Government’s Plan for Growth. Three priorities for businesses were to:

  • Enable our transition to net zero
  • Unite and level up the country
  • Support our vision for Global Britain

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said, “Businesses wield incredible influence to drive change across society and the economy – we need to harness this power to fight climate change.”

What steps can businesses take?

1. Assess – measure greenhouse gas emissions including from your business, suppliers, and partners. Climate is impacted from all areas of business operations and assets.

2. Reduce – identify ways to reduce emissions and set strategic, long-term goals. Make sure these goals are measurable so that you know if you’re on track.

3. Offset – offsetting emissions that cannot be reduced to zero. By this, we mean pay for others to reduce their emissions to compensate for your own.

Why Changing Perceptions Mean Now Is the Time to Launch a British Hospitality Business

There’s no doubt that COVID-19 has had a profound and lasting effect. It’s impacted almost every part of our lives, from how we work and shop to how we travel and entertain ourselves.

This is naturally having a knock-on effect on the hospitality industry. Brits, who previously used to jet off abroad during the holidays to spend their hard-earned wages, are now beginning to uncover the benefits of what’s right on their doorstep. This shift in behaviour is welcome news for the hospitality sector and presents a unique opportunity for anyone considering launching their own business.

Once the government’s ‘one-way road to freedom’ was announced earlier in the year, UK travel companies cited a huge surge in enquiries from people keen to holiday on home ground this summer. Ready to make up for lost time during lockdown, bookings jumped by a staggering 300 per cent. Brits are planning to get spending too. According to research, it is estimated that we spent over £23 billion over the summer months, and the majority of this will go on either staycationing or eating and drinking out. Following what’s been a particularly challenging year, this will bring a welcome boost to hospitality operators across the UK, from hotels and B&Bs right through to local cafes, pubs, and restaurants.

It looks like this mindset to stay local won’t be a fleeting one, as changes in consumer attitudes and behaviour are expected to remain post-pandemic. Not only will we continue to shop more locally, but it’s expected that the recent staycation boom will carry on too.

The staycation boom is here to stay

While England’s ‘Freedom Day’ on 19th July marked the end of all compulsory social distancing and mask wearing, this only relates to activities within our own borders. International travel is still largely off the table for many, as a continued traffic light system brings with it potential extended quarantine periods and compulsory testing.  This is one of the key drivers behind the UK’s staycation boom, and why almost three-quarters of us are planning to holiday on home soil this year.

Keen to have a more regular change of scene and with remote working no longer confining people to their desks, new staycationing trends have emerged, namely ‘flexcations’ and ‘minications’. Both bring a new type of customer to UK holiday let owners, so it pays to make sure you’re catering to their needs.

Flexcations are where people opt to mix work and play. As long as there’s a strong Wi-Fi connection, holidaymakers can get away for longer and benefit from off-season prices, without having to cut trips short to race back to the office. On the flip side, minications are where people take much more frequent, but shorter breaks around the UK. A third of Brits say this approach is more cost effective and better for their well-being.

Sustainable tourism is on the up

People aren’t just holidaying at home because it’s more convenient. Many are becoming increasingly aware of sustainability issues such as climate change and over-tourism, and this has brought about a rise in eco-tourism. COVID has brought this into an even sharper focus, as lockdown has meant greenhouse gas emissions dropped at their fastest rate in nearly a century. This is largely attributed to a reduction in transport.

With COP26 just around the corner, and thanks to growing media attention, awareness of the impact of climate change only continues to grow. This means more eco-conscious travellers will choose to holiday closer to home, presenting yet another opportunity for the British hospitality sector. For businesses keen to really benefit from this trend, it pays to look at your own sustainability credentials. According to Visit England data, 58 per cent of us want to stay in environmentally friendly accommodation. From sustainable waste prevention to carbon offsetting, there are many ways a business can prove its dedication to the environment.

We’re eating out more

It’s not just holidaying locally that’s on the rise. People are particularly excited to get back into eating and drinking out. In fact, more than a third of us are making up for lost time and planning to do so more frequently than before the pandemic. This is very encouraging news for restaurants, pubs, bars, and cafés alike, and will provide a much-needed boost following what’s been a particularly challenging year for most. Neighbourhood restaurants are expected to particularly thrive as people continue to work remotely and focus on using their local amenities. Special occasion fine dining is also set to make a comeback, with people eager to get out and start celebrating key occasions again after a year of home cooking and restaurant meal kits.

Other key trends for restaurant owners to make note of this year include a continued rise in veganism along with a heightened awareness of sustainability, with people looking to dine in more eco-conscious restaurants that use locally sourced ingredients.

It’s a good time financially

Despite the impact of the past year on the industry and the ongoing unstable financial and political climate, now could still be the perfect time to launch a hospitality business. In fact, some of the biggest most successful brands started up during recessions, from Airbnb through to Microsoft and Groupon.

In times of financial instability, start-ups are actually more financially resilient than other companies, and that’s because they can be more flexible. They can undercut competitors when they need to, plus they have lower overheads to worry about. During unstable economic climates, there are also excellent deals to be had. Interest rates are lower, and suppliers are willing to sell products and services at a much lower cost, so you can make important savings. 

The perfect time to launch your business

Whilst the hospitality industry has admittedly been one of the hardest hit by the pandemic, it appears that things are truly looking up and there are opportunities to be had. It seems the impacts of COVID-19 on consumer behaviour are truly here to stay; we’re intent on keeping things local, we’re ready to holiday and eat out again, and it’s a good time financially – all of which is very encouraging news for anyone looking to launch a hospitality business.

The Growth of the British Street Food Van

Until about 20 years ago, street food was a remote concept in the UK. Luckily for the Brits, the street food craze is growing, and it not only satisfies our hunger for distinct cuisines but also weaves into our daily lives.

The COVID-19 pandemic put a spin on the way we eat out, with indoor venues having shut their doors. Business entrepreneurs spotted the opportunity to cut their rental costs significantly, attract new customers, and literally be at the market forefront by going mobile. Consumers are in favour of this trend, as 50% are buying street food at least once a week, according to a 2016 report.

Since this is a fairly new concept, many people are wondering how to go about serving meals on wheels. Here, Ford van leasing company Van Ninja has put together an in-depth guide on starting a street food business from start to finish.

The street food revolution

With about 2.5 billion street food enthusiasts around the world who indulge in meals prepared on the go on a daily basis, the street food industry is flourishing. Street vendors such as food booths, food carts, and market stalls offer consumers an appetising quick bite. But the one vendor that has been catching the eyes of many in the past 10 years is the street food van.

Currently, there are over 7,000 units that serve food throughout the UK at festivals, markets, and stadiums, and they’re seeing a continuous growth of 20% year on year. Recently, the appetite for mobile food vans has extended beyond recreational events and is now catering for office workers at business estates all around the country.

The early-morning beep outside of your office building is now synonymous with the arrival of an exciting breakfast. It seems that the food van is winning over the classic supermarket meal deal, as 64% of consumers are more than willing to spend more on satisfying street food than the average lunchtime spend.

The pros and cons of setting up a food van

Setting up a food van is a great entrepreneurial adventure, and if you do things right, you’ll reap the many benefits of the mobile food business. But before you start making a business plan, there are two vital things to consider: you need to be in for the long haul, and you need to absolutely love food.

Of course, money is an important part too. Luckily for you, running a food van business is much more cost-effective than serving meals on physical premises. In fact, the cost of setting up a restaurant can be well over £50,000, while the prices for food vans start from under £5k for a used catering trailer, according to the Nationwide Caterers Association.

There is a wide variety of food trucks to suit your needs and budget. If you want a small new trailer or a second-hand van, you’ll pay around £5k–£10k. If a new convertible vehicle is a better option for you, be prepared to pay £20k+.

Streetfood.org.uk has rounded up the pros and cons of setting up your food van business. A chance to cook your favourite dishes while putting an end to the 9–5 schedule and paying a low rent of £30–£100 per day are some of the benefits of the business. However, laws against trading locations, the early, unstable hours, and initial low profits might be a put-off for some.

Set-up checklist

Don’t know where to start setting up your food van business from? This checklist will help you with the kick-off.

  • Buy and equip your own van, either new or used
  • Register as a business with HMRC
  • Register as a food business with your local authority, and get a Food Hygiene rating from the Environmental Health
  • Get public liability insurance for your business and your employees
  • Have a Gas Safe engineer fit and certify your gas equipment
  • Get a PAT test certificate for your electricity
  • Get a personal food hygiene certificate
  • Set up a website and promote your business on social media
  • Buy stock, get in touch with events/festivals/locations, and start cooking!

 

Food van essentials

Before you start selling food, you’ll need to adapt your van to your needs.

It’s best to start with a used van so that you can spread your budget around the essentials. Some of the most important things you’ll need include an extractor fan for steam, a fridge (and freezer, if needed), fire-fighting equipment, good lighting, utensil storage, and separate hand and dish-washing sinks.

Once you have the basic layout prepared, it’s time to call upon your DIY skills. You’ll need them in order to set up a stove, a food prep area, storage for food, and water heaters and tanks. A draining board, a grease trap, and a waste disposal system are also needed.

Lastly, you need to decide what food you’re going to serve – that’s the fun part! According to Chef’s Pencil, Britain’s favourite cuisines include Chinese, Thai, Italian, Indian, Mexican, and American, amongst others. The hunger for “authentic experiences” is real, as 45% of the respondents who took part in a Caterer.com survey claim that food stalls provide them with a more bona fide experience than high-street restaurants.

If you’ve been looking for your next business adventure, a street food van might well be the right fit for you. It’s cost-effective, flexible, and comes with a host of other benefits. Hurry up and get on the rising trend so that you can be the next man (or woman) with a van.

Making Warehouses More Productive and Fairer

Distribution and fulfillment operations are under increasing pressure to perform – but labour availability is tighter than ever. How can businesses boost capacity and still deliver a fairer outcome for staff? By Dave Morris, Director at labour management software company, Vitesse.

For a nation that for decades has worried about unacceptable rates of unemployment, the idea that large areas of industry and commerce are experiencing serious labour shortages is something of a surprise. But it is all too true, and nowhere more so than across the logistics and distribution sector. There are shortages across the nation and across the board, from drivers to Customs clerks, and especially in warehouse operations.

Data from the Office for National Statistics showed that in July vacancies in the logistics sector were 338 per cent higher than the pre-Covid norm.

The pandemic hasn’t helped. Upwards of 14,000 EU goods drivers have returned home, but this is tiny in comparison with the number of EU nationals leaving warehouse operations (for which accurate numbers are difficult to determine). Many staff have suffered from Covid or its long-term effects, are self-isolating, or have been caught in the dreaded ‘pingdemic’.

However, the staffing challenge in the logistics sector has much deeper roots than Covid, and has been building for a long time. Pre-pandemic the nation was already estimated to be short of experienced operations staff, while many EU nationals were finding their home economies more attractive. In Poland, for example, the unemployment rate was as close to zero as you can get in an advanced economy, with earnings approaching those of Western Europe.

Demographically, the number of young people coming in to the workforce has been falling for some time. The rise of home delivery, and the gig economy, have had an effect – why would you spend your nights picking items, or packing boxes on a distribution centre’s graveyard shift, when the overall skills shortage in the UK means there are much more appealing options?

The demands of ecommerce

Against this, the demand for warehouse staff has been increasing exponentially. The whole e-commerce boom, which has been accelerated by Covid but was already well in train, has turbocharged both the amount of warehousing space needed and more critically the amount of activity within warehouses – as moving goods in and out by the pallet-load has been replaced by picking, packing and returning individual items.

Adding to the challenges of finding available warehouse staff, demand for goods in many sectors has become increasingly ‘spiky’. Peaks are no longer simply associated with the predictable Christmas or Easter periods, but are now far more frequent and exaggerated, triggered by unexpected events, such as a random remark on Twitter. Social media and e-commerce make it much harder for brands to manage demand, creating a headache for those planning warehouse and fulfillment operations.

Automation may be part of the answer, but it brings its own problems – how to recognise the elements of automation that will really be transformative, and how safely to integrate automation with a sometimes-inexperienced manual workforce? Also, some automated solutions can be difficult to scale rapidly, often leading to either over-specification to cope with volumes that may never materialize or developing complex hybrid solutions on-the-hoof, which can be difficult to manage.

There are real impediments to employment: warehouses and distribution centres are often situated out near the motorway, served poorly, if at all, by public transport and especially not at night – which is when many warehouses are at their most active. Although labour shortages are pushing hourly rates well above the minimum wage, it’s often not enough for a young person to run and insure a set of wheels, and there may be other social and domestic reasons why potential employees can not take up these opportunities.

A further challenge is the widely held perception that warehouse jobs are dull, repetitive, physically demanding, poorly paid, and with limited prospects – none of these need be true, but they are commonly held concerns. In a recent survey by a supplier of order-picking robots, only 8% of current warehouse staff envisaged seeing the job through to retirement; the reasons most cited being the physical nature of the job, always being short-staffed, and the relentless pressure to work faster.

Many businesses do not operate to profit margins that will sustain paying an extra £1-2 per hour to make their warehouse roles more appealing. Also, if they are located in a cluster with other businesses, that can afford the premium, then this makes an already difficult situation even harder, as the best staff will migrate to the businesses paying the best rates. To compete in this environment, increased remuneration needs to be targeted at the best performing staff, and to be funded from savings made through improved productivity. Unfortunately, very few businesses have the information required to implement a performance-related-pay scheme that is fair, based on work content rather than output, achievable, auditable, self-funding and math’s-based.

Intelligent labour management

A more encouraging finding, though, is that 32% of those not in the industry said they would consider it if these issues were resolved. To address these issues, and the wider problem of recruitment and retention, warehouse operators should consider investing in sophisticated labour management systems (LMS), such as Vitesse.

By properly managing and allocating labour resources against well-understood tasks and workflows, the business can reduce non-productive physical activities, ensure that staffing levels are appropriate to the tasks and throughputs required, and replace the constant demand to work faster by agreed and achievable targets and fair performance-related pay – all of which will improve staff retention and, when word gets out, recruitment. In addition, enhanced productivity will improve warehouse throughput capability, reducing the need to find extra labour, especially at peak times.

Vitesse is a cloud-based LMS specifically created for demanding logistics operations by people who actually know their sheds, trucks and boxes. Critically, the premise of the system’s design is a recognition that the simplistic time and motion approach that may have worked in traditional warehousing is hopelessly inadequate for today’s busy fulfillment centres. These operations are more like factories than stores, requiring an intelligent understanding of the steps and costs associated with complex manual tasks.

Simply put, managers can no longer just divide throughput by hours and hope that all tasks have roughly the same labour content. A ‘pick’ in a distribution centre may have 30 or more time-study elements. Some of these may be unnecessary, or perhaps could be reordered or relocated to be more efficient. Vitesse can be used to refine these tasks and take waste out of the process.

Vitesse captures travel flows and operating procedures and uses industrial engineering techniques and enhanced statistical applications to create a mathematical model of the warehouse. The data that Vitesse acquires can be fed into Value Stream Mapping and this can be used to identify which elements of a task or process are adding value or, alternatively, unnecessary cost. In turn this can drive process and workflow efficiencies.

As the demands on the modern warehouse are changing almost hour by hour, it’s increasingly important to understand how best to deploy human resources to maximise productivity and minimise cost. Vitesse is a vital tool that generates actionable insights, and cost savings, in real time.

On average Vitesse customers have reduced labour costs by 10%.

Perhaps of even greater significance, this system provides the basis for performance evaluation and remuneration that is fair. What’s more, it can be seen and accepted to be fair, and can be applied to whole teams without generating controversy. This approach makes for happier employees who can see that extra effort is being properly rewarded, who are more committed to the job and less likely to go elsewhere. Reliable labour data can also reveal areas where further training or support may be desirable, and can be used to engage the labour force in process improvement – especially, as they can see and understand how this will translate into earnings.

More informed labour management means that jobs can be scheduled with the certainty that adequate time and labour is being allowed, greatly reducing the damage and errors that arise from rushed work and helping to reduce the risk of missing dispatch deadlines.

Better investment decisions

More strategically, the analysis that Vitesse provides can reveal the most appropriate and cost-effective areas in which to introduce automation, and contribute to better investment decisions. A move to ‘goods to person’ automation, for example, can be a significant investment and so it is important to have a robust understanding of where this will save time and labour – and where it won’t.

Vitesse is designed to integrate easily with most commonly used Time & Attendance, WMS and ERP systems, with set-up, test and ‘soft launch’ typically achieved in a matter of 6-8 weeks. Staff can gain usable knowledge of the system in a day, and be fully competent in a week or less. That means that a business committing to Vitesse mid-Q3 could be reaping the benefits well before the Christmas peak.

Labour shortages in this sector are not a temporary phenomenon. Making the most of increasingly scarce and valuable human resources has already become a critical issue for most businesses in the logistics sector. Those that manage their labour force fairly and intelligently will be better positioned to attract and retain staff – helping the business win or maintain competitive advantage.

Further information on Vitesse software at www.omslimited.com

How to Improve Your Business Financial Processes for 2022?

Well-oiled financial processes are the crux of any business. Unfortunately, with the onset of remote work, traditional financial processes seem to have taken a massive hit. This makes it difficult for Finance teams to work as they did in the office. 

Most businesses are now switching to cloud technology like payroll processing and expense management software to automate financial processes in an attempt to upgrade. The following article covers all that businesses can do to refine their financial processes for 2022.

What are financial process improvements, and why do they matter?

As the name suggests, financial process improvements are those changes made to existing financial workflows to bolster financial process efficiency. These changes can be both quantitative and qualitative. 

Common financial process improvements businesses focus on:

  • Automating error-prone and time-consuming processes
  • Having a firm grip over employee business expenses
  • Leveraging data to make the right business decisions
  • Ensuring all statements and records stay up-to-date
  • Defining clear business plan, goals, and deliverables 

Moving remote changed everything for everyone. But, unfortunately, it has also shown traditional processes no longer seem to cut. These manual processes disrupt not only productivity but also morale. 

Why should businesses improve their financial processes?

Let’s look at this with an example of manual expense management. It goes without saying nobody likes manual expense reporting. However, while employees run helter-skelter for expense report submissions, Finance teams have it harder. 

They have to process, verify, and approve reports manually, all within a set deadline for reimbursements. This takes away critical working hours from Finance teams and opens up new avenues for financial leaks with manual errors and expense fraud. 

There are two ways to approach this problem. 

  • Further, tire and exhaust your Finance teams by putting the burden of the process on them.
  • Use an expense software to automate expense management and drive process improvements.

An expense software, in this case, can be considered a process improvement as it automates all redundant tasks. It also adds a layer of accuracy and efficiency that empowers Finance teams to look beyond minor back and forths and verifications of expense reports. 

Similarly, let’s take a look at some of the other financial process improvements that can benefit your business:

1. Develop a process map to audit current financial processes

The first step in reforming your financial processes would be to understand the underlying strengths and weaknesses of the existing processes. An added advantage here is that you can also identify broken processes that could benefit from improvements. The easiest way of doing this is by developing a Finance Process Map.

A Finance process map is a visual representation of operations in the same sequence as they’d happen in the organization (anything from budget approvals to mileage reimbursements.) By mapping all intermediate steps in standard processes, businesses can understand the time taken to complete tasks and the potential roadblocks that deter faster and efficient closing of functions. This is a good opening for businesses to start the conversation around process improvements.

2. Leverage cloud technology to automate broken and error-prone processes

Once business leaders know what challenges hinder the Finance team’s productivity, they can find new ways to achieve maximum impact while performing critical financial operations. Automation is one such step.

While most folks may believe technology is out there to get them, the actual story is something else. Automation-driven technology is made keeping the end user in mind. It is made to aid Finance teams, not replace them. 

List of financial processes that usually benefit from automation:

  • Accounts Payable and Receivable – billing and payment processing
  • Expense management – reimbursements and card reconciliations
  • Budgeting and financial planning – data analysis and interpretation
  • Cash flow management – clean and audit-ready finances, always

3. Leverage data analytics to make better business decisions

With traditional in-person processes, Finance teams hardly get all the data and reports from employees across departments on time. Even if they do, they spend their saved time going back and forth with employees to clarify submitted reports. This barely leaves them any time to take a step back and analyze data for meaningful insights. This results in bad business decisions that can cost your company.

If businesses were to automate processes, they would also get the benefit of real-time data analysis. This will empower Finance teams with data and actionable insights with no extra effort or time spent.

Additionally, high visibility and control into spending give Finance teams enough ammo to make better data-driven business decisions on curbing employee overspending on business and operational costs.

4. Develop financial risk mitigation methods

Remember not to treat financial risk management as an annual or quarterly event but rather something that happens continuously at set intervals. For example, budget or forecasting, auditing, or insurance payments are great times to review risk mitigation measures. A bonus is that it also allows you to check on other business activities quickly.

Financial risk mitigation becomes easier if automation does the heavy lifting for your Finance teams. A classic example would be expense fraud which has shown a 57% increase from Q3 2020, costing companies almost 5% of their revenue annually. 

With manual processes, Finance teams would have no insight into the company expenses. This would make preventing fraud an arduous task that falls entirely on their shoulders. But with the use of an expense report software, all the burden is automated, and Finance teams can ensure policy compliance at the click of a button. Additionally, this plugs financial leaks that may have been invisible previously.

Conclusion

Given the pandemic, companies would need to improve their financial processes if they’re looking to stay afloat at the given rate at which businesses are closing down.

If you as a business owner who wants to maximize the productivity of your employees, keep in mind that your Finance processes are going to play a pivotal role in helping make that change. Thus, it’s in your best intentions to give them what they need to get the job done.

Levelling Up the UK Will Take Years, Be Costly and Likely Cause Job Losses If Not Carefully Prepared and Managed, Says Expert

The government’s move towards an economy with high-skill, high-wage and high productivity will likely cause economic disruptions and job losses if the government is not preparing and organizing the transition, according to an expert from Durham University Business School.

Professor Bernd Brandl, who for years has researched the governance of wages, skills, and productivity in different countries, and what the role of interest organizations is in the governance has examined the consequences of the government’s transition on the economy, businesses and workers.

Professor Brandl says that this move may be highly beneficial for businesses and workers in the long run, however, without planning, it will cause painful disruptions over the next few years as the change will not be quick, and could take years or even decades for some businesses. In the short run, many existing companies will not be able to afford higher wages and go bust, causing job losses and industrial conflict. In the long-run the economy could benefit because more productive, skill-driven and innovative companies would be able to succeed on the market.

However, the success of a successful transition is not be taken for granted but needs to be accompanied by policies that support business and workers. A smooth transition will be costly for the government due to the need to invest in infrastructure and training facilities

Professor Brandl says “many British businesses have been previously running on a low-wage, low-skill, low-productivity business model, due to two main reasons; in the past decades there was a constant influx of migrant worker who were willing to accept low(er) wages, and second, apart from the minimum wage, there was almost nothing in place that prevented companies from keeping wages low.” Therefore, many businesses competed with each other by keeping wages and working conditions low and they had little incentives to invest in skills of their employees in order to gain a competitive advantage.

Now the new economic vision of the PM looks to replace mass immigration with higher wages and better working conditions to encourage people into key sectors under the guise of moving the British economy “towards a high-wage, high-skill, high-productivity economy”, in which “everyone can take pride in their work and the quality of their work”.

Professor Brandl says there are three key elements to make the transition work. The first is patience, the transition could take years for some sectors, and even decades for others, it’s not a quick change. Secondly, the transition is costly and the government must be prepared to invest in infrastructure and training facilities. Thirdly, the process is likely to be painful for many business and workers since there will likely be job losses and social disruptions in the years ahead.

However, in order to accelerate and facilitate the transition the government should manage and coordinate the transition process. Preferably together with representatives from employers and employees so that no one is left out and the expertise of everyone is taken on board. The way how the government manages the transition will also show how conflictual the years ahead will be since the transition could be socially and economically cushioned.

Therefore, Professor Brandl states that the transition of the British economy “towards a high-wage, high-skill, high-productivity economy” is not as easy as it looks and might lead to substantial disruptions and conflicts in the years ahead. The transition process can be expected to be time-consuming, costly and likely to cause some damage in the short-term. However, in the long-run it could be highly beneficial for businesses and workers.

Professor Brandl says “it takes a lot of “guts” for the government to initiate this move since voters in the next election might go to the ballots on basis of the short-term pain they already see instead of considering the long-term gains.”

This research was carried out through Professor Brandl’s investigation of how and why countries operate in different skilled models, and the effects of collective wage bargaining on wages, skills and productivity in a country.

Why Inner-City Parking Needs a New Solution and Multi-Storeys Aren’t the Answer

If there’s one area where parking has historically been difficult, it’s congested city centres. As our towns and cities became more urbanised, parking has become more difficult and more expensive.

As parking has been harder to come by in a busy city centre, capacity has increased by the addition of new multi-storey car parks, but it has also become more expensive. In 2021, the average cost of parking in London was £11 per hour, meanwhile, the national average still stands at an extortionate £2.25 per hour.

As city centres become more crowded than ever, it’s clear that more multi-storeys are not the answer. Congestion doesn’t just mean longer waiting times; it also means more polluted air and less space for pedestrians. These are problems that the multi-storey has only contributed to, rather than solving. Here, we explore some ways to avoid congested city-centre parking.

 

Alternative transport

For people living close to their local city centre who are reconsidering whether they need a car, alternative travel might be the answer. In the UK, we’re being encouraged to use public transport more than ever, with the Campaign for Better Transport recently launching ‘The Way Forward’. This campaign calls on the government to launch a renewed push for people to use public transport.

If, like many people, you’re more nervous about using public transport as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, this might be a great opportunity to take up cycling. More cycle lanes have been implemented in city centres than ever before, with a further £2 billion announced in 2020 to push cycling and walking as travel options.

We know that sometimes, walking or cycling isn’t feasible – whether it’s because it’s too long-distance or you’re taking an evening journey. This brings us nicely to our next option…

 

Car-share clubs

For people who don’t have their own car but can drive, car clubs are a great way to access the most convenient form of transport only when you need it. What’s more, using a car club gives you access to designated city centre parking zones, meaning you’re guaranteed a parking space at no extra cost!

These options have become more popular due to the growing climate change crisis, as they will help the UK to reach its target of net-zero emissions by 2050. This is a great way to reduce your personal carbon footprint if you can drive but don’t own or don’t need your own car. Sometimes, public transport isn’t enough, so renting a car with a guaranteed space to get to your favourite event or go shopping is the next-best eco-friendly option.

 

Renting parking spaces

As urban parking spaces have become more in-demand, homeowners with their own parking spaces are offering a solution. While the COVID-19 pandemic has seen some ditch city or town centre living locations for more rural countryside homes thanks to remote working, the number of people living in city centres has risen in the past 20 years.

If you’re heading to your local city centre on a day you know is going to be extra busy, you can rent someone’s drive or personally owned parking space. Some even offer their spaces out to regular commuters on a monthly basis, meaning you can snap up a parking space at a more reasonable price if your employer doesn’t offer on-site parking.

For many of us, city centre parking is a necessary evil, but it doesn’t have to be. As more accommodation and offices are built in city centres, there are ways we can avoid congested and expensive central parking, from car clubs to alternative forms of transport.

Why Sustainable PPE Became a Must for Our Business

Our environment is currently facing a decay and the facts are there. Did you know that we’re currently using the equivalent of 1.5 earths to provide us with the resources we need and absorb our waste? By 2025 it’s predicted that we will need the equivalent of 3 earths to sustain us, if we keep up with the same pace.

With the rise of the eco-conscious mentality, businesses are on the lookout for new ways to reduce our consumption and waste, especially when it comes to fashion and the increased requirement for personal protective equipment (PPE) and uniforms.

 

How unsustainable our fashion consumption is?

The UK is one of the biggest contributors to fashion-induced pollution. The average person owns 115 items of clothing, but a shocking 30% of those clothes haven’t been worn.

In comparison with our European counterparts, including Italy, Germany, and France, our consumption is almost double theirs, averaging at over 26kg of clothing per person, per year. £140 million worth of clothes goes to UK landfills each year, so it’s clear this is a pressing problem.

A potential solution is to clean and hand down the uniforms of former staff members to new employees, thus enabling the reuse and recycling of work uniforms, including some PPEs, more often. We’re still not faring much better here though – 90% of the 16,000 tonnes of work clothes generated go to the landfill.

The environmental impact of single-use PPE

Can you recall last year’s PPE shortage that put NHS workers at a massive risk amidst the first wave of the COVID-19 outbreak? During the coronavirus pandemic, PPE and protective uniforms have never been more important. More have been manufactured, used, and disposed of than ever before, which is having an environmental impact.

106,478 tonnes of CO2 emissions is the carbon footprint estimate of PPE within the first six months of the pandemic. As a response to the shortages in 2020, the government advised medical workers to reuse certain items of PPE, including fluid-resistant masks and respirators, but it was widely condemned by healthcare professionals and publications including the British Medical Journal.

PPE and uniforms remain vital in non-COVID medical settings, such as surgeries, as well as other key sectors including retail, since we’re not yet out of the pandemic woods. As single-use PPE is impacting the environment, does the answer lie in reusable PPE?

Is reusable PPE the solution?

While reusing disposable PPE might not be a viable option due to its limited level of protection and low eco-friendliness, why not look at creating reusable PPE for certain items? According to Jasmine Ho, clinical research training fellow at University College London, that is definitely an option. In an interview with the BMJ, she suggests that the UK follows the US in terms of creating guidelines for decontamination and reusable PPE. She says: “Changing culture and normalising reusables is one of the main things we want to do. There is almost a stigma associated with their use.”

The main question is which elements of PPE can be sustainably optimised without compromising safety. A study carried out on healthcare workers found that elastomeric half-mask respirators closely matched N95 masks on protection. These masks are mostly used in manufacturing and construction but rarely used in medical settings. This study has shown that they may be an effective solution for both safety and sustainability, providing they’re decontaminated effectively.

In response to a shortage of disposable PPE, reusable gowns and uniforms have also been trialled. Some of these clothing items can be used up to 75 times, vastly reducing the amount of waste produced by single-use gowns.

The need for PPE stretches beyond the healthcare industry. Key workers in sectors including retail and transport have been on the frontline with an increased risk of exposure to COVID-19. Providing reusable PPE and suitable workwear clothing may be more straightforward, as the requirements aren’t as stringent as in medical settings.

Businesses are venturing more into improving the sustainability of PPE by enabling key workers to use their own reusable face masks, as well as by purchasing uniforms made from materials that offer fluid-resistant protection. What’s more, some workwear and uniform manufacturers have created reusable, customisable face masks that offer the same three-layered protection as disposable masks. These masks can be given to staff as part of their uniform.

The UK is standing its ground in a number of crises, from managing COVID-19 to reducing our waste and overcoming climate change. These issues go hand in hand – our increased need for essential PPE during the pandemic has led to an increase in plastic waste, but there is a solution that can help us protect our key workers and reduce the single-use items we send to landfill – reusable PPE.

UK Businesses Set to Accelerate Software Development Faster Than European Rivals, Study Finds

– New Mendix survey shows that British businesses plan to develop software at a faster rate than those on the continent

– The pandemic has led to faster digital disruption than expected, but UK businesses are excited about the opportunity this presents

– Low-code is already helping UK businesses deal with digital disruption and will drive software development moving forward


Mendix, a Siemens business and global leader in low-code application development for the enterprise, today announced the results of a new survey that shows British businesses are set to accelerate their software development at a pace faster than their European rivals.

UK businesses embrace pandemic’s digital disruption

The study, which questioned 2,000 IT decision makers and software developers globally, including 281 based in the UK, found that 79% of UK businesses are planning to accelerate software development in the next two years. This is higher than the average across Europe (74%) and much higher than German businesses (69%), as UK businesses look to get an advantage in a post-Brexit world.

The pandemic has increased the demand for digitalisation to levels never seen before. The research finds that over half of UK businesses (51%) believe that the last two years has led to more digital disruption than expected, compared with just 6% that have seen less disruption than expected.

Many UK businesses are embracing this disruption as an opportunity. Nearly half (49%) of respondents are excited about the digital acceleration and software development demand, whilst only 23% are worried and 20% feel overwhelmed.

Low-code drives digital transformation

To deal with this digital disruption and increased need for software development, many UK businesses are turning to low-code platforms. The UK leads the way in Europe for low-code adoption, which has entered the mainstream globally, with 80% of businesses already using low-code. This is higher than the European average of 74% and much further ahead of Germany, where 69% of businesses are using low-code technology.

UK organisations are using low-code to build applications that meet a number of business needs, with the simple drag-and-drop solution enabling faster development and deployment. The most common types of applications built using low-code by UK businesses are IOT applications (35%), productivity applications (33%) and applications to automate existing processes (31%).

The pandemic has also been a big driver for low-code adoption within UK organisations. 85% of businesses have seen greater adoption of low-code as a result of COVID-19. On top of this, 23% of UK businesses have used low-code to build a pandemic-related application.

Nick Ford, VP of product and solutions marketing for Mendix, explains: “There is no doubt that the pandemic has led to mass digital disruption for UK businesses. With operations forced online, many organisations had to drive digital transformation at a faster rate than ever before. It is really positive to see that UK companies are embracing this change and looking to use it as an opportunity.”

He adds: “Despite this, there still remains a talent crunch in the UK that isn’t going away anytime soon. This is why so many UK businesses are adopting low-code, instead of trying to hire expensive developers that are in short supply. Low-code puts software development in the hands of citizen developers who already exist within business, providing them with the tools they need to build applications and solve business problems. Mendix has been pioneering this approach for years; we are very excited to see how far low-code developers take our platform to create solutions to problems that would otherwise have defied the imagination.”

IPOSUP Automates Tips as UK Restaurants, Café and Pub Bosses are Soon Banned from Keeping Tips Left for Staff

IPOSUP mobile payments service launches automation of tips direct to hospitality staff bank accounts ahead of the UK Government plans to make it illegal for hospitality firms to withhold tips from workers, who rely on them to top up their income. In a statement, the Department for Business said that the new legislation would help about two million people working in the hospitality industry. Ministers also pointed towards research that suggests most tips are now paid by card in the UK, rather than in cash. Employers who break the new rules can be taken to employment tribunals to face fines and/or compensate workers.

IPOSUP provides free customer tipping and distribution facility for card or bank payments without incurring additional bank charges for the business, and these businesses do not need to employ external partners to ensure tips are fairly distributed among staff.

As well as helping hospitality merchants to automatically pass on all tips, service charges and gratuities in full without any deductions to staff, the IPOSUP payments service complies with a fair code of practice which should already be compliant with future UK Government legislation. Micro hospitality owners can thus save time and money by providing full transparency on tipping records, and hence avoid any claims due to breach of tipping legislation at employment tribunals. Their staff can also supplement fairly their wages with tips lifting them onto a real Living Wage.

As reported today, Labour Markets Minister Paul Scully said the Government plans would “ensure tips will go to those who worked for it”.

Dr Chandra Patni, CEO of IPOSUP.COM said, “The IPOSUP card and bank payments acceptance terminal, aimed at millions of UK restaurants, cafés and pubs, does exactly that by splitting the tip amounts and directly crediting the staff members’ bank accounts in near real-time within minutes. Our IPOSUP mobile payment terminals reassure customers that their tips are going to “those who deserve it even for chip and PIN and contactless card payments. Bank account-initiated payments at the point of sale, referred to as “Bank-at-POS” also enable tips directly to staff bank accounts”.

Dr Patni added, “Even as far back as 2015, restaurants were keeping tips which should go to hardworking staff members as a reward for good service. To build a stronger and more dynamic economy, our focus at IPOSUP is to increase the number of micro and small businesses doing the right thing and committing to pay a Living Wage”.

With restaurants, pubs and other venues struggling to get back on their feet, IPOSUP continues to work closely with the hospitality, travel and entertainment and delivery sectors to ensure hassle free tipping works for businesses and employees.

Has COVID-19 Changed the French Food Delivery Market Forever?

The French food delivery market is hugely lucrative, worth €180 billion and growing. Food makes up 20% of our manufacturing output, highlighting its economic importance.

The market was flipped on its head during the COVID-19 pandemic, which saw restaurants, cafes, and bars close their doors and demand for deliveries rise.

Electrix, producer of coffret électrique encastré for the food industry, explore how the pandemic has changed consumer needs and how the market could look in the coming months.

 

Our changing food delivery habits

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world. As businesses closed their front doors and we were confined to our homes, consumer behaviour changed.

People were forced to turn to online shopping for non-essential items, but many also began to shop online for critical supplies, like groceries. Takeaway food deliveries increased as people sought comfort in delicious restaurant food at home. 29% of French households were already getting meals delivered to their home regularly, which naturally increased when we were unable to go out.

We were seeing a shift towards eating out before the pandemic. In 2019, there was an 8.5% increase in people eating outside the home, whether that was in bars, restaurants, or cafes. 48% of people said this was the activity they were most eager to get back to, scoring it higher than seeing family and friends or attending events.

 

Fast grocery delivery will become the norm

Demand for grocery deliveries rose as people sought to avoid contracting the virus in shops. Stores struggled to keep up with this demand initially, but they soon adapted. Because of this huge response, we’re now seeing companies offer grocery deliveries in as little as 15 minutes across the country. Interestingly, this activity reached a new high in Europe in the first quarter of 2021 rather than during the first lockdown.

Cajoo, the first French company to offer immediate grocery deliveries, put itself up for sale as its competition rose quickly. It went from being an innovator to one of many businesses offering the same services in an instant, so high is the demand for fast food shopping deliveries.

It’s important to note that these operations are expensive and require multiple locations. Cajoo committed to paying its drivers a salary, while we’ve seen other providers cut delivery costs in order to remain more profitable, which can impact driver earnings. One thing is for sure – fast grocery delivery is here to stay.

 

Will people dine out more again?

While lockdown restrictions have eased, capacity in restaurants, bars, and cafes is still limited as the vaccine rollout continues. We know that eating out is the activity the French public has missed the most during lockdown, but we’re seeing mixed results on people returning to restaurants.

In December 2020, a survey was released on our intentions to dine out after lockdown restrictions were eased, and the results were surprising. 51% of respondents said they intended to dine out less than usual, while 35% said they’d do it as much as they had prior to the pandemic. While many restaurants have been fully booked since reopening, the hospitality industry union UMIH has estimated that the recent introduction of green passes could reduce visitor numbers by 15–20%.

It’s clear that we’re taking precautions as France continues its roadmap out of lockdown. While visits to restaurants after the easing of restrictions exceeded 2019 levels by 50%, consumers are currently dining out less. We expect this trend to continue in the coming months because of the backlash to the COVID pass, despite the fact that dining out is a much-loved activity in the country.

 

Fast food delivery will get more competitive

As people ordered more fast food through the pandemic, delivery services increased fiercely. Uber Eats has long dominated the takeaway delivery market in France, but we saw Deliveroo triple its subscribers by offering unlimited deliveries for a small initial fee of 1€, rising to only 5.99€ at the end of 2020.

When France fully exits from lockdown restrictions – whenever that may be– we may see a decline in fast food delivery orders. The pandemic increased competition between the providers of these services as they looked to capitalise on increased demands, but we may see even more discounts as spend in this area inevitably drops.

 

A backlash to competitiveness?

With competition at an all-time high in the food delivery market, we’re seeing businesses undercut themselves and each other to gain key market shares, such as the low delivery prices offered by Deliveroo. We know that this can impact the earnings of its drivers, so could we also see a backlash to this type of ruthless competitiveness? Just Eat, which has a smaller share in the market, hired 4,500 drivers on permanent contracts in order to build an ethical brand.

Values matter to French consumers, and half wouldn’t continue to buy from a business who didn’t have similar values to them. We could see businesses who take an ethical stance increase their market share.

There’s no doubt that the past 18 months have shifted consumer behaviours in a way we never expected, and this will impact the future of the market. The food delivery market in France is highly valuable, and we’re seeing new trends emerge as a result of our changing habits.

Is Boris’ Ban of Petrol and Diesel Vehicles Going to Crush the Transport Industry?

The UK Government has announced official plans to ban the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2030. From then on, new hybrids or electric cars will be the only types of vehicles allowed to be manufactured – and after 2035, only pure electric vehicles can be sold. This legislation was introduced to support the reduction of fossil fuel consumption and transition to a net zero society. Billions of pounds are being invested in electric vehicle charge points across England as well as for grants to help people afford to install charge points on their private property.

This petrol and diesel ban could help cut car emissions to 46m tonnes of carbon dioxide by 2030, down from an equivalent of 68 MtCO2e (metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent) emitted today.

The sale of electric vehicles has increased in the UK by 185.9 per cent year on year; however, the majority of cars that are imported from other countries still have an internal combustion engine (ICE) – meaning they are either petrol, diesel, or hybrid. Around 26 countries are huge exporters of ICE vehicles to the UK, including the Czech Republic, Turkey, South Africa, Poland, and Italy. In the Czech Republic, the car industry accounts for nine per cent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP). 154,468 petrol and diesel models were exported to the UK in 2019.

 

Challenges posed

While yes, the move to electric vehicles will drive down global emissions, which is becoming a crucial consideration for governments and populations worldwide following the United Nations’ ‘code red for humanity’ climate change warning, it will be expensive.

Road Haulage Association Managing Director Rod McKenzie told Sky News that alternative fuels for transport such as hydrogen and electricity will be too costly or won’t offer enough range. For such a drastic shift to a different method of fuel, there needs to be less doubt and more certainty for something that is hugely relied on.

McKenzie commented: “This proposal is unrealistic. Alternative HGVs don’t yet exist. We don’t know when they’ll exist, and we don’t know how much they’ll cost, and it’s not clear what any transition will look like.

“So this is blue-sky thinking way ahead of real-life reality. For many haulage companies, there are big fears around the cost of new vehicles and a collapse in the resale value of existing ones.”

Businesses involving heavy goods vehicles will be faced with many significant challenges – it will likely take a while for the price of alternative HGVs to be driven down while we wait for research and development to innovate them and make them cheaper to manufacture and run. Transitioning an entire fleet to alternative fuel won’t be cheap. However, there is a huge need for the transport industry to be electrified – according to the UK Government, 79 per cent of domestic freight was moved by road in 2019, and transport was the largest sector for emitting domestic greenhouse gases.

Greg Archer, UK Director of the European green transport campaign group Transport and Environment, argued for the ICE vehicle ban and the ever-growing need for this ambition. He said: “This plan is a milestone in the shift to a more sustainable UK transport system. The decision to only use zero-emission road vehicles – including trucks – by 2050 is world-leading and will significantly reduce Britain’s climate impact and improve the air we breathe.”

In a bid to help businesses, seven major British companies have joined forces to accelerate the transition to hybrid and electric vehicles – some of which have some of the largest commercial fleets in the UK.

 

Cost advantages for business

Businesses can save money on fuel – a report by British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association report found that electric vehicles cost between 2p and 4p a mile whereas the equivalent in diesel costs 12p per mile. Tax refunds are also available for the purchase of electric vehicles, meaning you can relieve some costs.

The government is offering grants towards the cost of a new van of up to 20 per cent and 75 per cent towards the cost of installing a rapid charge point at your place of business. Congestion charges such as the ultra-low emission vehicles (ULEVs) have been introduced in some cities to achieve cleaner air to breathe. While a great initiative for local ecosystems, it makes some cities impractical or expensive to drive through with ICE vehicles. All of these considerations make van leasing deals seem a more attractive prospect for businesses relying on fleets.

What do you think about the plan to ban the sale of petrol and diesel vehicles? Is this giving you the push you need to adopt greener alternatives in your life?

British Industries Don’t Have Enough Gender Inclusivity

It has been well established that a diverse workforce helps contribute to a business’ success – so why are there so many UK businesses that are far from achieving gender diversity? A government-backed review carried out research and discovered that there is “little sign of change” in introducing more women into senior positions.

Creating a positive workplace culture helps in attracting and retaining the top and diverse talent in an industry. If businesses promote inclusive policies, they will not only have some of the best talent applying for jobs but will result in further benefits. These policies can eliminate closeminded and offensive decision-making and help encourage new perspectives as well as innovation and creativity.

In order for a business’ performance to flourish, employees need to feel comfortable reaching their potential. Employees can be supported through diverse and inclusive policies. Unfortunately, this isn’t something all businesses do – for example, Jaguar faced criticism following an employment tribunal after a genderfluid employee was subject to abuse and a lack of support in the workplace.

The Equality Act 2010 was created for businesses to follow a minimum standard in terms of diversity, however, a genuine plan for diversity goes way beyond legal compliance and strives to achieve a workforce that truly represents diversity in the world. Companies that strive for gender inclusivity are also more profitable and perform better than their competitors.

In this article, we’ll discuss two male-dominated industries – accounting and tech. We’ll take a look at issues surrounding gender inclusivity and how they can be remedied.

 

There is progress, not perfection

Back in 2019, the number of women on the UK’s biggest company boards achieved an all-time high of 30 per cent. While it is encouraging to see steps are being made, we still have a long way to go until gender diversity is reached.

While the number of women on boards has increased for some, there are still industries where gender diversity is far from acceptable.

 

Accounting for unacceptable statistics

‘The Big Four’ refers to the largest UK accounting firms, leading the way in innovating how we invest and work. Last year, the Telegraph reported shocking statistics, with only 11 Black partners of around 3,000 in total. Considering this, how are women reflected in these unfair statistics?

According to statistics, women make up 61.3 per cent of all accountants and auditors. This is significantly higher than 1983, which was 39 per cent. While this is brilliant news, only nine of the 3,000 partners are women. Most lead auditors are white men.

Rachel Reeves, chair of the House of Commons business committee, commented: “If the audit industry thinks it is delivering the highest possible standards when it is missing out on the talents of half the population, then it needs to think again.”

PwC carried out the highest number of audits of FTSE 100 companies, and none were led by women or people of colour. This underrepresentation has directly contributed to the gender pay gap in this industry. PwC revealed the median gap between men’s and women’s salaries was 18 per cent.

 

Low number of women in tech

The number of women in tech is discouraging. Although there are constant conversations taking place across the world about gender diversity in tech, women are underpaid, underrepresented, and discriminated against. The tech industry relies on innovation – to remain creative and world-leading, companies must embrace diversity and inclusivity to get contributions from a wide range of people rather than one domineering demographic.

An example of one demographic affecting innovation is Fitbit’s period tracker feature. The feature was incorrect and only allowed women to log their menstrual cycle if it lasted for 10 days or less. It goes without saying that if women were involved in the creation of this product, this catastrophic mistake would’ve been avoided and wouldn’t have alienated many of its customers. Still, women are largely underrepresented in tech.

According to statistics, female employees account for 19 per cent of the UK tech workforce. This number falls lower for Black and Hispanic women at 3 per cent and Asian at 5 per cent. These statistics aren’t inspiring for women looking to pursue careers in tech. There are a significantly small number of female role models talked about in tech as well as few girls pursuing STEM subjects in education due to social bias.

 

We need to diversify the board

In terms of promotions, men receive more promotions to senior roles than women. This creates a loop of repeated behaviour where likeminded men promote other men, not qualified female candidates. For example, female candidates may not be part of the social networks that leaders use when assessing a candidate – board members typically play it safe and recruit or promote candidates similar to existing workers. In simple terms, similar white male professionals are hired and promoted over and over. By improving recruitment processes, executives could expand the pool of potential candidates by seeking a diverse workforce.

Governments can also introduce new legislation requiring companies to appoint a minimum number of diverse executives. This was successful in Norway since 2008 – at least 40 per cent of directorship roles need to be filled by women. Countries like Spain and France are also looking to create similar legislation to achieve gender diversity, which is something the UK could look at too.

 

Training around diversity

Sexism and misogyny must be directly combatted in order to create a supportive environment that performs well for the business. Sexism isn’t always overt with direct comments and aggression but can be covert through microaggressions and prejudice. Women may feel uncomfortable addressing issues of sexism at work, so it’s important for the workforce to learn how their behaviours and words can affect someone else.

Industries must try harder to be diverse and inclusive rather than hiring the same type of person and focusing on profit. Creating a new normal in the workplace will encourage other businesses to follow suit. Performance will stagnate when everyone has the same background or perception, so a diverse workforce will ultimately be an invaluable resource. Find out what the top 50 inclusive companies are doing to promote diversity.

The 4 Biggest Challenges Facing Independent Retailers Right Now

There’s no doubt that the past 18 months have been challenging for all retailers and continue to be. Many well-established retailers have unfortunately gone out of business and our high streets are recovering very slowly.

Small retailers have faced the biggest challenges with the switch to online shopping and an increasingly crowded marketplace. Here, the piece below, Gabriella Peace, Communications Manager of UK Greetings, one of the largest direct to retail publishers of greeting cards and social expression products in the UK, discusses the current biggest challenges independent retailers are facing and what you can do about them.

1. Competing with online

The COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns have generated the biggest shift to online shopping we’ve ever seen. Many independent retailers had no choice but to close their doors without an e-commerce site in place. This is set to be an ongoing issue, with half of global consumers intending to continue shopping online more frequently post-pandemic.

Research has shown that fewer than two-thirds of small businesses have a website, while up to 80% of consumers research a company online before visiting or buying. This presents a significant challenge for smaller retailers that don’t have the resources to maintain a website.

During the pandemic, online marketplaces have soared in profitability – online behemoth Amazon has profited richly from worldwide national lockdowns. A lot of this profit has come from independent retailers using the platform to sell their products, but is this a benefit to smaller brands? Or could it be a hindrance?

Amazon is now a viable option for small retailers to offer their products to a wider audience. However, because many people replaced shopping locally with shopping on Amazon, the market is saturated.

With prices starting at only £25 a month, it’s a tempting option for small shops that can’t afford the upfront and ongoing costs of a dedicated website. You will, of course, need to supplement that with some marketing in order to stand out in the crowd. This brings us to our next point…

2. Effective marketing tactics on a budget

Marketing your business, especially to a wide audience, can still be costly. If you’re going up against larger, more established businesses, it’s easy to get drowned out. For years, TV dominated advertising, while independent retailers used more traditional tactics. Now, online marketing is king, whether that’s organic search engine optimisation (SEO), paid search, or social media advertising.

Small retailers who have a dedicated website may be able to benefit from SEO and paid search advertising, but what about those who don’t? The answer may lie in social media marketing. If people are already familiar with your brand name locally but you don’t have a website, having a presence on social media is a great way to take up some search engine real estate when people Google your business.

Posting regularly on social media – whether that’s new products, promotions, or activities – is a great way to keep your small brand front of mind. What’s more, if your loyal customers follow you, they can increase your reach by sharing your posts. In order to get your followers to promote your content, it’s important to make it shareable. For example, a card supplier with cheeky or relatable slogans has a product that people will want to photograph and post or share from your page. Equally, a candle shop with stunning packaging could inspire some unboxing videos.

Setting up a Google My Business account is also essential to reach the people who may search your brand online. This will show your store’s location, opening times, and reviews. It’s a great way to drive footfall to your business without the need for a dedicated website.

3. COVID-19 isolation still poses staffing problems

We know that those who test positive must isolate for 10 days. However, as more of us are double-vaccinated, fewer people will be required to isolate if they’ve come into contact with a COVID-positive person. Isolation could still pose a problem in your business though.

In the past few months, one positive case could have shut down your business. Now, this isn’t the case, but we can’t become complacent – especially as you’re likely to have a low employee count. One ten-day absence could still negatively impact your business.

Continuing to enforce strict hygiene rules in your shop will help you prevent the spread of COVID-19 and limit the chances of one of your employees – as well as your customers – catching it in your store.

4. Empty high streets

As a result of consumers shopping online more, many chain stores have closed some of their high-street branches. According to 2021 research from PwC, over 17,500 branches of chain stores closed as a result of the pandemic. A further study from LDC showed that significantly fewer independent stores closed for good, which is great news for small retailers.

The closure of many local shop branches is likely to bring both opportunity and challenges to independent retailers. With more properties available in key locations, smaller retailers have the chance to move to a more lucrative location. However, unless enough of these properties are occupied, lower footfall may impact profitability.

Retail property rents have dropped significantly since the beginning of 2020, presenting a unique opportunity for small retailers. However, as high streets recover, caution must be taken when opting for a swanky new location. As more vacant stores are occupied and people return to the high street, rents may increase again to an unsustainable level.

Small retailers have long faced steeper hurdles than established enterprises. Many of these have been more acutely felt during multiple national lockdowns. As retail begins to recover from the effects of the pandemic, these are the key issues independent retailers will need to consider and possibly address.

EU Business News Announce the Winners of the 2021 Benelux Enterprise Awards

UNITED KINGDOM, 2021 – EU Business News Magazine have announced the winners of this year’s instalment of the Benelux Awards.

In comparison to 2020, 2021 has been defined by restarts and new beginnings. With momentum once again building across the business landscape, we’re seeing companies capitalise by making up for lost time. New product launches, entering new markets, new marketing and recruitments drives – regardless of the method, Benelux businesses are setting themselves up for future success.

With all this in mind, we have endeavoured to celebrate those who have jumped on 2021 as a time to return to a growth mindset.  Awards Coordinator Harwinder Pawar took a moment to comment on the success of the winners. “Congratulations to all of those recognised in this programme. It has been delightful to reach out to all of the well-deserving winners and I would like to wish you all the very best of luck for the future.”  

EU Business News prides itself on the validity of its awards and winners. As such, very one of our winners can be certain that their success is deserved. We carefully evaluate everything from a business’s, or individual’s, performance over the past 12-months to ensure that only the most deserving parties walk away with one of our prestigious awards.

To learn more about our award winners and to gain insight into the working practices of the “best of the best”, please visit the EU Business News website (http://business-news.eu) where you can access the winners supplement.

ENDS

NOTES TO EDITORS

About EU Business News

The EU is a vital and exciting region filled with businesses and individuals creating unique innovations, supporting their customers around the world and, ultimately, driving change. As such, EU Business News aims to provide an absorbing overview of this exciting region and the businesses and individuals operating within it.

Much more than just a magazine, alongside our online publication EU Business News also boasts an informative newsletter, a regularly updated website and a series of awards programmes showcasing the excellence of businesses and the individuals behind them from across this vibrant region.

As subscription to EU Business News is free there is absolutely no reason not to sign up to receive this informative and fascinating resource.

Number of Britons Living in Portugal Jumps 34.6% from 2019 to 2020, New Immigration Figures Reveal

The number of Britons officially registered as living in Portugal shot up by more than 30% between 2019 and 2020, well beyond anything that has been seen in recent years. The 34.6% increase was revealed by the latest Immigration, Borders and Asylum Report for 2020 from Portugal’s borders and immigration service, SEF.

Several factors have played into the increase, from Brexit to Portugal’s non-habitual resident tax scheme, which allows many foreigners (including Brits) who move to Portugal to benefit from huge reductions in their income tax bills.

The non-habitual resident tax incentive was introduced in 2009, exempting individuals with certain sources of income from overseas (including pensions) from paying tax on that income. In its 2020 budget, Portugal replaced the exemption with a 10% tax rate – still well below what would be payable in many other countries.

Brexit has played a role in pushing many families towards Portugal as well. From 2011 to 2015, the number of Britons living in Portugal either shrank, or grew by a maximum of 4% per year. Then, in 2016, Britain voted to leave the EU. That year, the number of Brits living in Portugal shot up by 13%. It rose again, by 16%, in 2017 and then by 18% in 2018. Now, the latest SEF report has shown a jump of 34.6% from 2019 to 2020, showing a total of 46,238 Brits officially resident in Portugal in 2020.

This makes Britons now the second largest group of foreigners resident in Portugal, behind Brazilians. Back in 2016, by way of comparison, Britons made up only the sixth largest group of foreign residents in Portugal.

“Portugal’s lifestyle benefits have long made it an attractive destination for British retirees and we’ve seen a notable increase in those looking to enjoy their retirement here over the past few years. The affordability of life in Portugal and the longer life expectancy here both play into this. At the same time, we’ve seen a rising number of younger families moving to Portugal, attracted by the country’s excellent international schools, laid back pace of life and – for many – its location within the Schengen Zone.” Christina Hippisley, General Manager of the Portuguese Chamber of Commerce in the UK.

The lifestyle on offer in Portugal – and in particular the Algarve – is certainly suited to family living. From its luxury properties with pools and extensive outdoor space to the array of sports and leisure activities available, the Algarve is an excellent choice for health-conscious families looking to raise their children in the sunshine.

MINISO Ramps Up Expansion in Europe, Opens New Stores in Spain, UK and Italy

Lifestyle product retailer MINISO is further strengthening its business foothold in Europe as it has announced the opening of a new store in Seville, the capital city of Andalucía in southern Spain on August 26. The opening of the new location in Spain, the 36th in the country, is followed by the unveiling of the Oxford flagship store in the UK on August 27, then the franchise store opening in Sardinia on August 28, which is the brand’s fifth store in Italy within just four months.

The continued implementation of MINISO’s strategy to ramp up store expansion in Europe came amid the industry-wide drop-off in consumer spending across the continent due to a resurgence of the COVID-19 pandemic. In August, WHO European Region reported the updated number of coronavirus cases, adding yet another layer of uncertainty to the already depressed retail landscape.

Despite the sprawling impact of the pandemic on the retail industry, MINISO, with its dedication to high-quality, unique designs and affordable prices, seized a renewed market opportunity by capturing the heart of young European customers who prefer a good and safe in-store shopping experience and better value for money.

MINISO’s surging popularity among Millennials and Generation Z in Europe owes to its extensive partnership with IP licensors, which helps the brand continue pumping out products with fresh and innovative designs. “Young consumers value experiences and individual expression that represent their identities. They love newness and novelty. So, innovation has been at the forefront of our product development, and we are committed to offering services and products that exceed the expectations of our consumers,” said Robin Liu, Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer of MINISO.

The brand’s increasing popularity among young consumers, in turn, has also given MINISO the confidence to invest more in the region. It also jumped at the opportunity brought about by massive business shuttering during the height of the pandemic, which has allowed the company to open new stores at premium shopping destinations.

For new stores opened during the pandemic, MINISO follows strict preventive measures, including social distancing, facial covering, and regular disinfection, to maintain a safe indoor shopping experience for consumers.

Meanwhile, to boost sales and offset the negative business impact of the pandemic, not only did MINISO release new products with competitive prices but also launched online campaigns in partnership with Key Opinion Consumers (KOCs) and influencers on social media to increase the brand’s engagement with young consumers. The company has established extensive cooperation with celebrities, influencers and KOCs as part of its global marketing strategy to attract more young people and identify potential customers.

“More MINISO stores will come to Europe before the end of this year. In spite of the challenges ahead due to the pandemic, we believe that MINISO will as always spot new growth opportunity in this changing market climate,” Vincent Huang, Vice President and General Manager of MINISO Overseas Business said.

Why Transport Needs Gender Equality and How to Inspire Women Into the Sector

The transport and logistics workforce is one of the largest and most vital in the UK, with over 1 million employees. But in terms of gender split, only 20% of the workforce is female. This is less than half the average across the entire UK workforce, which sits at 47%. Even more damning is the figure for women in land transport, which is only 14%, while only 1% of truck drivers are women. An other country with different socio-political dynamics than the UK but has the largets workforce in transportation and logistics is Turkey.  Checking the numbers in Turkey where the transportation and logistics is the second biggest potential industry, when it comes to the workforce, the percentage of women employees is less than 15%. Related closely with the patriarchal history and culture of the country, the transportation and logistics industry has its male dominated narrative. Very few -even less than 1% – women truck drivers are only referred by the media under interesting facts in the country.

A number of sector institutes and associations have created specific campaigns to encourage women to pursue a career in logistics and transport, as well as supporting businesses in attracting and retaining female employees. Women in Transport is a leading not-for-profit that offers training and mentoring for women already in, or looking to enter, the transport industry.

The sector also has one of the most prominent ageing workforces, particularly when it comes to drivers. The Road Haulage Association says the average age of road haulage drivers is 57. What’s more, 25% of the workforce is expected to retire in the next 10 years. This, combined with over 80,000 EU workers leaving the UK workforce, will worsen an existing driver shortage. So if you have owner driver jobs available, you need to look into new ways of attracting drivers.

In addition to filling this critical driver shortage, transport and haulage providers must do better in terms of gender equality. So why not kill two birds with one stone? Here, we discuss how you can encourage more women into the sector.

 

Create an inclusive environment

School often sets the tone for an individual’s future career. Young girls and women are often actively discouraged from pursuing careers in traditionally “male” sectors, including science, technology, transport, and logistics. If young women don’t feel confident or inspired to study these subjects, they’re less likely to enter these careers and industries.

These sectors also have an image of a “boy’s club”. Not only are women underrepresented, but there’s a feeling they’re unwelcome. Knowing a workforce is 80% men is enough to put aspiring young women off, especially when an ETF report highlights a sexist culture plaguing some of these organisations.

Changing a workplace culture doesn’t happen overnight. But creating an inclusive environment is critical to reassuring women that your organisation will be a safe place for them. Promoting more women internally and ensuring women are represented at board level will also send a message that your business values female employees as much as male workers.

 

Promote your female role models

What better way to show aspiring women that your organisation is a good place for them to start or continue a career than to spotlight the women who are already successful in your business? You can push out content and feature these employees on your website. By making these successful women the face of your organisation, you’ll help dispel the idea that haulage and transport is a boy’s club.

This is even more powerful if you can promote women in the roles you’re looking to increase female representation in. So, if your driver workforce is majority male and you have female drivers who are keen to discuss their experiences, you can highlight their achievements.

You can also partner with organisations including Women in Transport and the CILT’s Women in Logistics & Transport project. You can promote your business as gender-inclusive and introduce it to potential new employees. Equally, your existing female employees can get involved in networking events, deliver presentations, and take part in mentoring to further encourage women to pursue a career in transport and logistics.

In Turkey, the Association of International Forwarding and Logistics Service Providers (UTIKAD) is the first non profit organization in Turkey to achieve getting the certificate of ‘Women Equal at Work’ in 2017. The association has been promoting and leading for gender equality and increasing the number of women employees in logistics. They have appointed 2 women as Board members and started a project with ‘Women Entrepreneurs Association’ of Turkey last year to support women in logistics and to create awareness for a more inclusive logistics industry. 

 

Offer on-the-job training

As a result of young girls and women being discouraged from “manly” subjects at school, many don’t enter male-dominated industries and therefore may have limited experience. So, in order to increase the percentage of women in the sector’s labour force, you need to attract candidates that may be new to the jobs or the industry.

Applying for a role that you have little experience in can be daunting, so promoting on-the-job training is essential to attracting people who are considering a career change. Many people who were unable to work due to COVID-19 restrictions turned to delivery driving due to an increased demand for these roles. With the pandemic accelerating the adoption of online shopping, this demand is set to remain high.

Equally, this shift affects warehousing and logistics. Promoting your roles to people who may not already be in the sector and training them on the job gives you the opportunity to access a wider candidate pool. It also means women who aren’t currently in the sector have a better opportunity to get into it.

 

Involve women in decision-making

While the percentage of women in transport, logistics, and haulage organisations is low across the board, there are definitely more women in back-office, logistics, and warehousing roles compared to drivers. If you have women in senior positions in your business, it’s critical to involve them in decisions regarding training and recruitment. They’ll be able to offer a perspective that you simply won’t get from men who are well-established in the sector.

Your female employees, at any seniority, understand what it’s like to be a woman in the sector. As we’ve seen, some businesses are plagued with outdated, sexist cultures, so they’ll be able to offer insights into what it’s really like. If you’re not aware of a cultural problem, they can highlight it. However, if your business is already inclusive and inviting for women, you’ll be able to understand what you’re doing right and therefore promote this to potential new female employees.

Gender inequality in the workplace is a topic that has been discussed more openly in recent years. Women empowerment is one of the 17 goals of the United Nation’s (UN) ‘Sustainable Development Goals’ (SDGs). It is positioned as one of the solutions for sustainability, and has its place in the corporate sustainability agenda of many companies.  Established with the vision “gender equality is not only a fundamental human right, but a necessary foundation for a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable world” this goal by UN  refers to the empowerment of girls and women to obtain gender equality. We know that the reason some businesses have a higher disparity between male and female employees is because women are discouraged from certain roles and sectors from a young age. But even successful women in these roles can be discouraged by cultural issues and a lack of progression in their businesses.

The transport and haulage sector has one of the biggest imbalances and, when combined with a driver shortage, is facing a workforce crisis. Encouraging women to pursue a rewarding career in the industry is vital not only in making it an equal playing field, but it may be the key to replacing an ageing workforce.

Tackling the Big Customs Skills Shortage

By Leigh Anderson, Managing Director at Bis Henderson Recruitment


Skills and labour shortages across the UK’s trade and logistics sectors have been hitting the headlines, most obviously for goods vehicle drivers. Less newsworthy, but equally threatening, is the shortfall in staff with knowledge and experience in Customs procedures; a situation that is beginning to pose an existential threat to many small, and not so small, companies that rely on international trade.

According to the National Audit Office, as a result of Brexit 145,000 companies whose international trade has hitherto been solely within the European Union are now having to master Customs procedures for the first time, generating over 200 million extra customs declarations, each of which is comprised of multiple documents.

The British International Freight Association estimates that 40–50,000 extra staff are required. However, there is nothing like that pool of talent available. Much of the existing skill base is concentrated, understandably, around ports and airports, so businesses seeking to establish their own Customs functions are competing for staff against freight forwarders, customs agents and of course HMRC itself, which has been looking for several thousand extra bodies. Salaries for anyone with even slight experience in the field are, inevitably, being driven up.

Brexit isn’t the only pressure, though. The proportion of UK trade with non-EU countries, with all their individual Customs requirements, has been growing for many years. New trade agreements with non-EU states continue to be signed, all with subtly different provisions and implementation dates. A new complication is the establishment of ‘Freeports’. The detail of how these will work is still sketchy, but is potentially important even to firms who aren’t located within the designated Freeport area.

Arguably, companies, and the nation, should have seen this coming, though there are mitigating factors: quite what the post-Brexit arrangements would be was unclear until very late and few anticipated the strict ‘letter of the law’ approach that the EU has adopted – not just in Northern Ireland trade. Even now, stags two and three of the ‘Border Operating Model’ have not come into force, although they will most probably do so by the end of the year.

More fundamentally, when the Union Customs Code, which regulated and simplified all trade into, out of, and through the EU, came into force in 2016 it was understood that the whole process would be digital by 2020. The European Commission is now talking about 2025. Europe, and HMRC, continue to trial elements of the required software. Meanwhile, imports and exports are still governed by a mass of physical paper, which must be completed in the correct colour of ink!

Outsourcing the problem to customs agents, forwarders or 3PLs isn’t an answer – they too are struggling for capacity – and will charge accordingly. Nor is it a question of training up a few clerks in additional skills. For most companies a whole new full-time function will be required – we have been speaking to one company that has been trying to recruit 300 staff across five offices.

So at the administration and clerical level, many companies will have to recruit and train up staff with absolutely no previous experience in Customs administration. There are no specific qualifications in this field, but training can be sourced through a number of commercial providers, and also through bodies such as the British International Freight Association, and the Institute of Export and International Trade. The Apprenticeship Levy can be applied to some courses in international trade, although sadly HMRC’s Customs Training Grant scheme for SMEs was closed in July.

More fundamental, though, is the management and direction of a new Customs compliance capability. We see two distinct requirements.

Firstly, businesses will need managers who understand the Customs environment and how it is likely to evolve in the future – not just in terms of trading rules but in the automation and digitisation needs and opportunities, when these finally become available. They will be able to scope and scale the task – which at present is probably far greater than could be imagined, but may become more manageable in time. What are the workflows? Which trades should be managed in house, or are there particular circumstances or complications (bonded goods, perhaps?) where use of an agent is preferable. How many staff are needed and in what roles, from clerks and administrators to international trade specialists? What are their training requirements now and in future, what would career progression look like ­– important for staff retention – and so on. Are these roles prime candidates for flexible working/ working from Home or even working from another country?

Managing the creation of the new function this way might be a case for an Interim Management appointment – an area in which Bis Henderson has considerable experience. Once the function is up and running a very different skill set may be required. Effective Customs administration demands scrupulous accuracy against inflexible timescales, with all the capacity for error that the current manual systems and the complexity of the task inevitably bring.

Here, beyond understanding of international trade, the most relevant experience may not be in the minutiae of Customs clearance, but in the motivation of operations such as call centres, customer service centres, or remote teams. The pool of relevant talent may be much wider than it first appears.

Interim or permanent, Bis Henderson Recruitment has many thousands of contacts from which to fill individual requirements, drawing on over 30 years of experience. For larger projects, we can also work with businesses on a turnkey basis, from assessing local remuneration expectations and job market dynamics to establishing assessment centres, creating job descriptions, initial screening, interview processes, security and reference checks and more, all to an agreed budget and timescale.

Customs administration is going to be make-or-break for many companies in the coming months and years. Bis Henderson Recruitment can’t abolish frontiers, but we can help create effective teams that will help your goods continue to flow.

Artificial Intelligence is Critical Enabler of the Energy Transition, Study Finds

  • Artificial intelligence (AI) has tremendous potential to accelerate and support the global energy transition
  • It can act as an intelligent layer across many applications to identify patterns, improve system performance, and predict outcomes of complex situations
  • However, leading energy and technology experts say that there are several key barriers preventing AI from being adopted rapidly or at global scale
  • New report highlights the technologies’ potential to support the energy transition and establishes a set of principles for the energy industry to deploy AI in a safe, fair, and trustworthy way
  • Read the full report and learn more about our Sustainable Development Impact Summit

The World Economic Forum has published a new study on how artificial intelligence (AI) can be used to accelerate a more equitable energy transition and build trust for the technology throughout the industry.

As the impacts of climate change become more visible worldwide, governments and industry face the urgent challenge of transitioning to a low-carbon global energy system. 

Digital technologies – particularly AI – are key enablers for this transition and have the potential to deliver the energy sector’s climate goals more rapidly and at lower cost.

Written in collaboration with BloombergNEF and Deutsche Energie-Agentur (dena) – the German Energy Agency, Harnessing Artificial Intelligence to Accelerate the Energy Transition reviews the state of play of AI adoption in the energy sector, identifies high-priority applications of AI in the energy transition, and offers a road map and practical recommendations for the energy and AI industries to maximize AI’s benefits. 

The report finds that AI has the potential to create substantial value for the global energy transition. Based on BNEF’s net-zero scenario modelling, every 1% of additional efficiency in demand creates $1.3 trillion in value between 2020 and 2050 due to reduced investment needs. AI could achieve this by enabling greater energy efficiency and flexing demand. 

“AI is already making its mark on many parts of society and the economy. In energy, we are only seeing the beginning of what AI can do to speed up the transition to the low-emissions, ultra-efficient and interconnected energy systems we need tomorrow. This report shows the potential and what it will take to unlock it – guided by principles that span how to govern, design and enable responsible use of AI in energy. Governments and companies can collectively create a real tipping point in using AI for a faster energy transition,” said Roberto Bocca, Head of Energy, World Economic Forum. 

 “As dena, we have been focusing on digital technologies for years. Especially with our ‘Future Energy Lab’ we are boosting Artificial intelligence projects AI is an essential technology for the energy transition since it will provide the glue to connect the different sectors (power, heat, mobility and industry) and serve as digital technology to effectively monitor systems and processes. To efficiently control the energy system of the future, which will be very volatile due to renewable energies, such agent-based control will play an overarching role,” said Andreas Kuhlmann, Chief Executive Officer, dena.

High priority applications for how AI can accelerate the transition to low-carbon energy future include: 

(1) Identifying patterns and insights in data to increase efficiency and savings: According to BNEF’s net-zero scenarios, fully decarbonising the global energy system will require between $92 trillion and $173 trillion of investments in energy infrastructure between 2020 and 2050. Even single-digit percentage gains in flexibility, efficiency, or capacity in clean energy and low-carbon infrastructure systems can therefore lead to trillions of dollars in value and savings.

(2) Coordinating power systems with growing shares of renewable energy: As electricity supplies more sectors and applications, the power sector is becoming the core pillar of the global energy supply. Ramping up renewable energy deployment to decarbonize the globally expanding power sector will mean more power is supplied by intermittent sources (such as solar and wind), creating a need for better forecasting, greater coordination, and more flexible consumption to ensure that power grids can be operated safely and reliably.

(3) Managing complex, decentralized energy systems at scale: The transition to low-carbon energy systems is driving the rapid growth of distributed power generation, distributed storage, and advanced demand response capabilities, which will need to be orchestrated and integrated into much more networked, transactional power grids. 

Navigating these opportunities presents huge strategic and operational challenges for energy-intensive sectors and energy systems themselves, just as they are undergoing once-in-a-lifetime digital transformations. AI can act as an intelligent layer across many applications and has the ability to identify patterns and insights in data, “learn” lessons accurately and improve system performance over time, and predict and model possible outcomes for complex, multivariate situations. 

Recent efforts to deploy AI in the energy sector have proven promising but innovation and adoption remain limited. AI holds far greater potential to accelerate the global energy transition but it will only be realized if there is greater AI innovation, adoption and collaboration across the industry. To address this, the white paper establishes a set of principles to help industry govern and scale AI technology in a rapid, safe and fair manner.

“One of the key findings from our workshops was that whilst we could identify many tangible opportunities for AI in the energy transition, there was a real need for a set of common guiding principles to make these opportunities scalable. These principles should ideally create a framework that enables multiple stakeholder groups to work together effectively, on a pre-defined set of activities from governance, to design, to enabling infrastructure. They will enable us to move past the many ‘proofs of concept’ projects towards successful large-scale implementation of solutions,” said Jon Moore, Chief Executive Officer, BloombergNEF.

The 9 principles cited in the report aim to build industry trust in AI technologies so that they can play a greater role in the energy transition. As AI tools are increasingly adopted across energy and energy-intensive sectors, companies and policy makers must play an active role in governing and shaping the use of AI in the energy sector, establishing best practices for designing AI systems in a responsible way, and creating an enabling environment to unlock the full potential of AI technologies. 

British Start-Up Chosen as Only UK Partner to Shape the Future of European Blockchain

An emerging British start-up, iov42, which builds blockchain-inspired identification tools, has been chosen over corporate giants including EY, Vodafone and Deloitte to secure a spot as one of only seven tenderers selected to design and develop the next generation of the European Blockchain Services Infrastructure (EBSI). The flagship project from the European Commission hopes to leverage blockchain technology to improve standards of cross-border services for public administrations across the EU.

Founded in 2016, iov42 builds simple building blocks to enable users to create easy-to-use applications that can achieve high levels of regulatory compliance and security, while also allowing networks to scale efficiently and work with each other. It does this by using industry-leading ledger technology to digitally codify processes. Unlike conventional blockchain models, iov42 creates a chain of transactional proofs for every identity and asset combination that is made. This helps to improve the security and traceability of transactions for governments, public bodies and enterprises. 

In a first for the continent, the European Blockchain Partnership is upgrading existing infrastructure to create blockchain-based services for public administrations – benefiting citizens, society and the economy. This will be done through the delivery of key use cases, which will be digital product passports for the circular economy and digital IP rights. When completed, the EBSI will allow public administrations to protect against fraud, help businesses alleviate administrative costs, and enable citizens to take full control of their personal data, with iov42’s innovative technology being used in full to drive forward these ambitions. Upon completion, EBSI aspires to be facilitating up to 15 billion transactions per minute, a world first for blockchain technology.

The mission to elevate the European Blockchain Services Infrastructure has been split into three phases, with the initial three month phase focusing on how the infrastructure can best take shape. iov42 will be the only UK-based start-up to be involved, and will take a leading role within the series of research and development projects included in phase one.

Commenting on being the only UK company invited to contribute to the pan-European project, iov42 CEO Dominic von Trotha Taylor comments: “We are delighted to have been selected by the European Commission to work on EBSI, which is made even more special for us as the only UK-based start-up to have been chosen. It is hugely validating to have an organisation such as the Commission endorsing our platform’s capabilities – capabilities (and approach) which we feel represents a refreshing departure from traditional DLT and which was designed with governments, enterprises and regulation front and centre.”

The next generation EBSI will be built as a ‘public permissioned’ blockchain, and will be managed by the European Commission and member states. The infrastructure will be built with European values of privacy, data sovereignty and green credentials in mind, whilst also tackling global issues such as climate change and supply chain corruption. As the infrastructure is built from concept to completion over the next five years, the European Blockchain Partnership aims to scale-up the investment fund to a fully developed investment platform with funding of €1-2 billion.

As the biggest win yet for the start-up, iov42’s involvement in the development of blockchain infrastructure across Europe will allow for further internal company expansion.

 

About iov42:

iov42 helps organisations that rely entirely on their users’ trust, but whose processes or products aren’t as robust as they could be. iov42’s trust-building technology enforces the organisation’s rules and requirements in a way that provides verification so that their users can have peace of mind when dealing with each other. It’s all done through an identity-centric platform inspired by blockchain, but with pioneering technology that makes it simpler, faster, and more secure. iov42’s ultimate aim is simple: to help create a digital society built of interconnected groups that can fully trust one another. See more at www.iov42.com

 

Recent Work:

In June 2021, iov42 and Preferred by Nature announced the launch of Timber Chain, a new service that will enable stakeholders across timber supply chains to improve efficiency, transparency and security through a secure blockchain application, storing all information in one place. By combining blockchain technology, third-party certification, and market knowledge, the Timber Chain modernises traceability; introducing real-time digital data recording, replacing traditional, paper-based processes which are labour intensive and often prone to human error.

It was also announced in June 2021 that iov42 will be trialling a new Proof of Concept (PoC) with Credenxia, a leading edge workforce verification partner. The successful PoC will aim to build upon Credenxia’s expertise in workforce management with a standalone system that offers Credenxia’s users an option of decentralised identities, following the latest standards from the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).

 

What is EBSI?: 

Since 2018, 29 countries (All EU Member States, Norway and Liechtenstein) and the European Commission have joined forces to form the European Blockchain Partnership (EBP). They have committed to working together towards realising the potential of blockchain-based services for the benefit of citizens, society and the economy.

The Partnership is upgrading the European Blockchain Services Infrastructure (EBSI) to improve performance, security and energy efficiency. Their vision is to leverage DLT to the creation of cross-border services for public administrations and their ecosystems to verify information and make services trustworthy.

Since 2020, EBSI is deploying a network of distributed blockchain nodes across Europe, supporting applications focused on selected use-cases. EBSI is the first EU-wide blockchain infrastructure, driven by the public sector, in full respect of European values and regulations.

 

How did EBSI select the tenderers invited to contribute?

Throughout the selection process, each applicant was assessed on their technology’s scalability, security, sustainability, such as energy efficiency for example, and interoperability.

For details of the EBSI Contract Award announcement, and list of tenderers involved, please visit: https://ted.europa.eu

For all media enquiries, please contact iov42’s UK PR team Crest Communications:

Chrys Salter, [email protected], +447563 135 610

Get Ready for the Plastic Packaging Tax

The UK uses an estimated five million tonnes of plastic every year, nearly half of which is packaging. As the plastic problem worsens, countries across the globe have been looking at ways to deal with overflowing landfill sites and polluted soils, rivers and oceans.

As part of its commitment to reduce plastic packaging and waste, the UK government announced in 2018 that it would be introducing a plastic packaging tax from April 2022. Here, Craig Harman, tax specialist and partner at Perrys Chartered Accountants, explains what this means for businesses and why they should be planning for the changes now.

 

Why is the plastic packaging tax being introduced?

The UK government is aiming to significantly reduce the amount of virgin plastics (plastic produced entirely from plastic resin that hasn’t been used or processed before) that are being sent to landfill or being burned. It is also hoped that by introducing the plastic packaging tax, companies will be encouraged to look at more sustainable alternatives for packaging their products and consumers will be motivated to recycle packaging instead of throwing it away.

 

What is the plastic packaging tax?

The new tax, which will come into force from April 2022, will require producers of plastic packaging manufactured in, or imported into, the UK to pay £200 per tonne of plastic packaging if it contains less than 30% recycled plastic, and is plastic packaging that is predominantly plastic by weight.

Plastic packaging that has been imported will be liable to the tax, whether it is unfilled or filled.

However, the tax will not apply to manufacturers and importers of less than 10 tonnes of plastic packaging per year, packaging exported from the UK, or packaging that is used for licenced human medicines.

 

How many businesses will the plastic packaging tax affect?

It is estimated that 20,000 producers and importers of plastic packaging will be affected with a significant impact on a wide range of industries, including manufacturing, logistics, freight, transport, haulage and construction.

 

What are the cost implications of the plastic packaging tax likely to be?

The new tax is likely to impact a wide range of businesses with additional costs, including understanding how the tax is implemented and keeping relevant records.

For example, food and drink legislation stipulates, that in some circumstances, using recycled plastic packaging for food is forbidden and, therefore, food manufacturers will need to pay the tax for using virgin plastics.

There is also the added issue of how the tax will translate to consumers, who are likely to feel the knock on effects of these extra costs, which could raise prices of some products, like food, by around 10% to 20%.

 

How can companies plan for the plastic packaging tax now?

It is important that businesses do not delay with finding alternatives to plastic packaging and start planning now to ensure they are fully prepared for the April 2022 deadline.

As already mentioned, plastic packaging that contains at least 30% recycled materials will be exempt from the tax, so companies are being encouraged to find suitable alternatives that meet or exceed these requirements.

Businesses that are uncertain about what the plastic packaging tax might mean for their operations should seek the advice of a professional accountant, who will be able to guide them through the legislation and requirements.

It is important to remember that, despite the potential cost implications for businesses and consumers, the plastic packaging tax is likely to have a positive impact on our environment, changing business operations for the better and ensuring our planet is protected for the future.

EU Business News Q3 2021

We’re in the midst of summer. Plans are being made. Growth is being achieved.

It’s a stark difference to this time in 2020, when the region was defined- largely – by uncertainty and the feeling of forever being on the back foot, reacting to change as it arrived on the threshold. While there are sure to be more unexpected twists and turns on the horizon, we have all learned and honed a useful skill to have: adaptability.

With that in mind, we have dedicated this issue to the companies who have harnessed adaptability and innovation to continue to deliver excellent services, products and expertise throughout 2021. As always, we showcase businesses of all sizes – from large corporate establishments to single office start-ups- who have belied the rest of their industry or market to attain success, launch a new product or achieve a new milestone. The EU, after all, is a bastion of business opportunity and a true pacesetter on the global stage. It has always been EU Business News’ goal to put excellence front and centre, and show the rest of the world what this region can do.

For now, we hope you enjoy reading this Q3 issue of EU Business News and wish you all the best until our next edition.    

Laka Prepares for the Green Mobility Revolution with Move into Commercial Cycle Insurance Market

  • Cycle Insurance Disruptor Provides Leading Last-Mile Delivery Companies With
  • Tailored Commercial Rider Cover
  • Laka’s ‘Last Mile’ commercial client list features global leaders in this space, which includes; Randstad, EAV, Zapp, Urb-it, Jiffy, Dash, Foodstuff and Santis Global

 

Laka (www.laka.co), the specialist insurer of cyclists, and creator of an innovative new collective insurance model that has disrupted the consumer cycle insurance market has now turned its attentions to the commercial cycle and electric-assisted vehicle (EAV) sector, where its versatile commercial insurance offering is proving a big hit with leading ‘Last Mile’ delivery companies. Laka’s appeal is its ability to quickly adapt its unique, tech-based insurance model to provide tailored, cost-effective insurance cover for each different delivery company’s specific requirements.

Laka’s ‘Last Mile’ commercial client list already features global leaders in this space, which includes; Randstad, EAV, Zapp, Urb-it, Jiffy, Dash, Foodstuff and Santis Global. It has recognised that the same attributes that have made its consumer insurance proposition so compelling, are just as relevant for the commercial insurance market in general. In fact, Laka is now uniquely positioned in being able to provide a comprehensive, versatile commercial insurance model (covering e-cargo bikes, delivery riders, EAVs and cycles), for all manner of commercial companies, both in the UK and across Europe.

According to the Bicycle Association, approximately 2,000 cargo bikes were sold in the UK for commercial use in the past year, and a similar number were sold for use by families and individuals. Sales of bikes, which can carry heavy or bulky loads, are expected to jump by up to 60% in the UK over the next year, boosted by various initiatives at local and national levels to reduce carbon emissions and congestion. This includes the government’s £250m investment in walking and cycling infrastructure along with The Energy Saving Trust’s £2m fund in England last year along with loans and grants in Scotland to help businesses and local authorities purchase cargo bikes. With many European cities moving forwards with plans to improve walking and cycling and support a low sustainable recovery from the Coronavirus pandemic, we are rapidly moving towards a green mobility revolution. 

According to Tobias Taupitz, Laka CEO, “We listened to cyclists to hone our consumer cycle insurance proposition and pioneered the concept of ‘collective insurance’, which has ensured a great deal as well as a great package of benefits for cyclists. For the commercial cycle and EAV market, we have followed the same process, taking time to listen to our business customers and tailoring our offering to best suit their requirements. As a result, we have quickly established ourselves as a major player in the tech-savvy ‘Last Mile’ sector and are already gaining significant traction in the commercial sector in general, providing an easily distinguishable, highly versatile and ultimately, highly cost-effective product.”

Sally Cleary, MD of Randstad Inhouse Services and Randstad Corporate Services says “Working in partnership with Laka is a perfect example of being able to offer our clients a solution above and beyond traditional HR services. We invested heavily in our tech-stack and we could really see the value of Laka’s innovative approach. The collaboration provides policies to thousands of our workers in multiple locations across the UK, with users reporting fantastic experiences due to Laka’s knowledge, professionalism and responsiveness to claims. It’s a strong partnership that provides flexibility, reassurance and exemplary service  – for both Randstad and our dedicated workforce.”

Adam Barmby, CEO/Founder of EAV adds, “Partnering with Laka Insurance holds immense value for EAV by ensuring our vehicles are protected comprehensively. Our customers really appreciate the flexibility that Laka offers by being able to tailor its policies to suit the customers’ needs, specific to the commercial cargo vehicle sector. As part of EAV’s service, insurance is a key element alongside service and maintenance and leasing options, so it gives us great confidence that we can offer customers a complete vehicle package, as we expand with Laka across Europe.”

Urb-it’s Rayan Bannai, Innovation and Development Manager says, “We were looking for an insurance partner and product that was geared up to handle our rapid growth. Laka are able to provide bespoke solutions unique to the types of fleets we are operating, along with a simple-to-use product, making claims, repairs, emergencies and assistance easy for all.”

Laka’s collective-driven insurance model has revolutionised the traditional cycle insurance market. It provides cyclists with a fairer, more cost-effective, more cycle-centric way of protecting themselves in the event of theft, accident or injury. Its products have been designed from the bottom up by cyclists and it is this fundamental understanding of the DNA of the diverse ‘tribes’ of the cycling community that has inspired the creation of a whole new way of approaching insurance. 

At Laka, out go complex contract clauses, painful excesses and labyrinthine claims processes. In comes the collective sharing of claims costs, based on actually occurring incidents and accidents, not speculation on their occurrence, as is the traditional insurance model and simple; user-friendly processes and a knowledgeable, helpful service team. 

For further information about Laka check out the Laka website at (www.laka.co). For all commercial inquiries go to Laka Last Mile Insurance. For business enquires contact Ruth Grimoldby – [email protected] 0207 7940 7170 or Georgina Senior – [email protected]

About Laka

Laka has challenged outdated traditional insurance to provide customers with a fairer, collective-driven approach to cycle insurance. Laka customers pay no upfront premiums and are instead charged based on the cost of claims submitted by the collective the previous month. Fewer claims result in lower charges. Laka customers work together as a collective and share the cost of claims. Laka handles all claims, divides the cost fairly and limits each customer’s maximum monthly spend with a cap based on the value of the equipment insured by each individual member. Laka members fully benefit from lower costs but are also protected if there are a high volume of claims in any given month.

Many Businesses Yet To Grasp Significance of Brexit Divergence on Parallel Trading Laws

Lawyers Warn Time Is Running Out, As IP Exhaustion of Rights Consultation Closes On 31 August

 

Many UK businesses have yet to grasp the significance of Brexit divergence and its impact on parallel trading laws, which could materially affect the way they distribute products and even their entire business models, according to specialist lawyers at national law firm Irwin Mitchell.

The warning comes as the law firm continues to support the British Brands Group and its members in considering responses to the government’s formal consultation on what the UKs future exhaustion of IP rights regime should be.

With less than 3 weeks left before the consultation closes on 31 August, there are concerns that firms dealing with the more immediate concerns of Brexit and Covid-19 may have missed the significance of the divergence between EU and UK laws on parallel trade, both in the short and long term.

Prior to Brexit, the UK was part of the EEA and a party to the EU’s regime on exhaustion of rights. This meant that when goods were placed on the market in any EEA country (including the UK), certain IPR rights which protected those goods (most notably trade marks) were considered exhausted in the rest of the EEA (including the UK). This meant that those goods could be parallel imported into and out of the UK, from and to other EEA countries, without infringing those IP rights.

That changed on 1 January 2021 when the UK’s membership of the EU and EEA came to an end. Parallel imports from the EEA into the UK remain lawful, for now, but this is no longer the case for goods travelling the other way, as IP rights in goods first marketed in the UK are no longer deemed exhausted in the EEA.

Consequently, UK firms now need to ensure that they have the right-owners’ express consent to export IP-protected goods (including branded goods which have trade mark protection in the EU) from the UK to the rest of Europe.

It also remains to be seen whether or not IP rights-owners will try to find ways (legal and commercial) to prevent the free import of protected goods from mainland Europe into the UK, now that protected goods cannot be freely exported the other way. 

Irwin Mitchell has been working with the British Brands Group (BBG) and its members and other stakeholders to formulate a response to the consultation that reflects what are likely to be the varied needs and expectations of different market sectors.

Alex Newman, an expert lawyer at Irwin Mitchell, said: “Many businesses have had more pressing matters to consider in recent months, so the situation with respect to the exhaustion of IP rights regime has not received the attention it deserves. Many businesses have not fully considered the challenges and opportunities caused by the recent changes (and those which may be caused by potential future changes) to the UK’s exhaustion of rights regime.

“IPR owners, parallel traders and downstream distributors will have different interests in, and preferences for, what happens next. With such divergent stakeholder expectations and agendas, opinions on the most appropriate way forward are also likely to differ massively.

“The government says it doesn’t have a preferred option, but any change from the status quo will need careful consideration, as the implications could be wide-ranging and not obvious. That’s why it is important for stakeholders to properly consider the potential implications for their businesses, and make their thoughts known in response to the consultation.”

About Irwin Mitchell

Irwin Mitchell provides legal and financial services to businesses and individuals operating from 15 locations across the UK.

The firm is ranked as a market-leading legal services firm in the independent Legal 500 and Chambers UK guides to UK law with over 250 lawyers personally recommended.

Irwin Mitchell Scotland LLP is a separate Scottish legal practice regulated by the Law Society of Scotland and has an office in Glasgow.

For more information visit www.irwinmitchell.com

EU Business News Announce the Winners of the 2021 Scandinavian Business Awards

United Kingdom, 2021 – EU Business News Magazine have announced the winners of this year’s inaugural instalment of the Scandinavian Business Awards.

Despite the last 18 months being defined primarily by intense upheaval and uncertainty, there are companies across Scandinavia who have embraced innovation and achieved growth despite the odds being stacked against them. Whether it is by entering new markets, or capitalising on new technology, 2021 has been a year of new beginnings and catalysts for business across the region. As always, in light of this, we have endeavoured to celebrate those who are showing an immense degree of resilience and entrepreneurship in these trying times.

Awards Coordinator Katherine Benton took a moment to comment on the success of the winners. “Congratulations to all of those recognised in this programme – I would like to wish you the very best of luck for the future, and hope you all have a wonderful rest of 2021 ahead.”

EU Business News prides itself on the validity of its awards and winners. As such, every one of our winners can be certain that their success is deserved. We carefully evaluate everything from a business’s, or individual’s, performance over the past 12-months to ensure that only the most deserving parties walk away with one of our prestigious awards.

To learn more about our award winners and to gain insight into the working practices of the “best of the best”, please visit the EU Business News website (http://business-news.eu) where you can access the winners supplement.

ENDS

NOTES TO EDITORS

About EU Business News, published by AI Global Media

The EU is a vital and exciting region filled with businesses and individuals creating unique innovations, supporting their customers around the world and, ultimately, driving change. As such, EU Business News aims to provide an absorbing overview of this exciting region and the businesses and individuals operating within it.

Much more than just a magazine, alongside our online publication EU Business News also boasts an informative newsletter, a regularly updated website and a series of awards programmes showcasing the excellence of businesses and the individuals behind them from across this vibrant region.

As subscription to EU Business News is free there is absolutely no reason not to sign up to receive this informative and fascinating resource.

About AI Global Media

Since 2010 AI Global Media has been committed to creating engaging B2B content that informs our readers and allows them to market their business to a global audience. We create content for and about firms across a range of industries.

Today, we have 12 unique brands, each of which serves a specific industry or region. Each brand covers the latest news in its sector and publishes a digital magazine and newsletter which is read by a global audience. Our flagship brand, Acquisition International, distributes a monthly digital magazine to a global circulation of 108,000, who are treated to a range of features and news pieces on the latest developments in the global corporate market.

We Can’t Rebuild the Economy Without Retraining and Sustainability

As the British economy continues its gradual reopening, there is growing motivation to ensure that businesses can “build back better” from the difficulties of pandemic restrictions.

Of course, while the impact of COVID-19 has been devastating, lockdowns have revealed some truths about our economic and societal organisation. Our actions and the effects they have on the environment, as well as inequalities in the labour force, have become more prevalent.

The return to normality should now be taken as an opportunity. Retraining the workforce and pursuing sustainable strategies should be a priority for businesses. Here, we explore why the economy needs investment into sustainable workplaces and staff to successfully escape the looming presence of a recession.

 

Some jobs won’t come back

There has been a clear shift in the way that people work and where they work. It is unsurprising to hear that some of these changes will be permanent. A survey by the Institute of Directors shows that 74 per cent of businesses intend to maintain the increase of homeworking capabilities. Businesses are ready for a future of remote working, where travel and commuting will be reduced, and automated services will become more prominent in workplaces.

These changes in working behaviour and capability mean that many jobs will not return after the pandemic, even when the economy is fully reopened. Government data shows that  314,000 people were made redundant between July and September in 2020.

Retraining is a vital component for encouraging workers back into the labour force. Businesses must understand the changed perceptions and varied experiences of the labour force, as well as their priorities for secure, ethical, and sustainable employment in the future.

 

A decisive decade for sustainability

Before the coronavirus pandemic, there was an increased focus on tackling climate change. Recovering from the past year, protecting jobs and lives from both public health and economic crisis begins by investing in sustainability. Construction is one area identified as integral to the economic recovery, but only through social well-being, climate-resilient infrastructure, and sustainable waste strategies can the economy create significant near-term job creation. The need for rapid job creation aligns with the requirement for urgent action on the environment.

By 2030, there could be as many as 694,000 green jobs in England, according to the local government association. These roles will be diverse across industry and occupation, driving businesses to more sustainable production methods and practices.

This can be seen in the construction sector, where sustainable waste management services are ensuring that waste is recycled and reduced through innovative strategies that also incorporate social value into their offering. This is important, considering that two-thirds of the UK’s waste can be attributed to construction. In retail and wholesale industries, sustainable jobs can also help drive minimisation and circularity, finding alternatives to plastics and ensuring recycling is integral to the design process.

Ultimately, with the climate emergency, green aspects to all jobs are essential when contributing to growing a low carbon economy.

 

Green businesses with green jobs

There are pre-existing ideas of what constitutes a green job, and what sectors can create them. Even businesses that already have a low environmental impact can benefit from employing sustainable strategies to help promote their brand as well as creating jobs. Analysis from the Green New Deal UK suggests that all jobs lost to the coronavirus pandemic could be replaced in just two years. However, they emphasise that we must change the notion of green jobs.

Green jobs extend beyond the sphere of clean energy and electric cars. In fact, our carers, teachers, cleaners, and builders all have a role to play in this new circular economy. From ensuring that waste is minimised and recycled to educating other people about the importance of a clean environment, the economy can be transformed with jobs and services that prioritise sustainability.

In review, green jobs are key to economic recovery, but they can only be created by companies that are willing to grow, adapt, and prioritise sustainability. Investing in the development of existing staff and new recruits into new green roles is vital. All businesses can be green businesses, and all jobs can be green jobs, from care to construction.

EU Business News Announces the Winners of the 2021 Agriculture and Farming Awards

United Kingdom, 2021 – EU Business News Magazine have announced the winners of the inaugural edition of the Agriculture and Farming Awards.

Agriculture and farming are the cornerstones of civilisation: Always has been and will be for some time yet. In a world so focused on the latest technological developments, it is perhaps too easy to overlook the incredible innovations that the agriculture industry is spearheading to drive growth across every market and sub-sector.

As with all of our programmes, we aim to spotlight these developments that so often go under the radar by the greater business community. This year, we added the Agriculture and Farming Awards to our roster to recognise those leaders, stalwarts and start-ups who look set to define the future through hard work, dynamism and creativity.

At launch, Awards Coordinator Gabrielle Ellis took a moment to comment on the success of the winners. “Congratulations to all of those recognised in this programme. It has been a delight and an honour to reach out to all of you during the programme. I would like to wish you the very best of luck for the future.”  

EU Business News prides itself on the validity of its awards and winners. As such, every one of our winners can be certain that their success is deserved. We carefully evaluate everything from a business’s, or individual’s, performance over the past 12-months to ensure that only the most deserving parties walk away with one of our prestigious awards.

To learn more about our award winners and to gain insight into the working practices of the “best of the best”, please visit the EU Business News website (http://business-news.eu) where you can access the winners supplement.

ENDS

NOTES TO EDITORS

About EU Business News, published by AI Global Media

The EU is a vital and exciting region filled with businesses and individuals creating unique innovations, supporting their customers around the world and, ultimately, driving change. As such, EU Business News aims to provide an absorbing overview of this exciting region and the businesses and individuals operating within it.

Much more than just a magazine, alongside our online publication EU Business News also boasts an informative newsletter, a regularly updated website and a series of awards programmes showcasing the excellence of businesses and the individuals behind them from across this vibrant region.

As subscription to EU Business News is free there is absolutely no reason not to sign up to receive this informative and fascinating resource.

About AI Global Media

Since 2010 AI Global Media has been committed to creating engaging B2B content that informs our readers and allows them to market their business to a global audience. We create content for and about firms across a range of industries.

Today, we have 12 unique brands, each of which serves a specific industry or region. Each brand covers the latest news in its sector and publishes a digital magazine and newsletter which is read by a global audience. Our flagship brand, Acquisition International, distributes a monthly digital magazine to a global circulation of 108,000, who are treated to a range of features and news pieces on the latest developments in the global corporate market.

Launching a New Business? Here Are the Brexit Challenges You Need to Be Aware Of

We have all been through so much thanks to the COVID pandemic over the course of the last year and a half. The amount of hard work, ingenuity and sacrifice it has taken to simply make it through to this point is incalculable and we all deserve a break. For anyone thinking about launching a new business during the pandemic, it has been a white-knuckle ride while waiting to see what state the marketplace would be in if and when things got better.

Well, things do seem to be getting better, in relation to the pandemic at least. The UK government has rolled back almost all of its COVID-19 restrictions and companies across all sectors are open for business. Of course, we all know how quickly the wind can change and if we have learned one thing during the pandemic, it’s that the restrictions can come back, and the government can change its mind. The rising case numbers and the Delta variant are both good reasons for being a little cautious if you are thinking about abandoning all the safety measures that you currently have in place.

But this article is not about the pandemic, it’s about Brexit. It has become abundantly clear over the last couple of years that even though the deal has been done, there are still more speedbumps to come on our road forward. Coronavirus certainly did not make things any easier, but there are several Brexit-specific issues that you need to be aware of if you are planning on launching a new business in the second half of 2021. Here are just a few.

Exports to the EU Are Down

One of the most immediately apparent effects of Great Britain leaving the EU is that demand for exports to the continent went way down. While there has been a little improvement since those alarming early days, experts are saying that we should not expect to see them return to their previous levels.

Now, part of this is due to bureaucracy. With the UK leaving the EU, the amount of paperwork required for the passage of goods between the two locations increased hugely. It is also down to increased costs, which is bringing profit margins for UK businesses down as well as making it less appealing for EU companies to buy from the UK. This situation may improve with time but if you’re launching now, you need to be aware of this.

There Are Fewer People for Necessary Jobs

This issue did not really surface until recently when the UK lifted lockdown restrictions and businesses started hiring again. What they found was that many essential jobs, from crop harvesters to restaurant chefs, were struggling to find qualified people to fill those roles. Part of this is due to the pandemic. There are still a lot of people out there who are shielding or who are otherwise unable to return to work for health reasons. But Brexit has absolutely played a part. Many EU citizens living and working in the UK have relocated to other EU countries or have returned home. The paperwork required to apply for settlement status is still coming in for a lot of criticism, and as a result, businesses are having to work harder to bring the right people in. One solution for your business is to take the initiative. Easy As HGV specialises in business-to-business HGV and CPC training, with training courses that can be tailored to meet your needs.

COVID Restrictions May Differ

We hate to bring it back to the pandemic, but something that new businesses should be aware of is that the UK and the EU member states currently have different approaches to the pandemic. We all remember the scenes at Dover in December when 3000 lorry drivers were stuck on their way to Calais because the French border was temporarily closed to anyone coming from the UK without a negative COVID-19 test.

That situation was resolved relatively quickly but the impact it had was clear to everyone. If you are launching a business that relies on importing or exporting goods to and from the EU, then you need to be flexible enough to plan for any delays, and you need to make sure that you are taking every possible step to allow for the smooth passage of your goods.

There May Be More Problems That Will Arise

Finally, it is very important to note that some of the issues that you will be facing as a result of Brexit may not have shown their face yet. It may be hard to believe given how much the process has been in the news for the last couple of years, but you can bet good money that there will be more problems to come.

Saving Money to Save The Planet: Why We Should All Move to Sustainable Consumerism

According to The United Nations Environment Programme, the fashion industry is responsible for a staggering 10% of annual global carbon emissions.

While many brands have made commendable efforts to switch to more sustainable practices, and consumers are eager to purchase sustainable fashion products, Joe Cook, Vice President of Delta Global, a sustainable packaging solutions provider for luxury fashion brands, believes a mass shift to sustainable consumerism can drive the industry to make vast cuts to carbon emissions. 

Watching the news recently, two reports moved me for two very different reasons. The devastating floods in Germany reminded us, once again, of the tragic consequences of climate change. The second story, the pursuit of ‘marginal gains’ by awe-inspiring Olympic athletes, reminded me of why I believe in sustainable consumerism. Before I explain how and why, allow me a slight detour.

The criticism of sustainable consumerism is that it is still, in fact, consumerism. Yes, it may be that you are selecting products manufactured ethically, but without massive structural shifts in manufacturing, marketing, pricing, recycling and government policy, a purchase of goods at any level will still leave – or extend – a carbon footprint, that leads to the saddening scenes such as those we witnessed in Germany.

The essence of the argument is that the waste stream is already overloaded. What difference does recycling make anyway when, in the US, only around 35% of waste is sent to be recycled – a figure that does not account for how much waste is actually recycled.

It is an argument that isn’t devoid of merit. It does, however, avoid the significant impracticalities that consumers would contend with if they adhered strictly to a rigid alternative. Neither has a realistic alternative been proposed.

Which brings me back to the concept of marginal gains. Olympians and their coaches work for four years in an attempt make small, incremental improvements. When added together, these improvements become a significant one. When a significant improvement is made, records are broken and the nature of the event is altered for good, with higher standards required, over time, to reach the standard benchmark.

And this is precisely what we, as consumers, need to do: make small, incremental improvements in our shopping habits. If normalised by mass participation, these improvements can shift the standard benchmark so that fashion brands and retailers are required to meet new, sustainability norms.

I am certain that such a shift is achievable. Firstly, there are existing and practical sustainable consumerism practices that could be developed and popularised further. And, with Gen Z entering the workforce, there is a significant consumer base who prioritise sustainability much more than previous generations. Indeed, around 62% of this generation prefer to buy from sustainable sources. Gen Z is a generation for which the phrase ‘saving money to save the planet’ has meaning.

Resale

Viewing the entire fashion industry as an ugly head of capitalism without concern to anything but profits is futile. At Delta Global, we’ve worked with brands like Tom Ford, Coach and MatchesFashion. We’ve helped those labels to produce sustainable packaging. Brands and retailers, overall, do care about their carbon footprint. They, after all, occupy the same planet as we do.

We work primarily within the luxury sector. That means we do not encounter brands who deal in fast fashion, which has attracted much criticism regarding its sustainability. Those brands would answer that argument by pointing to their sales and popularity. We are, they will say, only responding to consumer demands.

It’s a hard argument to refute. Which makes it critical to shift our consumer habits, forcing the more reckless producers of fast fashion to reassess their practices. One of the easiest ways we can do this is via the resale market.

There are already lots of resale platforms, some of which have gained considerable success. In the US luxury sector, thredUP and Poshmark are especially popular and successful, reaching valuations of $1.3 billion and $7.5 billion respectively.

These types of apps will be vital to resale market growth. While I would never discourage anyone to donate clothing, it is worth remembering how difficult it is to recycle textiles. Most clothes feature accessories, fixtures, labels and components that can make them unrecyclable. Globally, only 12% of clothing materials end up being recycled.  

Resale has the great advantage of placing used clothing in the hands of somebody who wants to wear it. This is much preferable than having them end up in landfills. And, once the biggest fashion brands enable resale at mass market scale, taking ownership of resale through their own stores and ecosystems, it will become a consumer norm.

This is, tentatively, beginning to occur. We’ve already seen Gucci partner with the resale specialists The RealReal and use Alexander McQueen use Vestiaire Collective to explore resales on its own site. More luxury labels will surely follow.

Clothes Swaps

Around a year ago, a new word entered fashion vernacular – Swishing. Named after the noise of rustling through clothing rails, Swishing is the expression coined by Futerra CEO Lucy Shea for swapping clothes, albeit in the setting of champagne gathering.

Like resale, swapping clothes means unwanted items have a greater chance of avoiding the incinerator. Shea has discovered that, if you host an event in plush surroundings providing an event rather than a venue for cold exchange, then plenty of people find the appeal of free clothing alluring.

Her website has around 10,000 visits per month. Swishing parties are now hosted across the globe and the term has become the generic word for clothes-swapping parties. People are encouraged to bring clothes they’d be “proud to pass on” and, given the party-feel of the meetups, designer labels are more commonly encountered than moth-eaten castoffs.

The UK alone discards around 1 million tonnes of clothing per year. Clothes swaps can help diminish that figure and lesson the environmental impact of the fashion industry. That they are becoming events that attract the curiosity of thousands must be welcomed. And if brands utilise their popularity, organising regular swapping events of their own, then a new mainstream consumer experience awaits.

Renting

Renting clothes, once the great hope of sustainable consumerism, has seen its impressive progress halted by the pandemic. What began as a way to wear pricey, high-end clothing became a way to ‘borrow’ pieces for events, parties, wedding and holidays. At its pre-pandemic peak, high street stores such as H&M wear regularly renting to consumers.

But now, weddings and holidays have seen a succession of delays and restrictions. And Runway shows, which attracted renters and spawned the thriving rental app Rent The Runway have either been cancelled or compromised, attracting much less attention than regular fashion weeks. In short, there has been little runway to rent.

It was once predicted with confidence and regularity that nobody need buy a wedding dress or event clothing again. The model would shift, and on attending parties, we would simply hire the outfit that suited the occasion, rather than buy something we’d likely never wear again. But the rental market, particularly in the luxury sector, has diminished alarmingly.

But the news from China is that the rental market is slowly reviving. YCloset, a rental app powered by e-commerce powerhouse Alibaba, are banking on a similar rental uptick to that of 2008, when the global recession attracted luxury clothing renters en masse. They predict the same will happen now, due the economic downturn caused by Covid-19.

As an essential component of sustainable consumerism, the fashion industry must hope that rental returns to commercial prominence. Without it, a reduction in global carbon emissions may forever remain a remote objective.

The Perfect Solution to the UK’s Rising Farm Theft Problem

Crime is becoming an increasingly difficult problem for farms and rural businesses to contend with. NFU’s Rural Crime Report 2020 found that in 2019, rural crime cost the UK £54 million, increasing by nine per cent compared to the previous year. Of this, £9.3 million is attributed to farm vehicle theft.

Meanwhile, in July 2021, a new specialist police unit was created to combat the growing number of organised gangs stealing farm and construction machinery. The Agricultural and Construction Equipment (ACE) unit has been set up to monitor and prevent crime, share intelligence, and provide farmers with the assurance that their work can be completed without disruption during their limited seasonal windows.

But what more can be done to prevent the UK’s rising farm theft problem? A surprising solution comes in the form of storage containers. While they have been common in preventing theft of equipment in many industries, including construction and maintenance, how can a storage container protect farming assets? Here, we explore how storage containers could be a farmer’s best bet.

 

Sturdy, solid, and mobile

Shipping containers are naturally protective. Created from corrugated steel, their solid frame makes them a strong adversary to criminals setting out to steal your machinery. Instead of simply locking your vehicles, machinery can be stored in a type of temporary garage – not only concealing the type of equipment stored but also barraging them against thieves.

Visibility alone can be a deterrent for thieves, who understand that the chance of being caught is a risk worth taking only if they know what they are stealing. With additional locks and security equipment, such as padlocks and alarms, storage containers deter the probability of thieves even more.

The added benefit of storage containers is their mobility. With the right equipment, storage containers can be moved easily to any location on your land. This means that equipment can be stored closer to home or can be kept near to where it is being used, adding protection on top of convenience. There’s no need to build permanent structures, and your safety storage can be moved seasonally.

 

Protecting yourself and others

Of course, it’s not just machinery that is targeted by thieves on farms. Chemicals are also targeted by criminal gangs. While containers can help prevent their theft through secure storage, there is an added benefit of storing chemicals away from reach.

Chemicals such as pesticides and fertiliser can be dangerous for yourself, the public, and the environment when not stored correctly. Such chemicals can cause contamination, accidental fires, and the destruction of habitats and wildlife in some circumstances.

By storing chemicals in a storage container, you prevent theft and also limit the possibility of the public or wildlife endangering themselves. Even more, the mobility and security of a container mean that these chemicals can be stored away from living spaces, adding further safety assurances for your family.

 

A rural working space

Not all of a farmer’s work is on the field. Rural businesses can also contend with some bureaucracy and office work now and then. However, being away from your land can leave you open to theft or damage. Your presence alone can be a deterrent.

In this sense, using a storage container as a working space on your land can be a viable solution to reducing the potential for crime. A kitted-out container can be provided with electricity, heating, and be comfortable and spacious. Like a container used to secure equipment, your mobile office space can be moved to where you want. Who wouldn’t want to work and stare out across pastures green?

A mobile office space on your land can also be fitted with surveillance cameras, allowing additional footage of your land in case a crime is committed. However, by being present on your land, organising the business side of your affairs, you can send a signal to budding thieves that the land is watched and protected.

The cost of crime for rural businesses is devastating. However, the investment of a storage container to secure equipment and chemicals can help protect your assets, family, the public, and the environment. With multiple uses, including as office space, storage containers are proving themselves to be an essential product for farmers and those who work in remote locations.

New Research Show Nordic Countries Are Shaping The Future of Shared Parental Leave

 

1. Make your team aware of all their options

It’s important to communicate all the parental leave options available to your team that are offered by your business. This will help your team to make informed decisions that work both for their families and careers.

If you’re unable to advise your team members on SPL in your workplace, put them in touch with a department that can. If you don’t currently have the sources available to offer advice on SPL don’t worry – there are lots of useful organisations that can provide this information such as GOV.UK and Maternity Action.

 

2. Work together to finalise your employees parental leave plan

It can be both daunting and a little confusing to understand how various types of parental leave – especially for first time parents.

As a business leader, take the time to talk to your team members about how they are feeling and work together to create a plan that works for both the individual and your business too.

 

3. Check-in regularly

Becoming a parent can be an overwhelming experience, especially for the first time. However, being open and available to talk to your team about their worries or concerns can help them feel supported.

For those parents currently on leave, it can be easy to feel disconnected from their team the longer they are away from their role. Taking the time to catch-up with your team members on SPL can help them to feel part of the team – helping to make the transition back to work smoother once they return to their role.

Offering a phased return through split SPL can help those team members returning from SPL transition back to their role.

 

4. Offer support for those returning from parental leave

Before a parent returns from SPL, get in touch to see if there is anything you can do as a business to help them transition back into their working environment. Offering your team member help and support as they adjust back into their role is important. For example, understanding as a new parent their schedules may have changed to fit around family commitments.

Similarly, if you notice a team member may be struggling offering mental health and wellbeing support services can help.

Information provided by Bupa UK.

4 Ways Agriculture Can And Should Improve

The agriculture industry, like others, has faced a series of unprecedented changes in recent times. The struggle has been felt across the states, and the farmers and those working in food production have felt those pressures too.

Still, this does not mean that they should resign themselves to an oppressed state. On the contrary, the worst of the pandemic is hopefully over. Now is the perfect time for those in agriculture to reflect, take stock of their situation, and make some choice improvements to how they do things. But how can they go about doing this?

Here are four ways agriculture can and should improve in the near future.

Making Good Use of Funding

Improvements can only be spurred on by sufficient funding, and agriculture has received plenty of it due to its essential status in the throes of the pandemic. Therefore, none of this money is to be idly spent.

Last year food and agriculture attracted a record $22.3 billion in venture funding – which was twice as much raised compared to the year prior. The pandemic spurred investment directly, and while this type of funding is expected to slow down in the latter half of 2021, some believe that businesses in the sector will get through the next year of operations without raising any more.

The funding is being channeled into specific areas, too, such as alternative proteins and non-dairy milk. Sales of beef, poultry, and pork are also in decline among the millennial generation. In the end, these changes paint a clear picture and have done so for some time now.

Therefore, it could be prudent for agricultural entities to revaluate their goals to answer these growing demands. After all, consumer trends are evolving rapidly in modern times. The American public is more educated about where their goods come from and how their purchases either help or hinder the environment. For agricultural firms, utilizing their record-breaking funding by following consumer trends is the right direction to go in. 

 

Improving Worker’s Rights

While covid has fueled significant funding in agriculture, that does not necessarily mean all is well across the board. Areas of concern have materialized also.

All industries have been hit hard by the pandemic. However, last year CNN claimed that farmers faced their own set of challenges amidst the chaos, citing the lack of preparedness for a crisis in rural communities. Some farms lacked essential safety equipment for their workers, such as masks, disinfectants, and soap for the pandemic. PPE sorely lacked elsewhere also. Moreover, some agricultural staff failed to social distance, without the farms themselves enforcing any rules on the matter.

The coronavirus is hopefully in the process of irreversibly winding down. However, these issues highlight a significant lapse in worker’s rights and human rights in general. It could be that these issues arise from farmers hiring masses of undocumented migrants and thus wrongly caring little for their safety. When word of these problems becomes public, there are few things any firm could do, agricultural or otherwise, to rewind the clock or seek forgiveness. Worker safety must always be a priority irrespective of industry or status in the US.

Utilizing a Corn Calculator

Those working in agriculture should utilize every opportunity that comes their way, from record-breaking funding to dependable online tools.

For instance, the corn calculator for farmers is a highly resourceful asset. Provided by Avipel, those working in agriculture can find many assurances by clicking the link here; from potential investment returns to guidance on maximizing corn yield potential. Farmers should be working closely with Avipel to better their prospects and more fully understand their position and processes.

A resource such as this one can also be a comforting presence, suggesting ways for farmers to reach their fullest potential. After all, agriculture has faced uncertainty and instability during the pandemic also. It can grant farmers a competitive edge after so much turbulence, securing peace of mind with a few clicks of a button.

 

Exploring AI Opportunities

Crop yields are not only improved via online calculators but potentially by other technologies too. In recent times, AI has made waves in agriculture as well.

In 2019, Forbes noted that agriculture turned to AI to yield healthier crops, control pests, monitor soil and growing conditions, organize data for farmers, and more. Two years later, it no doubt occupies a central position for those in the industry today. Weather conditions, herbicide usage, and temperature can all be gauged in advance thanks to these innovations. As a result, harvest quality is improved, with no drawbacks to mention.  

To be in the industry without this technology is not just a mild setback. It can be a significantly crippling circumstance. By using AI, productivity is accelerated while the quality of a farmer’s work never wavers. While some people in agriculture may prefer the routine and traditional aspects of their roles, it is more important than ever to innovate alongside the rest of the world. Otherwise, they will fall behind to the detriment of themselves, their business, and their workers.

UK Insomnia Device Secures Nearly £500K in Crowdfunding Investment Round

Sleep therapy start-up exceeds target in first week of campaign

Over £475K raised including new investment from fund led by ex-General Electric execs

An innovative, UK-designed sleep therapy solution with global ambitions has raised over £475K in the first week of a crowdfunding campaign on Crowdcube. SleepCogni, a hand-held, data-supported device for people suffering from insomnia, has so far attracted funds from 157 different investors in this latest fund raise which combines venture capital investment and crowdfunding. The company’s latest financial backers include Chasnay Capital Investments, a new private investment fund established by three former General Electric (GE) Healthcare senior executives (see notes below).

SleepCogni helps insomnia sufferers break cognitive cycles that prevent sleep. Co-founded by Sheffield-based entrepreneur Richard Mills, who has personally suffered from sleeping disorders, and Dutch chronobiologist and sleep expert, Dr Maan van de Werken, the device enables users to self-manage their insomnia, a condition which affects one in three people across the world.

The current crowdfunding investment round follows last month’s successful clinical trials at Sheffield Hallam University where SleepCogni produced ‘extraordinary’ results, significantly reducing clinical insomnia after just seven days. Earlier in June the device was registered for medical use by the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA).

Earlier this month SleepCogni was also listed in this year’s MedTech50, produced by UK business technology publication BusinessCloud, entering the 2021 rankings in 8th place.

Funds from the latest investment round, which closes in early August, will go towards a software platform upgrade, recruitment of a new SleepCogni business development team, and beta testing of the device at four sites, two in the US and two in the UK. SleepCogni is then set to roll out its device to 130 clinics, including of one of the largest sleep care management groups in the US.

The company’s team of advisers is comprised of some of the most highly respected figures from the global healthcare sector. This includes SleepCogni’s chairman Richard di Benedetto, President of Aetna International health insurance.

SleepCogni co-founder and CEO, Richard Mills, said: “We’re delighted with the success of this crowdfunding campaign where we’ve quickly surpassed our initial investment target. Along with all our 157 new investors, I’m delighted to welcome Chasnay Capital Investments on board, a fund which is led by three former GE executives who are proven titans in the healthcare industry. Their financial commitment towards SleepCogni underlines the size of the opportunity and our ambition to capture a significant share of the $80bn global sleep aid market. 

“Our successful crowdfund campaign builds on the momentum of last month’s FDA registration and the completion of clinical trials where SleepCogni achieved extraordinary results reducing clinical insomnia in just seven days.”

Reinaldo Garcia from Chasnay Capital Investments said: “We’re excited by our investment into SleepCogni for many reasons: its patented technology and clinically validated solution addresses an unmet need in the global sleep aid market, and the company is backed by an excellent team. As experienced global senior leaders with a proven track record, we can add value in this next exciting stage of the business and help SleepCogni scale on a global level.”

More details about the SleepCogni crowd-funding campaign can be found here

 

SleepCogni

Many people experience sleep challenges, but aside from medication, the market offering currently focuses on monitoring sleep, rather than focusing on helping people to get to sleep.

Patented, clinically proven technology; SleepCogni combines a handheld device and subscription-based SaaS platform to help users wind down.

SleepCogni’s device innovatively provides users with an immediate sleep aid whilst simultaneously collecting data to provide informed insight for clinical intervention, including CBT-I.

Chasnay Capital Investments

Set up in 2020 by Reinaldo Garcia, former CEO of General Electric (GE) Grid Solutions and previously CEO of GE Healthcare International; Mark Hutchinson, former CEO for GE Europe and previously CEO GE China; and Roberto Mello, former CFO for GE Healthcare China and CFO of GE Latin America, Chasnay Capital’s first investments have been into early-stage healthcare, media/technology and energy storage.

UK Consumer Snub Local Merchants in Favour of European Alternatives Post-Brexit and Pandemic

  • 55% likely to buy from Western Europe and 45% from Northern Europe
  • Londoners are the most willing to buy from overseas versus those in the South West who are the most reticent
  • Despite ‘support local’ movements in the wake of the pandemic, buying from local retailers only matters to 14% of British shoppers, and only 8% prefer to buy from the UK 
  • The research of 2,000 consumers also found one in five people believe that most online reviews are fake, yet they remain an important consideration for nearly a third (30%) of shoppers 
  • Delivery options are also a key factor in driving sales, with attitudes to free delivery varying by generation –  76% Gen Z are willing to pay more for a product if free delivery is on offer 

Leading global payment service provider, emerchantpay, publishes the second and third instalments of its New World, One Market Report which examines consumer behaviour post-pandemic. The latest two chapters reveal stark differences in attitudes to the factors that influence a purchase decision, with splits across UK location and generational group.

The survey of 2,000 British consumers showed that despite the chaos surrounding Brexit, 55% are likely to buy from Western Europe and 45% likely to buy from Northern Europe. In addition, supporting local retail only mattered to 14% shoppers with just 8% preferring to buy from the UK, increasing to 18% of Baby Boomers and dropping to 1% of Gen Z. 3% of people said politics was a consideration when choosing where to buy an item. This paints a picture of a modern consumer uninfluenced by geographic boundaries or global dynamics.

Respondents from Greater London were consistently more likely to buy from countries other than the UK. The majority of Londoners said they were likely to buy from Western Europe if given the option (63%), and more than half (56%) said they would buy from North America. They were also most likely among those we surveyed to buy from Russia (21%), Eastern Asia (47%), Southern Asia (34%), South America (26%), Africa (28%) and the Middle East (27%). Northern Irish respondents were most likely to buy from Northern Europe (53%), and those in the South East were most likely to buy from Eastern Europe (35%). 

People in the South West were least likely among those we surveyed, to buy from countries other than the UK. 50% said they were unlikely to buy from South America if given the option. 48% declined to buy from Eastern Europe; almost a third (30%) wouldn’t buy from North America or Northern Europe; and almost a quarter (24%) wouldn’t buy from Western Europe. Welsh respondents were most likely among those who responded, to feel neutral about countries outside the UK.

Older generations are less loyal than their younger counterparts – and are less forgiving when it comes to delivery fees

More than half (55%) of consumers are willing to pay more for a product if delivery is free. Consumers are happy to spend 4.63% more on average. 

However opinions differ markedly by generational group: the majority of Gen Z (76%) and Millennials (62%) are willing to spend more, compared to the majority of Gen X (47%), Baby Boomers (62%) and the Silent Generation (56%) who are not. 

The average Gen Z consumer said they would pay up to £3.98 for delivery for an item up to £50 in value, versus Baby Boomers who are only willing to spend up to £1.74. The latter group was most likely to believe that delivery should always be free (48%).

Brand loyalty also appeared to decline with age: 7% of Gen Z and 9% of Millennials claimed not to be loyal to any brands. The same answer was given by 17% Gen X, 23% Baby Boomers and 31% Silent Generation. 

Drop in consumer trust following the pandemic

One in five people believe that more than half of online reviews are fake. However a third (30%) listed product reviews as an important consideration when choosing where to buy. 

More than a quarter (26%) said product reviews would encourage them to switch to another brand. But friends (75%) and relatives (71%) were the most important sources of advice for product recommendations, with social media influencing more than half (57%) of Gen Z.

In addition, our research found that 46% of shoppers feel that there is a greater risk of fraud now than before the pandemic. 50% believed there to be the same risk now as before – rising to 60% for Baby Boomers.

Jonas Reynisson, emerchantpay’s Founder and CEO comments: “The rise of ecommerce has undoubtedly changed the way we shop and it’s great to see that Brits still look beyond geographic boundaries despite Brexit. When it comes to the things that influence where we buy or how much we spend, such as reviews or delivery charges, there are obvious differences between generational groups and it’s up to retailers to interpret these findings. One way or another, it’s up to merchants to make sure that the purchasing process is as smooth and efficient as possible to serve the needs of their customers, no matter where they are in the world.” 

UK Consumers Still Favour European Retailers, Despite Brexit and Pandemic

  • 55% likely to buy from Western Europe and 45% from Northern Europe
  • Londoners are the most willing to buy from overseas versus those in the South West who are the most reticent
  • Despite ‘support local’ movements in the wake of the pandemic, buying from local retailers only matters to 14% of British shoppers 
  • One in five people believe that most online reviews are fake, yet they remain an important consideration for nearly a third (30%) of shoppers, and online buying behaviour changes as half of consumers recognise an increased risk of fraud following pandemic
  • Attitudes to free delivery vary by generation with 76% Gen Z willing to pay more for a product if free delivery is on offer 


Today, leading global payment service provider, emerchantpay, publishes the second and third instalments of its New World, One Market Report, which examines consumer behaviour post-pandemic. The latest two chapters reveal stark differences in attitudes to the factors that influence a purchase decision, with splits across UK locations and generational groups.

The survey of over 2,000 British consumers showed that despite the disruption surrounding Brexit, 55% are likely to buy from Western Europe and 45% likely to buy from Northern Europe, when choosing where to buy from. In addition, supporting local retail only mattered to 14% shoppers, when asked about the most important factors influencing purchasing decisions,  increasing to 19% of Baby Boomers and dropping to 12% of Gen Z. Only 3% of respondents said politics was a consideration when choosing where to buy an item. This paints a picture of a modern consumer largely uninfluenced by geographic boundaries or shifts in global dynamics.

Respondents from Greater London were consistently more likely to buy from countries other than the UK. The majority of Londoners said they were likely to buy from Western Europe if given the option (63%), and more than half (56%) said they would buy from North America. They were also most likely among those we surveyed to buy from Russia (21%), Eastern Asia (47%), Southern Asia (34%), South America (26%), Africa (28%) and the Middle East (27%). Northern Irish respondents were most likely to buy from Northern Europe (53%), and those in the South East were most likely to buy from Eastern Europe (35%). 

People in the South West were the least likely to buy from countries other than the UK. 50% said they were unlikely to buy from South America if given the option. 48% declined to buy from Eastern Europe; almost a third (30%) wouldn’t buy from North America or Northern Europe; and almost a quarter (24%) wouldn’t buy from Western Europe. Welsh respondents were most likely among those who responded, to feel neutral about countries outside the UK.

The majority of consumers are eager to pay more if product delivery is free 

More than half (55%) of consumers are willing to pay more for a product if delivery is free. Consumers are happy to spend 4.63% more on average. 

However, opinions differ markedly by generational group: the majority of Gen Z (76%) and Millennials (62%) are willing to spend more, compared to the majority of Gen X (47%), Baby Boomers (62%) and the Silent Generation (56%) who are not. 

The average Gen Z consumer said they would pay up to £3.98 for delivery for an item up to £50 in value, versus Baby Boomers who are only willing to spend up to £1.74. The latter group was most likely to believe that delivery should always be free (48%).

Drop in consumer trust following the pandemic, while older generations are less loyal than their younger counterparts

One in five people believe that more than half of online reviews are fake. However, a third (30%) listed product reviews as an important consideration when choosing where to buy. 

More than a quarter (26%) said product reviews would encourage them to switch to another brand. But friends (75%) and relatives (71%) were the most important sources of advice for product recommendations, with social media influencing more than half (57%) of Gen Z.

Brand loyalty appeared to decline with age: 7% of Gen Z and 9% of Millennials claimed not to be loyal to any brands. The same answer was given by 17% Gen X, 23% Baby Boomers and 31% Silent Generation. 

Shoppers recognise a greater risk of fraud following the pandemic

In addition, our research found that 46% of shoppers feel that there is a greater risk of fraud now than before the pandemic. 50% believed there to be the same risk now as before – rising to 60% for Baby Boomers. 

In response to this perceived risk of fraud, consumers said they would only shop from trusted businesses (47%). A third (34%) said they change their passwords more frequently, while a fifth (22%) have been put off from buying from certain countries and 18% from some brands. 15% of people haven’t changed their buying behaviour at all.

Angus Burrell, SVP Retail, emerchantpay “The rise of eCommerce has undoubtedly changed the way we buy and it’s interesting to see that UK consumers continue to look beyond geographic boundaries despite Brexit or the pandemic. When it comes to the things that influence where we buy or how much we spend, like reviews or delivery charges, there are obvious differences between generational groups and it’s up to retailers to interpret these findings to understand their buyers. One thing is certain: retailers are under even greater pressure to ensure that the customer experience is as smooth and efficient as possible across all channels, wherever and however their customers want to buy.” 

Why a Post-Pandemic, Post-Brexit Britain Needs Women in STEM

According to 2019 figures from the UK Government, there are now just over a million women (1,019,400) in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) workforce. This translates to an increase of more than 350,000 women (24%) entering these areas of work. While this may be encouraging to hear, there is still a long way to go for gender equality in these male-dominated industries.

2020’s target was hit. 2030’s target of 1.5 million women in STEM occupations would see 30% of this workforce filled by women. According to the Harvard University Institute of Politics, 30% is the ‘critical mass’ level where a minority group of women would have the ability to influence real change.

In a post-pandemic, post-Brexit world, women in STEM have become more important than ever. These two events have highlighted issues within these sectors which we will look at here.

 

Exasperated inequality

The COVID-19 pandemic affected the world in many different ways – one being unravelling the limited progress we had made towards gender equality over the last couple of decades. While research has reported that men are more susceptible to severe effects of COVID-19, the financial and social toll is paid by more women. Women in insecure, informal, and lower-paid jobs experienced more loss of employment. Furthermore, Black, Asian, and Ethnic Minority women (BAME) were hit hardest by job cuts.

Working in STEM, you’re likely to have a high-paid job. There is a lot of growth in these jobs as well as high employment rates for graduates and being revolutionised by technology. Women are at a disadvantage by being underrepresented in some of the most lucrative and secure industries.

According to the UN’s report, Policy Brief: The Impact of COVID-19 on Women: “Across the globe, women earn less, save less, hold less secure jobs, are more likely to be employed in the informal sector. They have less access to social protection and are the majority of single-parent households. Their capacity to absorb economic shocks is therefore less than that of men.” 

 

Diverse perspectives

Melinda Gates, a renowned philanthropist and former general manager at Microsoft, said: “Innovation happens when we approach urgent challenges from every different point of view. Bringing women and underrepresented minorities into the field guarantees that we see the full range of solutions to the real problems that people face in the world.”

The pandemic taught us that empathetic, reactive, and agile leadership was essential to help curb the spread of the virus. Legislation brought in by female prime minister of New Zealand Jacinda Ardern helped stamp out the virus across the entire country. It has been reported that female leaders have handled the pandemic crisis well.

Now more than ever it is important to have a female point of view in the workplace, not just in politics and running countries, but in industries where women are underrepresented. Women can bring diverse and fresh perspectives to male-dominated fields, creating a better platform for innovation, creativity, and decision-making.

 

Embracing and encouraging women in STEM

Glass ceilings can be one of the primary reasons why women shy away from degrees and occupations in STEM. Throughout their education, girls are systematically drawn away from science and math courses, which discourages them from pursuing opportunities and training to enter these fields professionally.

We can encourage women to pursue STEM by:

  1. Exposing girls to STEM material and introduce female role models in these industries at a young age 
  2. Encourage participation in STEM programmes through funding and ambassadors
  3. Break down stereotypes around male and female careers.

It’s important we open doors for women into STEM to not only benefit the industry but to create better opportunities for both women and the world. If you’re interested in pursuing STEM courses at university but have already applied for another course, explore your options; from Clearing in Edinburgh to apprenticeships in Newcastle.

Brexit and Data: Are You Going With the Flow?

Since the inception of GDPR, data flow has been a significant and often time consuming aspect of running a business successfully. Whether it’s the handling of employee data, or that of customers, it’s important that all regulations are adhered to, to avoid any potential fines. 

Since the UK officially completed its separation from the EU on 31 December 2020, many business owners have been concerned about how this will impact data flow between the UK and EU. Here Phil Parkinson, Head of Commercial law at Blacks Solicitors, discusses what businesses need to know when it comes to understanding data flow in a post-Brexit world.

Updates and the flow of data

After Brexit, there has been serious concern that data flow between the UK and the EU would be seriously hampered, meaning a stifled and difficult process for businesses.

The UK had already decided pre Brexit that the UK to EU data adhered to GDPR regulations as this had been implemented, however we were waiting for the EU to decide whether data transfer from the UK to EU was deemed adequate and could flow as before. 

At the time of writing, the EU has decided that the UK is an adequate country and therefore data may flow freely between the two. This is the latest stage in an ongoing process and the approval should allow the European Commission to formally adopt the decision. 

However, there have been challenges to this being adopted; for example MEP’s urged a rethink on the decision, citing concerns about how the UK would use data in the future. As an example, the case of ‘Schrems II’ in 2020 highlights the significant concerns (as much political as legal) that there is mistrust between countries and they are wary of how their residents’ data is being used. 

What about GDPR?

Post Brexit, the EU laws relating to GDPR will now not apply in the UK. However, with so much work having gone into GDPR compliance in 2018, there is now ‘UK GDPR’ which has been incorporated into UK law alongside the Data Protection Act 2018. 

UK businesses will be covered by the UK data protection regime and only minor tweaks to policies and documents are likely to be required, such as taking out now outdated references to the EU.

Are business owners at risk? 

The UK government has stated that data transfers to the EEA (European Economic Area) are not restricted, so data can still be sent from the UK to the EEA.

If your organisation operates in the EEA, you need to comply with both UK and EU data protection regulations. You may also need to appoint a representative in Europe and take note of, and follow the EU’s adequacy decision process.

As long as businesses continue to be in compliance with EU GDPR regulations, then the transition should be seamless. In fact it’s in the interests of the government, business and the economy to keep it as smooth as possible. However, if your business is reliant on EU data flows, it’s worth keeping an eye out for any changes in the law.

What else do you need to know?

In May 2021, The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) announced that it’s working on bespoke UK standard contractual clauses for international data transfers, replacing the EU Standard Contractual Clauses. 

As quoted by ICO Deputy Commissioner, Steve Wood, “I think we recognise that standard contractual clauses are one of the most heavily used transfer tools in UK GDPR. We’ve always sought to help organisations use them effectively with our guidance. The ICO is working on bespoke UK standard clauses for international transfers, and we intend to go out for consultation on those in the summer. 

We’re also considering the value to the UK for us to recognise transfer tools from other countries, so standard data transfer agreements, so that would include the EU’s standard contractual clauses as well.” 

Will there be different rules for different sectors? 

No, but every business should consider any sector driven advice. Remember that data flows don’t necessarily go in a logical path. If there are servers in the EU for instance, each business needs to consider how they may be affected and take advice accordingly.

Malta Grey listed by FATF: Market Insider’s View on How it Will Impact Country’s Financial Services Sector

Malta has become the first European country in recent history to be grey listed by the FATF for insufficient AML enforcement. Marius Galdikas, CEO at ConnectPay, has shared his views on the effects this could have on the Maltese financial services sector and the economy as a whole.

Recently the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), a global organization established to combat anti-money laundering, added Malta to its list of Jurisdictions Under Increased Monitoring, otherwise known as the “grey-list”, for alleged AML policy violations. Marius Galdikas, CEO at ConnectPay, a provider of online banking services, stated that this may pose serious economic consequences for the country and its residents.

Malta first came under the radar of the FATF in July 2019, when Moneyval, the EU regional monitoring body, announced that the country had failed a routine review. giving 12 months to address AML shortcomings identified in the report. Although Malta had passed the Moneyval assessment earlier this year, in June 2021, the FATF countered the previously favorable verdict by grey listing the country along with three other erring countries: Haiti, South Sudan, and the Philippines.

Maltese FIs have been under pressure from regulatory authorities due to a variety of industries —usually deemed higher-risk—thriving in the country, e.g. gaming, which in 2019 contributed 1.56 billion euros to the country’s economy. However, according to M. Galdikas, historically Malta has been meticulous in adhering to a high level of compliance, noting that current situation does not fully reflect upon all the work that has been put into ensuring robust compliance policies in the country.

“Malta has been significantly improving it’s money laundering prevention regulations in the past few years. The country has been practicing additional regulatory scrutiny by various authorities as well. A good example of this could be the Malta Gaming Authority, which was established in order to provide an extra layer of security for its booming gaming sector. The MGA is still considered one of the top gaming regulators in the world,” he commented. “Considering what has been done to set up a solid compliance framework, the decision to grey-list Malta seems rather swift.”

While the decision means that the country will be subject to additional scrutiny and monitoring by FATF, the repercussions could have much larger implications, as businesses established in the country might face backlash from the traditional financial institutions (FIs). 

“Seeking to de-risk their portfolio and avoid potential fines, some FIs may be inclined to terminate certain accounts associated with the ambiguous sectors. Leaving businesses high and dry could force companies to leave the country altogether, which would deliver a serious blow to its economy,” Galdikas explained.

Galdikas, who has had the opportunity to work with a number of prominent clients in Malta, outlined the importance for FIs to avoid inadvertent decisions and evaluate each company on a case-by-case basis and not paint the entire country with the same brush.

“If a company meets the required due diligence, it should not be cut off regardless of the industry, as mitigating regulatory risks are inherently the FIs’ responsibility,” Galdikas noted. “That’s why we continuously invest in maintaining a top-level compliance team to support businesses operating in highly demanding environments regulation-wise, and will continue to collaborate with Malta-based companies as well.”

“We take the added risks and exercise precaution because we know that despite the complexities we deal with – our clients work as diligently with us as we do for them,” he concluded.

Co-op Businesses More Resilient to Covid

  • Just 1.5 per cent of co-ops were dissolved in 2020 compared to 6.5 per cent of businesses generally
  • Co-ops four times less likely to cease trading
  • Number of independent co-ops grew by 1.2 per cent in 2020 despite the global pandemic
  • Turnover for the UK’s 7,237 co-ops grows to 39.7 billion pounds (an increase of 1.1bn pounds)
  • CEOs of largest co-operatives in the UK ask Rishi Sunak to invest in business support
  • Co-ops are more ambitious than small businesses generally, with 61 per cent of co-ops expressing ambitions to grow or develop in the first quarter of 2021

Co-op businesses are more resilient to the economic devastation caused by Covid according to a new report released on the 28th of June, prompting a call for more government investment led by CEO of The Co-op, Steve Murrells.

The Co-op Economy 2021, compiled by trade body Co-operatives UK, reveals that co-ops were four times less likely to go bust in 2020 than businesses generally, despite the global pandemic. The number of co-ops (a diverse sector of member-owned businesses from community owned sports clubs to housing associations and credit unions) is also on the increase across the UK – bucking an overall trend of declining business numbers.

Co-operatives UK CEO, Rose Marley, said: “We know co-operatives are resilient and sustainable businesses – but it’s not just their resilience that is critical to reducing the inequalities in the UK. It’s fundamentally about ownership. People are looking for a stake in the places they live, work and consume and the co-op model distributes this decision-making power.

“Why are co-ops so resilient? The co-operative purpose, ownership and governance all dictate long-termism. In an economic shock it’s the members calling the shots in their collective, long-term interests, not investors making decisions based on short-term returns. Co-ops patiently build-up and reinvest reserves and use members’ capital wherever possible, rather than piling on debt to achieve faster growth.” She adds.

In 2020 the number of independent co-op businesses operating in the UK grew by 1.2 per cent, with almost twice as many new co-ops created as dissolved (193 versus 107). In contrast, the number of UK businesses overall fell, with company closures outstripping new starts (389,965 versus 382,560). Just 1.5 per cent of co-ops were dissolved over the 12 months compared to 6.5 per cent of businesses generally*.

Rose Marley said: “”We are increasingly excited by the growth and interest in what is becoming known as the democratic economy. And co-ops also anchor wealth in local communities, which brings a whole plethora of additional benefits.

“We’re now calling for more business support to grow this increasingly valuable sector. To have even more impact in terms of levelling up the economy, co-ops need the support that other business models receive as a matter of course. Co-ops have been marginalised and underrated for far too long.”

The CEOs of nine of the largest retail societies in the UK have jointly written to Chancellor Rishi Sunak calling for more tailored business support for co-operatives catering to their distinct approach to capital raising, business strategy and organisational development.

CEO of the UK’s largest co-op, The Co-op, Steve Murrells said, “If we genuinely want to build back Britain better, but also take the opportunity to build back different, this must be a decade of collective action.

“The heart of every co-operative has always been the idea that, by coming together, we can all improve our situation, and make sure that nobody gets left behind. It’s something we see adopted by co-operatives across the country, of any size – the Government needs to support their future development.”

Co-ops are also markedly more ambitious than small businesses generally, with 61 per cent of co-ops expressing ambitions to grow/develop in the first quarter of 2021, compared with 53 per cent of small businesses generally.

50% of Companies Have Failed or Are Not Compliant with Payment Transactions Security Standard, Poll Finds

According to a recent poll by SentryBay, the UK-based cybersecurity software company, the infrastructure of over 21% of surveyed companies has failed key PCI compliance assessments, designed to assist them to maintain high security standards when processing customer card payments. In addition, a further 29.3% said that they had no confidence in their own company’s compliance when it came to PCI DSS.

The poll, which was carried out earlier this month on Twitter amongst cyber security professionals, also found that there was a lack of confidence in the PCI standards within today’s hybrid working environments. More than 50% said that they either believed PCI regulations were not relevant or that they needed adjusting to suit current working models.

The PCI DSS standard mandates that organisations maintain a secure network and systems to host transactions, including a properly configured network firewall to protect cardholder data, and restrict data access to those with a genuine business need.

This is proving difficult, as the SentryBay poll found out. When asked what the biggest challenges were to ensuring compliance, 30.7% said it was too complex while 23.6% thought that that the contradictions of the process were the biggest barrier.

For businesses that are trying to manage their evolving security landscapes as the workforce remains in flux following the pandemic, addressing the numerous security requirements of PCI is a daily task. Over 24% of respondents said that educating employees on PCI compliance was their biggest challenge.

Dave Waterson, CEO at SentryBay, said: “Data security and compliance are common challenges across every touch point of the customer journey and companies should have more confidence in the standards and their own ability to adhere to them, however tasking this is. Organisations should work towards being compliant and secure simultaneously by changing their culture to address the layers of security required to meet standards.”

Regions and Cities Want to Make Social Economy a Lever for Economic Recovery

The EU’s regions and cities are looking forward to the Social Economy Action Plan, which the European Commission is expected to publish before the end of the year. The opinion adopted by the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) on Thursday underlines that it is essential to harness the full potential of social economy enterprises and organisations to ensure economic recovery, to promote collective entrepreneurship and to create high-quality jobs after the COVID-19 crisis.

Diverse forms of social economy enterprises and organisations currently employ 13.6 million workers, which corresponds to around 6.3% of the EU workforce. Rapporteur Mikel Irujo (ES/EA), Minister for Economic and Business Development of the Navarre Regional Government, highlighted that that these businesses have local roots and shared values, such as the primacy of individuals and the social purpose over capital, democratic governance and the reinvestment of most of the profits in a sustainable way.

“EU action to promote the development of the social economy is particularly relevant due to the economic and social crisis caused by COVID‑19. Social economy enterprises and organisations are businesses that never relocate, as they are created in the local area and owned by people based there, and are strongly committed to the economic and social development of the place where they operate. It is important that regions include the social economy in their smart specialisation strategies as a key lever for economic and social development”, Mr Irujo said when presenting the opinion.

However, the CoR opinion points out a need to support, finance and strengthen social economy networks at European level. Social economy enterprises and organisations often face difficulties in accessing finance and operating transnationally in the Single Market, partly due to poor visibility and understanding of their business models and lack of common legal frameworks covering different forms of social economy.

Regions and cities are calling on the Commission to promote education and training for entrepreneurship throughh different forms of social economy at all educational levels, and to support the training and life-long learning access of social economy workers through the Pact for Skills. The opinion also suggests to strengthen cooperation with the industrial ecosystem of the social economy and to build alliances with other business actors, public authorities, vocational training centres, professional schools, universities and research centres..

The CoR would also like to see more ambitious initiatives to support the role of local and regional authorities in promoting the social economy. The Commission should boost the visibility of the social economy with a broad communication campaign, which could include publishing a guide to public social economy policies, selecting a European Capital of Social Economy and creating a single online platform which links all European studies and reports on the social economy and the opportunities offered by the EU in this field.

Finally, the Social Economy Action Plan should have a timescale of at least five years for its implementation with appropriate mechanisms for monitoring and supporting social economy policies. The opinion also calls for cross-sectoral social dialogue with social economy employer

How Holiday Lets Can Make the Most of the Staycation Boom

As the UK emerges out of lockdown and ventures towards normality, people are ready to make the most of the upcoming holiday season. With international travel being out of reach for the time being, UK hotels, hostels, and B&Bs have been given the go-ahead to re-open their doors, so people can finally get away for a long-awaited break.

This is welcome news for the hospitality industry, and holiday let owners are anticipating a surge of bookings as a result. In fact, a staycation boom is on the cards with 71 per cent of people intending to holiday in the UK this summer. Domestic holiday sales are expected to reach a 10-year high, and people are set to spend around £7.1 billion on holidaying closer to home.

A big part of this is down to continued uncertainty around foreign travel, which is deterring many from holidaying abroad this year. The government’s travel traffic light system means there is only a handful of ‘green list’ destinations deemed safe to visit without quarantine and visiting ‘amber’ or ‘red’ countries means people face the added expense of compulsory testing or 10-day stays in quarantine hotels.

So with the appetite for British staycations now at a high, Flogas, a provider of commercial LPG, looks at how the holiday let industry can make the most of this unique opportunity.

Publicise COVID safety measures

Whilst confidence is growing, people are still naturally feeling cautious about holidaying due to the pandemic. This means one of the key things they’re looking for when planning a staycation is reassurance that accommodation is COVID-secure.

To allay any fears and appease more anxious travellers, holiday let owners should make sure they’re clearly communicating how COVID-safe their accommodation is. People will be reassured to hear about any additional steps that are being taken, such as enhanced cleaning regimes, one-way systems, and staff training. Owners can even go one step further in boosting customer confidence and gain proper accreditation. For example, AA COVID Confident, which launched last year and is supported by 19 industry bodies, is a free accreditation scheme that’s open to all hospitality establishments. 

Make the most of last-minute bookings

Since the pandemic hit, the industry has noticed a change in booking habits from holidaymakers. Concerned about shifting restrictions and enforced cancellations, they are now taking a much shorter-term approach to bookings, and there’s been a notable increase in spontaneous travel. In fact, recent data shows that 69 per cent of UK bookings were being made within just seven days.

To make the most of this new trend, holiday let owners should ensure they have instant booking facilities in place and the ability to respond quickly to incoming requests. They should also make sure they’re publicising any last-minute availability as much as possible.

Offer enhanced booking flexibility

From local outbreaks to people being unwell, COVID continues to present a level of travel uncertainty and therefore heightens the risk of cancellations. As result, holiday let owners should make sure they’re offering flexibility to customers, as this will help boost bookings.

Flexible refund policies will allow people to book their holidays safe in the knowledge that they won’t lose out financially if they need to cancel due to COVID. It’s also worthwhile staying in touch with customers in the run-up to their stay to make sure they’re still planning to attend. This will help avoid any last-minute cancellations that then can’t be replaced.

Welcome a new type of visitor

Thanks to COVID, holiday let owners are now catering to a new type of customer. The flexibility of working remotely, alongside the desire for a change of scenery, means people are starting to combine work and play by booking flexcations. To make the most of this new trend, hotels and B&Bs should make sure they offer a convenient working space and most importantly, strong Wi-Fi.

Dogs are another new customer to consider. There’s been a staggering rise in people buying pets and 3.2 million were bought during lockdown. Those with dog-friendly accommodation are set to benefit from this, as it’s expected to be a key search term for holidaymakers this year.

Maximise your marketing

Those keen to make the most of this year’s staycation boom need to maximise their marketing efforts. This starts with the website, and holiday let owners need to ensure it highlights key information, unique selling points, is easy to use and has up-to-date, eye-catching imagery. 

This also extends to social media platforms, so ensure the likes of Instagram and Facebook are being used effectively to promote offerings. Owners can also use these channels to attract customers with enticing offers, such as off-season deals to drive revenue during quieter months.

Ultimately the best marketing tactic is the guest experience, so keeping the customer happy is key. Not only do happy customers return, but they inspire others to visit with all-important positive reviews. Whether it’s on Trustpilot, Google reviews, TripAdvisor, or their own platforms, owners should make sure they’re encouraging guests to review their accommodation when checking out.

Make sure that your business is prepared for the staycation boom this summer and maximise the potential of your holiday let to attract more customers. Whether through marketing, last-minute bookings, or ensuring that your safety standards are up to scratch, we can all enjoy a successful summer this year.

Turkish Airlines and Turkish Cargo Rise to the Top Amid Pandemic

Although the aviation industry took a hard hit in 2020 and suffered its heaviest losses to date, Turkish Airlines distinguished itself with relatively good business performance. According to CAPA (Centre for Aviation, part of the Aviation Week Network) Turkish Airlines established itself as the busiest aircraft carrier in Europe during the pandemic, and one of the top five airlines in the world. This was achieved by a series of agile steps to maintain liquidity, keep costs at a manageable level and adapt to the “new normal”.

Turkish Airlines successfully ended the fiscal year 2020 with 6.7 billion USD revenue, which accounts for 50% of the preceding year’s level, with a net loss of only 836 million USD. During these uncertain times, the airline was also able to maintain its robust route network. According to Eurocontrol, in April 2021 Turkish Airlines operated an average of 685 flights per day – almost double the number of the closest competitor in Europe, Lufthansa. In 2020, Turkish Airlines flew 28 million passengers, with an impressive load factor of 71%. Currently, the airline serves 179 international destinations with 16 intercountry and 58 intercontinental flights. The new Istanbul Airport also stayed on top: even with a 68% loss of traffic, it was still Europe’s most successful airport as of March 2021, with 616 departing and arriving flights.

This success is based on cost cutting activities, capex reduction and active capacity management. In fact, Turkish Airlines achieved such performance without relying on any governmental cash injections. Furthermore, agreements with Boeing and Airbus on fleet growth will further decrease the aircraft financing needs of Turkish Airlines by around 7 billion USD in the coming years.

“Our success as the best performing flag-carrier airline in Europe is not coincidental. Apart from the multiple measures we took, we owe this success to our dedicated staff. While other airlines faced layoffs, we did not part ways with any of our colleagues during this process. Instead everyone within Turkish Airlines accepted salary cuts from up to 50% depending on the role and responsibilities. The exceptional sense of unity within our staff is what sets Turkish Airlines apart: together as a family, we decided that no member of the Turkish Airlines family would be left behind during this crisis.”, says Turkish Airlines’ Chairman of the Board and the Executive Committee, M. İlker Aycı.

Turkish Airlines also turned the pandemic into an opportunity to increase its cargo operations, with 50 of its passenger aircrafts being reconfigured to increase its cargo fleet capacity. Turkish Cargo managed to become one of the top five air cargo companies in the world and the 6th largest cargo company. The company increased its market share in total global cargo revenue from 0.6% in 2009 to 4.7% in 2020. As of February 2021, one in 20 cargo flights around the world were handled by Turkish Cargo.

This allowed Turkish Cargo to deliver 50,000 tons of medical supplies, including more than 45 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines, to destinations all over the world. In addition, new technologies and innovative solutions have been developed. One example is SmartIST, one of the largest air cargo facilities in the world, which is scheduled to open this year. Located at Istanbul Airport, the facility uses modern technology such as drones and automated robots to process and deliver goods even faster.

EU Digital ID Wallets: Success Depends on Robust Foundations and Value Perceived by Citizens, Expert Says

The European Commission has unveiled plans to launch pan-European Digital ID wallets. Marius Galdikas, CEO at ConnectPay, outlined key challenges that need to be addressed before the launch, as well as why its success largely depends on value perceived by EU citizens.

On the 3rd of June, the European Commission announced plans to launch a new framework: European Digital Identity wallets, which will be available to all EU-residing citizens, residents and businesses. According to Marius Galdikas, CEO at ConnectPay, its true impact on the market will largely depend on how and if EU citizens perceive its value.

The digital wallet will securely store payment details and passwords, allowing Europeans to access public and private services, e.g. renting a flat, accessing a bank account, applying for loans, etc., via a single recognizable identity. Most importantly, it will be a standalone identification method, eliminating the needless sharing of personal data.

According to Galdikas, the main missing piece that prevents the European Union to truly unify the market is the lack of foundational capabilities, especially in the financial sector. This capability, just like any marketplace, will require a significant push to be adopted. That’s why one of the main challenges surrounding the EU eID will be introducing the idea to EU citizens, as projecting a clear-cut value proposition could give it the much-needed boost.

“If EU citizens do not sign-up, there will be no point for businesses to use this wallet,” Galdikas said. “Furthermore, people will not be inclined to sign up unless there is clear value for them, in other words, a sufficient number of businesses that have already signed up. Interestingly enough, this dilemma becomes similar to “the chicken or the egg” question, as both business and citizens want to be able to anticipate plausible benefits.”

Currently, there are 19 e-ID schemes used by 14 European Union countries, however, according to the European Commission, their “take-up is low” due to limited business applications and cumbersome use.

“The existing e-ID schemes are fragmented in terms of their capabilities and geographical coverage. Different countries have different options, which makes delivering a truly EU-wide service an uphill battle as the services are being deployed country-by-country,” Galdikas explained.

“This means that the largest EU markets are reaping the perks of innovation due to its size and available resources, while the smaller ones get left out for the very same reasons – this a simple business case question when assessing each market,” he commented.

Galdikas also emphasized the inherent security question whilst outlining similarities with Aadhaar, a unique 12-digit identity code in India.

“Like Aadhaar, this has not only significant benefits to the citizens but also becomes a single point of failure: a single database maintaining sensitive information of all EU citizens becomes a target for non-friendly folk. Thus security by design has to be built into the solution to deliver the convenience of a single digital identity without compromising data.”

The EU eID wallet has immense potential to transform and unify the market, consequently taking on such tech giants like Google and Facebook in terms of reigning in their control of personal data. However, whether it will truly diminish the cross-border red tape remains to be seen.

Young Retail Investor Sign-ups Double on Mintos

Mintos, an alternative investment marketplace for investing in loans, notes a 9% growth of young investors in the first half of 2021.

A recent report from Mintos, Europe’s leading marketplace for investing in loans observes a noticeable growth of young investors. In the first half of 2021, the investment platform saw a 9% growth among its young users–from 377,982 the number of young investors increased to over 417,345 individuals.

Over 75% of these investors on the platform are millennials and younger, building up the largest market of investing in loans in Europe to €6.6 billion, currently holding 45% of the European loan investment market. 

The trend of increasingly younger investors commenced from the start of 2020 and continued throughout the first two quarters of 2021. In the first months of this year, the age group of 18-24 showed the biggest interest in investing in loans, making them the biggest new investor cohort on Mintos. The distribution of age among those choosing to start investing in alternative assets has evened out, but the average age on the Mintos platform for new sign-ups remains 18-24 years old.

“Mintos was launched back in 2015. Interestingly, if we look back to early 2018–the year the company started its active expansion into the Western European market prior to booming among retail investors in 2019 – we can conclude that the most prevalent age range among our clients, who chose to start investing on Mintos were 30-34, with 35-39 age group following right after,” claims Martin Sulte, the CEO of Mintos.

By the end of 2018, the most popular age group among Mintos investors remained to be 30-34-year-olds, however, 25-29 had caught up as the second most common age range of platform users. As the younger investors paid increasingly more attention and chose to invest in loans, at the very end of 2019 an evident growth of new investors across all three age groups, including the 18-24 age group, was prominent.

“In the first months of 2020 we observed an interesting shift—the investor group in the 35-39 of age range was pushed down from the top 3 new investor groups by the younger investors in the range of 18-24 years old due to the strong influx of their growing interest in alternative assets,” explains Sulte.

Such an increase of new young investors has motivated Mintos to intensify sharing of practical knowledge, investing tips, and educational material—an idea that’s been in the works under the name of “Investors Academy” to be launched on the platform’s web once Mintos becomes a regulated marketplace. Slated to become a dedicated educational resource where investors will be able to access useful knowledge and learn about successful investing, as well as join a community environment where individual input will be shared between investors in order to be able to learn from each others’ experiences.

Until then, the company shares insights on investing over its blog – a compilation of up-to-date resourceful materials on investment goals, diversification efforts, and risk management can be found, providing useful tips for any level of investors experience. 

Where Brits Should Put Down Roots Post Brexit

Top choices might be Spain, France, Australia and New Zealand but they are not the easiest places to set up in. Now, multi-family office Huriya Private list the most viable destinations for Brits to consider…

Freedom of movement may have ended now that Brexit has been officially implemented, but many Britons are still yearning to move abroad and experience life outside the UK. If you’re still working from home and wondering if you can relocate far beyond UK shores without too many restrictions, Huriya Private’s list of alternative destinations are a starting point to begin looking further afield from the typical choices like Spain, France, Australia and New Zealand.

Turkey

Similar to the UK, Turkey is not part of Europe, but its new Citizenship by Investment program has garnered a lot of attention. Buy a property anywhere in Turkey over USD$250k in value, and not only are you entitled to live in Turkey, but you will be Turkish.  That’s correct, in as little as three months, you can choose to have a Turkish passport, and all the local benefits that go along with it, from healthcare to education.

From a financial perspective, Turkey is up the charts, now that the weakened Turkish lira means you get four times more local money in exchange for sterling than five years ago. “This makes both property and the cost of living exceptionally affordable,” says John Hanafin, CEO and Founder of Huriya Private. The fact that freehold property has only become available to foreign buyers a few years ago, still allows massive opportunities for double digit capital growth in Istanbul apartments, as an example.

Additionally, Turkey is a great option for those seeking a good lifestyle in the sun on a UK pension. Being outside the EU has other advantages. Residency procedures are simpler than for most countries, yet you’re only a four-hour flight from the UK, with plenty of budget airlines in summer. Turkey is three times the size of the UK and varies considerably from the western, ‘turquoise coast’ on the Mediterranean, which looks and feels very like Greece or Italy.

Greece

The biggest benefit of this Mediterranean country – besides the sunshine ( which is roughly twice as much as the UK per year) is that “Greece has low tax schemes for retirees and a golden visa scheme for property investors,” says Hanafin. Invest over Eur250k into Greek real estate, and you are entitled to apply for the Greek Golden Visa (EU permanent residence). This EU residence card allows the holder to travel visa free all throughout the Schengen area.

It can be the epitome of relaxed island life, where the best things in life are free and the people are kind and friendly.

Whilst the property prices in Athens have already jumped, there are still some wonderful options. The most popular islands for Britons are the furthest apart – Corfu on the Italian side, Crete down south almost closer to Africa than Europe, and Rhodes, sitting off the coast of Turkey. The mainland also offers many options such as the Peloponnese if you want to have access to better and consistent health care services which can be on the haphazard side on the islands.

 

Portugal

EU’s best kept tax secret, and a superb and highly successful Golden Visa Program, the now more favoured alternative to Spain, Portugal has come up in the stakes due to its flexible tax regime (the habitual residence scheme allows new residents a 10 year tax holiday on worldwide earnings) and their now famous golden visa program offers EU residency cards (and passports after 5 years) for those buying a property over Eur280k.

“Keep in mind that there are capital guaranteed projects in Portugal at only Eur280k of investment. EU residence cards for your family after 8 months, and the options for Portuguese passports after 5 years, without the requirement for physical residence in Portugal. What’s not to like?,” notes Hanafin.

With big changes coming to the program on January 1st 2022, investors are rushing to get in whilst the window is still open.

UAE

When there’s no tax, no crime as well as no litter, Dubai is an evident and illustrious option. “It has zero taxation and a can-do business environment, which has led to some of the world’s highest earners relocating to the futuristic city. It’s also the ideal connection between East and West,” says Hanafin. Dubai was named by one major survey as the best place to be an expat in the world and has always had a longstanding connection with the UK. The UAE’s handling of the Covid pandemic was superb with 95% of the country already vaccinated. Dubai has been fully open for business since last summer, and this is now clearly reflected in the economy with property prices jumping. 

With the country celebrating its 50th birthday this year, and hosting the EXPO 2020, it seems things will not slow down any time soon for this expat favourite.  

Ireland

A hop and a skip from London brings you to “the last English speaking country in Europe”, a somewhat ironic comment in the promotional material of the government approved agents for the Irish “Immigrant Investor Programme (IIP)”.

Looking for best education for the next generation? Ireland is still leading the way in many research areas, as their modern day scholars innovate and discover new solutions to the world’s problems. All of Ireland’s Universities are ranked in the top 5% globally with the Irish education system ranked in the Top 10 internationally.

In International research rankings, Ireland is: 1st in Immunology, 1st in Animal and Dairy, 2nd in Nanotechnology, 2nd in Agricultural Sciences, 4th in Molecular Biology and Genetics (the list goes on).

The IIP is open to non-EEA nationals who commit to an approved investment in Ireland. The Immigrant Investor Programme requires a minimum investment of €1m, from the applicants own resources and not financed through a loan or other such facility, which must be committed for a minimum of three years. Other advantages? No requirement to learn English.,Residency requirement only 1 day per year. Full Stamp 4 visa provided for five years and renewed every five years, even after the investment period is closed and the investors money is returned.

Five Strengths and Five Flaws in the EU’s New Import One-Stop Shop

From 1 July, British retailers selling to the EU face huge changes to VAT regulations. ParcelHero reveals five reasons the new IOSS scheme is great news for UK sellers and five reasons it’s also frustratingly flawed.

Beleaguered British retailers are braced for yet more changes to how they sell goods to the EU. From 1 July, a new EU Import One-Stop Shop (IOSS) scheme means British-based e-commerce companies only need to register and pay VAT in one EU country to sell goods not exceeding £135/€150 across the entire EU. The new IOSS regulations certainly make retailers’ lives easier, but they aren’t entirely good news, says the international delivery expert ParcelHero.

ParcelHero’s Head of Consumer Research, David Jinks M.I.L.T., says: ‘On the face of it, the new IOSS scheme helps return things to their pre-Brexit norm. However, in the case of the IOSS, the devil really is in the detail. We’re revealing five reasons GB traders should welcome the new scheme and five reasons the IOSS might make selling to EU customers even more complicated and expensive.’

Five reasons to welcome the new IOSS

1. IOSS greatly simplifies VAT procedures by allowing non-EU online sellers (remember that includes sellers based in Great Britain post-Brexit) to register for VAT in one EU member state, collect VAT from all their EU sales and report on a single monthly IOSS VAT return. No more multiple VAT filings in multiple countries.

2. Life is greatly simplified for sellers using online marketplaces. These become the ‘supplier’ when cross border B2C sales are made on them by third-party sellers. VAT liability (collecting and reporting) for sales in EU countries will fall on the marketplace rather than the merchant, providing the consignment is valued at less than £135 (€150).  Our top tip is that businesses using only online marketplaces may now be able to end any existing EU VAT registrations, as they will no longer be responsible for collecting and reporting VAT.

3. Retailers’ EU-based customers won’t be facing any more unexpected VAT payments on purchases of goods sold in Britain, which will build back trust in buying from GB sellers.

4. Northern Ireland-based companies may enjoy an exemption threshold. NI firms can join the alternative intra-EU OSS scheme. Providing their sales to the EU don’t exceed £8,818/€10,000 per annum, NI-based organisations will be exempt from paying VAT.

5. The IOSS scheme is voluntary and will speed up sellers’ EU shipments by creating a fast-track Customs clearance ‘green channel’ for consignments not exceeding £135/€150.

Five flaws in the new IOSS

1. The changes remove the previous VAT exemptions for SMEs on EU shipments worth £19/€22 or under. That means about 26,000 UK e-commerce sellers will have to register for VAT for the first time or stop selling to the EU.

2. The EU estimates it will cost around £6,900 per company each year for British sellers (that excludes Northern Ireland companies) to register and comply with IOSS regulations as a ‘non-Union’ user.

3. Unlike EU-based OSS users, IOSS users based in Great Britain don’t qualify for the new £8,818/€10,000 threshold before they have to pay VAT. Only Northern Ireland sellers (under the terms of the Northern Ireland Protocol) have this option.

4. The new IOSS only applies to deliveries of items valued under the £135/€150 threshold. For all goods over that amount, GB businesses will have three choices: ensure their customer pays the import VAT at Customs; offer the option of delivering with all duties paid (DDP) or hold stock somewhere in the EU and register for VAT there.

5. Confusion still exists around registration. The gov.uk website states: ‘…it is not expected that the UK IOSS registration portal will be available for use for the 1 July 2021 launch’. There is also uncertainty about whether GB companies signing up for IOSS in an EU country must appoint an intermediary agent to register and file returns. Together with the French and German governments, ParcelHero believes this requirement does not apply to British sellers, as the UK-EU trade deal includes a tax and VAT mutual assistance agreement. The Republic of Ireland is a favourite option for GB companies because it uses English in business but, just to complicate matters, it recently stated it doesn’t yet recognise the agreement. Consequently, it will require the use of an intermediary agent.

Europe Wide Open Call Launches for SME Businesses in the Fashion Industry As Part of the Small but Perfectly Formed Accelerator Project.

Small but Perfectly Formed is a cross Europe collaborative project that will accelerate fashion SME’s to transition to work within circular and sustainable business models. The project aims to select 28 SME led projects from around Europe working within circular and sustainable fashion, to support an 18 month project. The project will include a business development programme which will host an 8-month business accelerator and a 5-month R&D phase, culminating in a showcasing phase that will take place between July 2022 – April 2023. There is a funding allocation of €10,275 per partnership.

Our open call seeks to find projects working on a business idea for a product or service that will make the fashion industry more circular or sustainable from within. Applications should be from projects seeking to move beyond the concept or creative stage, that are ready to build towards a solution-based business. We anticipate projects coming from five broad groups:

  • Sustainable and circular fashion start-ups wishing to scale-up and/or replicate
  • Established sustainable and circular SMEs who wish to develop their businesses and work
    internationally
  • Established fashion SMEs who wish to transition to a circular and sustainable model
  • SMEs and initiatives who provide circular and sustainable solutions to the fashion sector
    e.g. recycling, circular systems design
  • Collaborations between fashion sector and non-fashion sector SMEs, businesses and
    initiatives to generate and test new collaboration models

Small but Perfectly Formed recognises that small businesses can pave the way for systemic change in the fashion industry. Small businesses are the foundations upon which wider solutions
across the industry can be introduced in a scalable and replicable manner that allows for long-term, sustainable change. They offer exciting, innovative solutions that can be replicated.

Luisa Rodrigues, Program Manager at Impact Hub Lisbon said ‘SMEs need tangible support but also a supportive environment to create or transition to circular and sustainable models and
business practices’. Over an 18-month period the Small but Perfectly Formed accelerator programme will offer SMEs the business support required to focus on people, purpose and planet,
rather than profit.

What the programme will offer the selected SME’s:

  • 8-month accelerator programme which will include 5 online modules, taking place in group
    webinar format, and 3 offline city bootcamps in Lisbon, Berlin and Athens enabling a
    deeper dive into topics and approaches.
  • Expert level business mentoring with industry leaders in Fashion, Social Enterprise,
    Technology and Circular Economy, as well as peer mentoring.
  • A 5-month self-led R&D phase including but not limited to: developing proofs of concept
    and prototypes of new products and services, creating and testing new business models,
    establishing collaborative methods to test sustainable/recycled materials and lab testing.
  • Financial support of €10,275 in the form of €6,000 R&D grant, €2250 travel grant for
    attending city bootcamps and €2025 showcasing grant.
  • Introduction to showcasing platform through Fashion Open Studio
    (www.fashionopenstudio.com) in collaboration with Neoynt.
  • Invites to networking and matchmaking events.
  • Access to resources generated by the project including acceleration toolkits, webinars,
    reports and insight.
  • Membership of the Small but Perfectly Formed network hosted on Common Objective.

    We believe sustainability and circularity in the fashion industry is achievable through collaboration, education and sharing knowledge, therefore Small but Perfectly Formed is partnering with Common Objective – a global tech solution for the sustainable fashion industry – to create a network of circular and sustainable fashion SMEs, business support organisations and experts. The network will be launched through two matchmaking events organised by the World Fair Trade Organisation on 24 June and 29 June. Erinch Sahan, CEO of World Fair Trade Organisation said “When like-minded organisations work together, they can change the world. This is why we are working to build a network of change-makers and social enterprises who will transform fashion”.

The SME partnership projects selected for the accelerator will contribute through collaborative and
interactive modules to an open-source SME accelerator toolkit. This toolkit will be utilised by the
wider network of small businesses to transform their businesses to more circular, more sustainable
enterprises.

The project was founded on the basis that without changing the system, we cannot expect changes made – at any level – to be truly sustainable. Small but Perfectly Formed will ‘accelerate the accelerators’ by working alongside business support organisations such as fashion weeks, fashion councils, industry bodies and financing/investment schemes to embed circularity, social and environmental sustainability into their business support and showcasing initiatives.

Small but Perfectly Formed will ‘accelerate the policymakers’ by mapping the policy landscape that affects sustainable and circular fashion SMEs, ensuring a lasting impact is made across the industry from start to finish. Over the course of the project, we will develop a network for SMEs making this transition as well as organisations that support them to exchange knowledge, learnings and best practice to effect wider systemic change in the fashion SME sector.

Orsola De Castro, Founder and Global Creative Director at Fashion Revolution said ‘Increasing the visibility of small businesses and practitioners will radically change the fashion and clothing panorama. Right now we are invaded by the sameness of the high street, be it high end or cheap, when in fact the alternatives to those models are where we will find real choice, real innovation, and the fashion future we are all looking for.’

Third UK Lockdown Produces Wave of Start-ups

  • The third national UK lockdown, starting January 2021, produced a wave of start-ups, with arts and crafts the most popular, according to a Direct Line business insurance analysis of new policy data
  • Nearly a quarter of Brits (22 per cent) have either already started or are planning to set up a new business after the latest phase of UK national restrictions
  • There were 30 per cent more businesses formed during the third national lockdown compared with the first, according to Companies House
  • Young people are flying the entrepreneurial flag, with more than one in three (36 per cent) looking to set up a kitchen table start-up during the latest UK lockdown


The third national UK lockdown produced a wave of start-ups, with arts and crafts the most common type of venture, according to Direct Line business insurance new policy data.

Nearly a quarter (22 per cent) of Brits have either started or are actively planning to set up a start-up, according to a separate Direct Line business insurance survey – three per cent more than those who did so after the pandemic initially hit in spring 2020.

The findings are backed by an analysis of Companies House data, which shows that there was a 30 per cent increase in incorporations of new businesses during the third national lockdown compared with April-June 2020. January to March 2021 saw 211,368 companies newly incorporated, compared with 162,479 during the opening months of the pandemic.

Despite being disproportionately affected by the economic impact of the pandemic, young people are flying the entrepreneurial flag. More than one in three are either actively exploring setting up their own business, or have already done so, fuelling optimism that the national recovery might be led by a youthful generation of entrepreneurs.

There were also some interesting differences between the 2021 findings and last year’s analysis of start-up trends after the first national lockdown, conducted by Direct Line business insurance.

 

In Spring 2020, the three most popular planned ventures were in IT (21 per cent), engineering (14 per cent) and property (eight per cent). But this year they are much more creative in nature, with survey results revealing that web-design (18 per cent) and arts and crafts (12 per cent) topped the list. Direct Line’s new policy data confirms this trend with arts and crafts being the most common new business venture to have started up since January 2021.

The 2020 survey also showed that many people were deterred from starting a business because of lack of money or investment, with 31 per cent identifying this as the primary reason they didn’t go through with it. General economic uncertainty was also a factor, with 25 per cent saying this was the main barrier to setting up a kitchen table start-up.

But this year’s findings suggest a rapidly changing picture. Of those who started a business during the third national lockdown, but did not do so during the first, 31 per cent have now accrued the necessary savings or funding, and 25 per cent feel the climate is now much more stable.

Underlining this sense of confidence, 76 per cent intend to make their start-up their main source of income. All this suggests growing optimism, which is most likely is connected to the ongoing vaccine rollout.

A cause of concern is that the percentage of new entrepreneurs ranking insurance as important has slightly dipped. Last year, 77 per cent said that taking out cover was a priority, compared with only 71 per cent after the third national lockdown in 2021. This suggests that some new entrepreneurs might be putting their ventures at risk.

Regionally, the top four areas with the most newly established entrepreneurs (those who have started or put plans in place for a new business) were:

  • London (45 per cent)
  • North East (39 per cent)
  • East Midlands (32 per cent)
  • East of England (27 per cent)

Interestingly, three of these four regions were also the most common areas for new start-ups last year, with only the North East a new entry in 2021.

Jane Morgan, SME Product Manager at Direct Line, said: “It is really encouraging to see that the third national lockdown has produced even more start-ups than last Spring, and that so many young people are demonstrating the confidence to set up a new venture, despite what continues to be a challenging climate. 

“Setting up a new business requires financial and emotional investment, so it’s important that entrepreneurs don’t put their new ventures at risk by not taking out comprehensive insurance protection.

“At Direct Line business insurance, we’re committed to providing entrepreneurs with the value and peace of mind they need to grow their business and help drive our economic recovery from the pandemic.”

2020 Audited Financial Report for Mintos – Europe’s Largest Platform for investing in Loans

 After the Covid-19 induced decline that started in March 2020, Mintos saw the growth to recovery towards the end of 2020 and closed the year with €10.2 million in revenue, €1.6 billion in loans funded, and investors’ interest earnings of €53.3 million. Mintos credits consistent communication and investor loyalty as the key drivers of its quick resurgence.

Mintos, Europe’s leading alternative investment platform for investing in loans, released its consolidated audited financial report for the year 2020 – along with a number of insights about lessons learned and what investors can expect in the near future.

2020 in retrospect: from caution to steady growth

January and February, 2020 were the best months in the history of Mintos with a record volume of loans funded, and new investors joining the platform. However, with the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in March, the industry conditions changed quickly, and so did Mintos’ objectives. “We swiftly switched our focus from expansion and growth to ensuring business continuity and operational sustainability as we set out to endure the macro-economic recession,” said Mintos CEO and co-founder Martins Sulte.

At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, many existing investors decided to abruptly halt or reduce their investing activity while they waited for a clearer economic outlook. Furthermore, the global downturn in 2020 led to a sharp increase in underperforming loans, many of which eventually ended up delinquent. Mintos was quick to react by creating and expanding teams within the company dedicated to loan recovery.

Despite these challenges, over 80% of the total funded portfolio sustained their strong performance and delivered a total €53.3 million in interest earnings to investors. This shows a significant increase of 18.9% when compared to the €45 million earned in 2019.

In 2020, 128,380 new users joined Mintos, bringing the platform to a total number of 369,332 investors from 105 countries. And with an addition of €1.6 billion in loans funded in 2020, the cumulative volume of funded loans grew by 37.2% to reach €5.9 billion.

Lessons learned: communication and support tools to investors

“Looking back, our agile approach helped us make progress even in the turbulent economic landscape of 2020, “said Mr. Sulte. “Over the last year, we developed and implemented many projects, edging closer to our vision of making investing in loans as common as investing in other popular assets like stocks or real estate.”

Mintos was able to surpass a number of hurdles that it encountered in 2020 by strategically focusing on improving its operations from the investor point of view. As such, the company prioritized consistent communication with investors by intensifying efforts to enhance transparent reporting.

As many of the company’s associated risks materialized in 2020, Mintos increased their commitment to protecting investors being exposed to unacceptable risk levels. Among other things, the company built supporting tools for risk assessment such as the Mintos Risk Score, the Suitability and Appropriateness Assessment for investors, while also working on similar initiatives to increase investors’ risk awareness.

Achievements: service improvements & fundraising success 

Despite market ups and downs, the Mintos team focused on continuous service improvements. In January a new lending companies evaluation model was introduced – Mintos Risk Score. A month later the company launched the Mintos mobile app. Throughout the year a lot of time and effort was invested into user experience improvements, including the creation of learning materials about investment strategies. At the end of 2020, the company launched a crowdfunding campaign, raising over €6.55 million Euros, which was the largest crowdfunding amount ever raised on the Crowdcube platform in the European Union. Quite notably, Mintos ended the year with the AltFi’s “People’s Choice Award 2020” for the fifth consecutive year, evidence of its strong and loyal community.

Future outlook

Looking ahead, Mintos is highly optimistic because investment rates are once again gaining momentum. Looking at the numbers from Q1 for 2021, the volume of loans funded has already grown by 26%. This depicts a gradual return of investors’ confidence.

Mintos is steadily approaching a significant milestone of becoming a regulated platform. The company expects to acquire licenses to operate as an Investment Firm as well as an Electronic Money Institution shortly. The company sees these moves as important steps towards bringing investment in loans to the mainstream.

You can find the Mintos Consolidated Annual Financial report for the year 2020 on Mintos website. Please note that this report is an audited Consolidated annual report. Shareholders will have an opportunity to approve this report in the meeting scheduled later in June 2021.

6 Best Countries in Europe to Start a Small Business Revealed

A new business takes a lot of courage, and this holds even for small businesses. Entrepreneurs must exercise their proficiency on different levels – from legal to finances, from marketing to sales, there is a lot to take in before taking off.

Apart from mastering the essential marketing tools for running a successful small business, identifying where it makes more financial sense to open a new business comes as a priority:

  • Learn which countries are doing their best in welcoming new businesses
  • Discover references to step-by-step guides for a great kick start
  • Find out where your business could thrive at its best

Even now – with the Covid-19 pandemic-related setbacks – there still are opportunities to succeed as an entrepreneur despite the economic aversions. The experts at UENI have revealed the 6 best European countries that offer a favourable business climate to help fasten your decision-making process.

Ireland

In Ireland, the economic boom of the mid-1990s to early-2000s gave rise to a period of growth known as the Celtic Tiger, which was based on foreign investment.

When the economic crisis of 2008 hit, Ireland too was affected. But thanks to the Celtic Tiger mindset it quickly recovered. Nowadays it holds a top position amongst the best countries where you can start a small business.

The Celtic Tiger is proof of how open the Irish governments is towards new businesses. With a low corporate tax rate of only 12.5%, this might be the country where you want to invest in opening a new business next.

This is also part of the reason why giant companies as Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter opened their European head offices here. Would you be next? Learn more about Enterprise Ireland and don’t let this opportunity slip away.

Bulgaria

A post-Soviet state, Bulgaria comes forth as a focal point for business people all over the world. It may be thanks to the fact that it does not have an excessive bureaucracy since it only takes 23 days to register a new business.

Perhaps it is the low administrative costs, which vary from 500 to 800 Euros. Or it may be the bank deposit for setting up a limited liability company, which is close to nothing at only 1 Euro.

The point is that Bulgaria paints the picture of a fortunate business conjuncture. If it sounds like the best deal for you, find out more about opening a business in Bulgaria through Invest Bulgaria Agency.

The Netherlands

If you have a legal residence or permission to work in Holland, there are plenty of reasons why you might want to start a new business here.

On the one hand, retail is one of the pillars that founded Amsterdam, and it is what makes Holland a favourable landscape for entrepreneurs. On the other hand, while the tax rates could get high, depending on your bracket, the Dutch Government offers generous public support for new business owners.

Sweden

There is a good reason why Sweden currently ranks number 2 on Forbes’ best countries for business list and has been in top 3 consistently.

Sweden is renowned for a healthy economy, which is why start-ups always thrive here. Popular and successful companies such as Skype and Spotify are Sweden made.

This Nordic country’s government is also known for fostering innovation and entrepreneurship and offering support for new business owners, which balances out the high living expenses. 

Norway

Speaking of Nordic countries, Norway holds a top position, too, when it comes to nurturing innovations and technologies, especially if they are related to increased efficiency.

Starting a small business in Norway is a few clicks distance away since the whole process of setting up a new company is entirely online. 

The taxes can be high, indeed, but they are transparent, and the costs are balanced out by low investment risks. Norway offers public benefits and support, and if things don’t work, you can resolve insolvency for only 1% of your entity’s value.

England

England holds a top place thanks to the British tax structure, which is designed to support the lack of profitability for the first years as a fresh new business.

To register your company in the UK starts from £12 online, and £40 by post, and it takes only 24 hours to get it done.

To learn more, check out our article on starting a business in the UK, or visit the HMRC site.

Brexit to Have More Negative Impact on UK’s Healthcare Sector Than COVID-19 Pandemic

While the UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) removed the prospect of a no-deal Brexit, it introduced a wide range of changes to the UK’s healthcare industry, ranging from border checks to additional regulations for businesses based in the UK and EU. These border restrictions may drastically and permanently reshape the way that businesses trade and operate, says GlobalData a leading data and analytics company.

GlobalData’s latest report, ‘Brexit and the Healthcare Industry – 2021’, reveals that more than half of surveyed healthcare industry professionals from the UK (55%) and the EU (60%) believed that Brexit would have more damaging effects on the UK’s healthcare sector than the COVID-19 pandemic.

Elton Kwok, Associate Research Manager at GlobalData, comments: “While the pandemic impacted many countries worldwide, the vaccination rollout gathering pace in the UK provides hope for the country to rebound. On the other hand, the impact of Brexit is yet to set in and it will be challenging to separate Brexit’s impact from the impact of the pandemic as these events are happening simultaneously.

Kwok continues: “Brexit is expected to be a bigger burden on sectors that rely on trade with the EU. On the other hand, the COVID-19 pandemic affected and will continue to affect services that rely on in-person interaction. Even though the COVID-19 pandemic severely disrupted supply chains when it began, those disruptions were short -lived compared to those caused by Brexit.”

Previous Brexit surveys conducted by GlobalData during 2018–2019 found that respondents’ sentiment was generally negative towards the UK’s healthcare prospects following Brexit. More than half of respondents (60%) indicated that their sentiment on the impact of Brexit on the UK’s healthcare sector remained the same after the UK-EU TCA was reached in December 2020. This suggests that healthcare professionals did not feel very optimistic following the withdrawal agreement. Moreover, around 25% of them believed that the withdrawal agreement has generated an even worse impact on the UK’s healthcare industry.

Kwok adds: “Respondents mostly attributed their negativity to the lack of clarity and uncertainty brought by the final agreement to the UK’s healthcare industry. Respondents with more negative sentiment were concerned about increased bureaucracy and costs associated with research and development, logistics, and supply chains. Despite the TCA being finalized, Brexit will continue to generate instability and uncertainty about the prospects of research, manufacturing, funding, talents attraction, regulatory affairs, and trade in the pharmaceutical industry.”

Why British Should Set Their Sights On Portugal Over Spain

Although Spain has always been the more readily chosen destination, Portugal’s Golden Visa program makes it a more straightforward option for British retirees than its Spanish counterpart.

Portugal isn’t outside the realm of typical expat destinations for British. With over 60,000 UK citizens in the Mediterranean nation, it is a popular place for living and retiring. Although Spain has always been the more readily chosen destination, Portugal’s Golden Visa program makes it a more straightforward option than its Spanish counterpart.

Now that the UK is no longer a member of the EU, it is necessary to apply for a visa, which only adds to the bureaucracy of mobility. “Those who are thinking about retiring to Spain or who plan to move there but do not intend to work there, can either choose a Golden Visa or the Non-Lucrative Visa (NLV),” says John Hanafin, the founder and CEO of Huriya Private.

Portuguese residency through the Golden Visa investment program issues the applicants with Residency Cards after about 4 months (depending on the submission of relevant due-diligence and bio-metrics) and immediately thereafter allows the card holders visa-free access to 26 EU based countries, with the promise of visa-free access to over 170 countries when citizenship is attained after year five.

The Golden Visa requires you to invest €500,000 in property and so is out of the reach for many British retirees.

“The NLV allows you to take up residence in Spain, provided you have sufficient funds to support yourself and you do not need to work there. It is this requirement that is causing problems for many Britons.You have to demonstrate an income of €33,893 a year for a couple and €47,451 for a family of four. This requirement will rule out the option of retiring to Spain for many,” explains Hanafin.

According to Hanafin, Portugal offers similar benefits with regard to climate, lifestyle, and low cost of living. “Portugal has a similar visa to Spain’s NLV, the Passive Income Visa, which has a significantly lower annual income requirement – €11,970 for a couple and €16,658 for a family of four,” Hanafin explains.

Further to that, Hanafin adds that the visa also does not restrict you from working or setting up a business as the Spanish NLV does.“The cost of property and the cost of living in Portugal is around 10 percent lower than in Spain and the icing on the cake is that you also have the potential benefit of the Non-Habitual Resident Scheme which will allow you to pay only 10 percent tax on a UK pension and no tax on some other sources of income,” he says.

Overall the cost of living in Portugal averages out at nine percent lower than in Spain, making it a greater success story for those seeking a place in the sun.

“Add to that the tax advantages and the fact that you can work in Portugal if you want to, and there is a clear case for considering retiring to Portugal instead of Spain if you only have limited income,” Hanafin concludes.

If you are considering moving to Portugal, then please contact the team at Huriya Private for further details on the Portuguese “Non-Habitual Residence Tax Regime”. This is an excellent regime that allows qualifying individuals the opportunity to become tax residents of a “white-listed” EU jurisdiction and still legally eliminate their taxes on most foreign-source income.

IT Designed to Suit Garment Manufacturing Supply Chains

These are exciting times for UK garment manufacturers – if they embrace digitalisation, writes Karl H. Lauri, managing team member at MRPeasy.com.

Significant changes are under way in the garment and apparel manufacturing industry. In many cases they are both driving and being driven by digitalisation in the sector. If the UK’s many smaller garment manufacturers are to treat these changes as opportunities rather than threats, they need to become part of the emerging digital ecosystem, and the entry level foundation for that is a competent ERP/MRP system.

There are almost 4,000 UK enterprises manufacturing wearing apparel, and 99.7% of these count as SMEs. There are of course further companies in the related fields of textile production, footwear, accessories, not to mention a small army of unincorporated individuals ranging from high-end designers and their networks of artisan makers to the many, often exploited, out- and home- workers. Manufactures range from fashion to workwear, and the factory may be the atelier of a couture house, or a contract manufacturer for retailers and brands. UK companies booked sales of £1.6 billion, at factory gate prices, in 2019 whereas the retail value of UK apparel sales is north of £50 billion. That partly reflects the dominance of cheap, and sometimes ethically dubious, imports in the mass market but also suggests that UK firms are failing to capture as much of the value chain as they could. If they can exploit the emerging trends, UK firms could improve their share significantly.

The ethical and environmental concerns of consumers, increased geo-political trade friction, the post-pandemic emphasis by brands and retailers on supply chain resilience, and rising costs in ‘cheap’ source markets are fuelling some degree of reshoring of manufacture, and a greater appetite by consumers for the local, natural, ethical and ‘authentic’. Fast, throwaway, bulk fashion is less desirable or acceptable. Such shifts do not have to be massive to transform prospects for many small producers.

Demand for customised and personalised apparel is increasing, along with the technologies required to deliver this.  IT is providing ‘virtual fitting rooms’, and is beginning to enable consumers to create their own designs – from fabric prints and patterns to shapes, styles, colourways and trims – and is on the verge of being able to use the digital files thus created to instruct largely automated manufacture – ‘robotic’ programmable knitting machines, for example, are already a reality.

The personalisation trend is partly driven by social media, and this is having other impacts. ‘Flash’ sales and product ‘drops’ are increasingly used, even or especially by upmarket brands to create near-guaranteed sell-out ‘events’ for strictly limited editions.

Social media also extends opportunities for smaller manufacturers to develop their own Direct to Consumer lines of trade thus capturing more of the value chain. Retailers and brands are beginning to use Big Data analytics and Artificial Intelligence not only to understand and influence demand, but to spot or even predict ‘micro-trends’ and create or modify designs to suit.

One effect of these trends is that unlike some other manufacturing sectors, such as automotive, which are being forced back from their Just in Time models, significant parts of the garment and apparel industry are moving towards a make-to-order, small batch size, environment. This is reinforcing the requirement for close to market manufacturing, removing some of the disadvantageous economies of scale and, at least in theory, playing to the strengths of the smaller companies, which can be more agile in response to demand changes.

For those smaller manufacturers, the challenges include smaller batches, ever-tighter lead times, and even more rapidly varying order requirements – as it is, orders from retailers and brands can be subject to almost daily variation in terms of size ranges, colourways and delivery destinations and schedules – as data analysis produces ever more granular insights, these variations can only increase. In this environment, manufacturers have to minimise material waste, ensure timely procurement of materials at shorter notice, and make the most effective use of labour – which, whatever the advances in robotics, will always be a key element. Fast and accurate planning and scheduling is key.

They are also under increasing pressure to have documented, auditable systems to prove they are complying with both legal and customer requirements – on use of sub-contractors, Health & Safety, the minimum wage, the source of materials and, because a significant proportion of UK output is exported, providing evidence for Country of Origin and other regulations.

An ERP/MRP base is essential for firms to interact meaningfully with their customers’ B2B web portal, EDI and other systems, and to support any digital D2C business they may develop. How else can the firm make that price and delivery promise in real time? Not every garment manufacturer is immediately faced with the prospect of robotic sewing, unique single consumer designs, or the application of blockchain or predictive analytics, but they all need to book their place in this increasingly digital environment.

ERP/MRP itself does not, of course, deliver digitalisation, but it is a necessary precondition. It establishes a single source of truth, it allows the effective co-ordination of a complex supply chain. including outworkers, with real-time planning and scheduling. It enables effective response to rapidly changing demand and crucially, gives visibility into whether activities and contracts are actually profitable. A well set up system also allows two-way, largely automated, communication with customers and suppliers, taking time, cost and error out of business processes. It is the basis for the verification and audit procedures that customers and consumers are increasingly demanding. It also provides the backbone on which other, more advanced, technologies can in time be mounted.

Cloud-based, Software-as-a-Service ERP/MRP systems such as those from MRPEasy, are now eminently affordable. There are low initial costs for capital equipment, training and implementation, and they are fully scaleable both in functions used and in number of users. The client is paying for usage, so on-costs are proportionate to business activity. Systems are designed for the needs of smaller companies, and routines and applications specific to the garment/apparel industry can be perfected and shared across the relevant user community.

These are exciting times for UK garment manufacturers, if they embrace digitalisation.

Electronomous Selects the City of Copenhagen as Host For the International Mobility Summit 2021 and 2022

  • The hybrid event will bring together thought leaders and policy makers from the global mobility and smart city community in the City of Copenhagen for the next two years
  • Call for conference speakers and abstracts is now open

Electronomous, the organisation behind ElectronomousThe International Mobility Summit, an event that brings together global industry leaders, disruptors, innovators and public and private entities to collaborate on the next generation of mobility opportunities, has selected the City of Copenhagen as host city for its International summit in 2021 and 2022. Electronomous also announced, the call for speakers and abstracts for the summit is open and now accepting submissions.
 
Marking its fifth year, the summit will take place from 20 – 24 September 2021 and will feature a hybrid format consisting of five virtual days and a one-day physical event in the city of Copenhagen. The conference covers eight tracks including: automation, clean and sustainable transport, the European Year of rail 2021, micro-mobility, electro-mobility, urban logistics, Mobility as a Service (MaaS), smart cities, connectivity and data sharing. The event will include a mix of keynote speakers, panel discussions, fireside chats and close-door discussions in Copenhagen. There will also be a number of bilateral meetings, match-making events and workshops.
 
Electronomous is working closely with Copenhagen Legacy Lab – a pioneering initiative launched by Wonderful Copenhagen’s convention bureau that seeks to integrate the international congresses held in Copenhagen with the local public, business and science communities by facilitating a systematic and proactive exploration and development of untapped potential impact activities.
 
Lars Weiss, Lord Mayor of Copenhagen also said: “As the capital city of one of the world’s leading countries within the field of mobility and sustainability, Copenhagen is an ideal location for this event. We are sure that all delegates, whether attending virtually or physically, will have an unforgettable summit experience and take home many memories from our vibrant metropolis.”
 
Mikkel Aarø-Hansen, CEO of Wonderful Copenhagen said: “On behalf of Wonderful Copenhagen, the official tourism and convention organisation of the capital region of Denmark, we are especially proud to welcome Electronomous – The International Mobility Summit to our great city in both 2021 and 2022. Electronomous and Copenhagen are a perfect match as our destination is not only one of the most popular convention cities in the world and offers substantial expertise and experience in hosting high profile events, but is also a frontrunner within staging sustainable events and creating legacy programmes.”
 
Keith Whelan, Event Director of Electronomous commented on the announcement: “It is our mission to bring policy makers, thought leaders and industries together to help to create more liveable cities, future mobility and sustainable transport. Choosing Copenhagen as the home for our event was a strategic decision by our team as the buzzing capital is not only a beautiful city but with their CPH 2025 Climate Plan, they plan to be the first capital city in the world to be carbon neutral by 2025, so naturally it was a perfect fit.”
 
Safety protocols for the event are aligned with the Danish Health Authorities standards to ensure the health and wellbeing of attendees during the event in Copenhagen. The physical portion of the event will be limited to just 500 delegates, and those wishing to attend “Join the Waitlist” to secure their spot on Electronomous.com soon.

Forthcoming Packaging and Waste Regulations Add to Pressures for Greater Packing Efficiency

The cardboard supply market is under stress, and forthcoming changes to the regime around packaging and waste will have further impacts. Retailers and shippers will need to act now to optimise their use of an increasingly valuable commodity. By Jo Bradley, Business Development Manager for Packaging Solutions at Quadient.

As is well known, on-line sales, most of which are shipped in cardboard boxes, rose 74% year-on-year in 2020. The Confederation of the Paper Industries says the increase represents what had been expected for the next five years – an extra 200 million packages in the postal and courier systems, according to Royal Mail.

Covid restrictions have constrained production, and while extra mill capacity is coming on stream around Europe, it’s thought much of this is going to China and the Far East. Some 84% of European board is made from recycled fibre, but this raises other issues around availability of recyclable material.

Unsurprisingly, all this is having a massive impact on price and availability. In the early part of the year some buyers were reportedly paying £70-£160 over Autumn prices for container board, while lead times were stretched from 48-72 hours to 6 weeks.

But, critically, two separate developments in packaging waste regulations will put further permanent pressure on the board market.

The first of these, to be implemented from 1 April 2022, is a new Plastic Packaging Tax, of £200 per tonne on all plastic packaging materials made or imported to the UK that contain less than 30% recyclate. Since 44% of the UK’s plastic usage is in packaging, this drive to replace new fossil fuel derived feedstocks with recycled material is entirely laudable, reducing both the carbon footprint and the release of plastics into the environment.

However, to meet the 30% recyclate target across the board, the capacity of the plastic recycling industry would have to increase by 100%, which isn’t going to happen any time soon. So many packaging users will either pay the tax, or will have to switch to cardboard.

The second, and more profound, change is still out for a second round of consultation (closing on 4 June). This is the proposed introduction, in phases from 2023, of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) for packaging. EPR is an approach endorsed by the OECD and increasingly being implemented by countries worldwide. Under EPR, producers – which means packers, shippers and retailers as well as material manufacturers – pay the full costs of dealing with the waste they produce.

Under the existing producer responsibility regulations, which have been in place since 1997, although packaging waste recycling rates have improved from 25% to 63.9%, the regime only raises 10-12% of waste-handling costs arising, with local authorities and others picking up the bulk of the bill.

The new rules will inevitably be complex, since they are not just about raising money but about promoting recycling collection and processing capacity and markets, encouraging use of refillable/reuseable containers, reducing use of materials that are hard or impossible to recycle (such as black plastic, polystyrene, complex films) and reducing packaging use generally.

Importantly, this will affect users of cardboard boxes in a number of ways. Firstly, there will be a clear incentive to maximise the productive use of material, by for example not using over-size boxes. Secondly, because board is already fairly easy to recycle, it is likely to be treated more favourably than other packaging materials, so users are likely to switch away from plastics towards board for many purposes, increasing demand and therefore price for new and recycled pulp. This will raise the price for all paper and board products, including corrugated.

Thirdly, users will have to consider not only the cardboard box but any void fill, from air bags to polystyrene beads – again emphasising the need to ‘right-size’ boxes and cartons.

Traditionally, packing lines use box preforms in one or several standard sizes. An automated line may use just one size, regardless of the volume of goods to be packed: a manual packer will doubtless try to use the most appropriate size but, given the difficulty of predicting need in a complex fulfilment operation, may have to use a box that is one, or even several, sizes ‘too big’ along with additional materials as dunnage. This is inherently wasteful, as well as being unnecessarily expensive in shipping charges, and very unpopular with consumers.

Ecommerce companies would be wise to look to the advantages of automated packaging systems, such as Quadient’s CVP Everest and CVP Impack, which can make right-sized cardboard boxes for each individual order at phenomenal rates. These machines can cut, fold, erect, pack and seal boxes of just the right size for each order (of single or multiple items) at rates of up to 1,100 packages per hour – equivalent to around 20 manual packers.

Overall box volumes shipped are reduced by up to 50%, with corresponding reductions in packaging material usage. A related advantage, on the Everest machines, is that they seal with adhesive rather than tape – this is good for the recycling process and avoids tape supply issues currently experienced by many companies.

Government expects EPR to cost business £2.7 Billion in its first year if firms don’t take the desired mitigating actions, such as reducing their material usage, and this would rise as further phases of implementation kick in.

Constructing individual boxes to the exact size of an order not only makes the most efficient use of an increasingly valuable commodity, but also makes good sense environmentally, operationally and financially.

EU Business News Q2 2021

It has been a challenging start to 2021 for businesses throughout the European Union thanks to a myriad of factors. Chief among them, however, is the lingering COVID-19 pandemic. With countries forced into lockdowns, and businesses of all shapes and sizes paying the price, the resilience demonstrated by these companies has been impressive to witness.

Now it seems that hope is on the horizon as we head into Summer 2021. With vaccine programmes gaining traction throughout the EU and businesses able to make plans for life after lockdown, there is a very real and tangible sense that better days are ahead. In this month’s edition of EU Business News, we see how businesses across a range of verticals are driving forwards to a better tomorrow, from championing sustainability initiatives to implementing recovery strategies for the harder-hit
industries.

Key to the next steps of all these measures is unity. Consistent in the successes of this month’s collection of award-winning businesses is the collaboration and partnerships that have facilitated plans for the future. These collaborations and partnerships continue to play a key role in actioning those plans. With the support of internal teams and fellow companies, businesses of the EU are well on their way to overcoming the many challenges faced over the past year.

For now, we hope you enjoy reading this Q2 issue of EU Business News and wish you all the best until our next edition.

Cost Efficiencies Could Be Made by UK Auto Retailing Industry Every Year by Adoption of E-commerce

  • Embracing ecommerce has potential to save UK automotive retail industry up to £9.5 billion per year. Even 30% phased transition could save up to £4.7 billion
  • Moving more of the customer journey online can deliver a 50% Pure Transaction Time Saving (PTTS) and a 23% Cost of Sale Saving (CSS) for the retailer
  • Adoption of an ‘omnichannel’ business model suits the needs of both those customers who wish to buy a car purely in the digital world, and those who still wish to visit a retailer for certain phases of the transaction
  • Migrating staff and time intensive processes to online provides optimum retailer profitability efficiency


By leveraging online sales, UK auto retailers could reduce the transaction time taken to sell a vehicle by 75% and cut the costs incurred in the process by 45%, according to new research released by industry-leading automotive ecommerce solution provider GForces. The data indicates that, as per 2020, based on an annual used car market of 6.75 million sales, the industry could save £9.5 billion each year. Even a more conservative approach, based on a phased 30% transition to greater online selling, the sector could save £4.7 billion.

Given the surge in ecommerce across the auto retailing sector, GForces conducted in-depth research to identify the potential commercial cost savings which retailers could reap through greater ecommerce platform adoption. Their approach looked at the current costs of traditional car retailing, as well as the projected costs of going fully online, and a ‘hybrid online model’, based on 30% of sales being transacted on laptops and smartphones.

It is widely acknowledged that the auto industry has been slow to adapt to online purchasing, compared to other industries. One key factor is that buying a car often involves significant financial outlay. As a result, many consumers are still keen to retain a human element in their purchasing journey, often including the ability to see a potential car and discuss finance and part-exchange details in person. Providing the ability to blend a physical showroom with an online sales platform, termed an ‘omnichannel’ approach is becoming the new normal.

By adapting their current commercial processes, from both a front and back office perspective, there are significant cost savings to be made by UK retailers. Just by moving to a 30% online sales strategy, a 50% Pure Transaction Time Saving (PTTS) can be achieved, alongside a 23% Cost of Sale Saving (CSS), down from £314 to £243 per unit, according to the GForces data.

Reverting from the traditional automotive sales model, where only a small portion of the customer experience occurs online, to an omnichannel approach facilitates customers’ ability to carry out all initial research and find suitable finance options online. Much of the customer-retailer interaction also moves online, with elements such as video and live chat. Some leading retailers already operating a successful omnichannel ensure that when a customer does visit a showroom to take the purchase process to the next stage, they can seamlessly engage with digital technology to enhance the experience. Examples of this include customers being able to use a QR code to view the car they specified at home, precise in every detail of trim, colour and options, on a large video wall.

“We have already seen how COVID-19 has accelerated the shift to online within the automotive sector. New and used car online purchases made through UK franchised retailers using GForces platform – NetDirector® Auto-e – increased by 1228% during 2020,” explains Tim Smith, Chief Commercial Officer at GForces. “This has been quite rightly hailed as positive news for customers; however, what can get overlooked is the significant cost and efficiency benefits the cultural shift to online buying, and the technology of the digital platforms that facilitate it, can deliver for retailers.”

“Compared with sectors such as consumer goods and travel, which have been reaping the benefits of online shopping for decades, the automotive retail industry has been a slow starter, proving reluctant to move from traditional retail methods to ecommerce. However, franchised dealers and used car retailers who took a pioneering approach and already had systems in place before the pandemic fared better than those who did not, and with online car buying here to stay, are poised to prosper further in the future,” asserts Smith.

The GForces research data has been compiled by Paul Stokes, who joined the company as Head of Ecommerce in 2018. Stokes has 29 years of experience in the UK automotive industry. His former roles include Business Development Manager at Vauxhall Motors, Managing Director of the multi-franchise dealer Nidd Vale Group and MD of the omnichannel automotive retail start-up, Rockar.

“The automotive retail industry is undergoing a paradigm shift with customers showing very clearly that they are no longer comfortable within the traditional retail environment. This does not spell the end of the retailer as a physical entity, which will be here for the long-term. However, retailers can no longer expect to engage successfully with customers if they choose to remain with the same sales model and expect the customer to visit a showroom to conduct every aspect of the sale,” states Stokes. “The middle ground is the key to success. By blending virtual online capability with physical showrooms and combining ‘bricks and clicks, ‘ retailers can create an omnichannel experience – a seamless and enjoyable journey for customers to engage with, allied to a robust and profitable business model.”

“Some customers wish to engage in a fully end-to-end online car buying solution. This incorporates home delivery and completely negates the need to set foot in a showroom at all, as seen with the proliferation of sites offering this during COVID-19 and lockdown,” continues Stokes. “However, other customers still desire to try before they buy, conduct test drives, and speak to retailer staff for guidance on the car they are considering. For such customers, it is important to deal with issues such as configuration, stock, offers and part-exchange negotiations face-to-face”.

“Creating a successful omnichannel enables retailers to satisfy the needs of both types of customer. And the enhanced level of online engagement an omnichannel approach delivers significantly optimises efficiency. It increases productivity for the business, with many traditional time and staff intensive processes migrating to online and back-office systems.

Key to being successful as the UK auto retailing industry continues to evolve is not just improving the customer experience from an ecommerce perspective, but also using it to increase retailer efficiency and profitability,” concludes Stokes.
 

Cost & Efficiency – Sales Process 

Traditional Sales Model (100% offline)

Hybrid Sales Model (30% online/70% offline)

Online Sales Model (100% online)

Sales Employee Cost of Sale per unit 

£314

£243

£172

Pure Transaction Time

120 minutes

60 minutes

30 minutes

Total Sales Process Costs (based on 7m used car sales per year)

£22 billion

£16 billion

£12 billion

Helping Businesses Meet Their Environmental Goals With Purpose-Built Containers

Many companies are aware of the benefits of becoming more sustainable.  Eco-friendly brands can attract more consumers and generate more business through ethically aware products and services. According to one consumer index, 47 per cent of people worldwide agreed that they have switched to a different product or service because a company did not reflect their personal values.

Protecting the environment is a strong consumer value. But businesses can still grow and maintain sustainable operations. The use of purpose-built containers has long been used for office and shop extensions. Only now can we recognise how these simple structures are becoming a viable option for sustainable companies. For businesses aiming to meet their environmental goals, we investigate how purpose-built containers could give them a helping hand.

Creating space

There are many uses for purpose-built containers. Creating more space is one of their primary functions. However, it’s what they don’t add which shows their environmental utility. 400 million tonnes of material are used by the UK construction sector every year, according to WRAP. Meanwhile, it generates 100 million tonnes of waste. Overall, construction waste contributes to one-third of all waste in the UK. This demonstrates the current unsustainable operations of the construction sector.

Containers have a simple design and use limited materials in their fabrication and erection. Ultimately, this reduces the amount of waste generated in its construction. Simple steel walls help to minimise waste, designed and cut to simple rectangular shapes. Excess material can then be used in the construction of another container. For example, brick and mortar spaces weigh a considerable amount compared to the average 20 ft container, which hits the scales at only 2,230 kilograms.

The benefits continue beyond saved waste. Money can be saved on material cost and the time it would take to develop heavier-bearing foundations. Building on environmental strategies, a business could then redirect this saved money into other sustainable schemes.

The limited space that purpose-built containers require is also environmentally friendly. By condensing your workspace into a container, you’re leaving more of the natural world untouched. Natural habitats won’t be disturbed by building larger workspaces.

Longevity

A primary concern with purpose-built containers that businesses may have is their longevity. But this concern can easily be debunked as a myth. In reality, containers that are used for retail, office, or industrial space can last about 30 years. This is because the container’s steel structure is coated with a zinc paint coat. This slows down the process of rusting. Erosion is less likely than one may experience with traditional brick-and-mortar buildings.

In addition to longevity, when you’re finished with your shipping container, it can be reused or repurposed. We know that containers were originally created for shipping and hauling, but today we see containers being used as shops, bars, and even homes. They are an attractive alternative for many businesses looking to create a new workspace. Once the use of a container has finished, the space used can also be reclaimed without contributing to landfill waste. Deconstruction costs are also limited. Then the materials from the container can be stripped and recycled, or the container may be used by a different business or in a different location.

Energy consumption

Energy conservation is another benefit of purpose-built containers. Temperatures in a storage container can be easily regulated throughout hot and cold seasons by using simple insulation. The need for fuel is also reduced, where the confined container space needs less energy to climate control the work area.

You could further save money through investments in renewable energy with a container. The simple design of the container means that solar panels can be mounted onto the roof and be used to power electrical devices inside. While using renewable energy is a great way to help the environment, it’s also a visible sign to everyone who passes that your business is doing all that it can to meet its sustainable targets.

Purpose-built containers can help improve your environmental footing in a variety of ways. By reducing waste and energy consumption, you can help your business meet its sustainable targets. For this reason, purpose-built containers are becoming one of the most viable options for expanding business operations and maintaining an eco-friendly approach to work.

UK Importers are Still Reeling from Increased Brexit Costs and Delays, Warns ParcelHero

New Government figures reveal UK importers continued to battle with increased red tape, customs duties and transport costs in April. ParcelHero warns higher import costs will likely be passed on to Britain’s hard-pressed shoppers.

New Government figures released on May 6th revealed many businesses are still overwhelmed by the impact of Brexit. Over 39% of importers reported they are still struggling with new customs duties and 38.6% were battling with increased transport costs.

The international delivery specialist ParcelHero said the latest Office for National Statistics (ONS) Business Insights’ results, covering the period 5-18 April, show that there are still significant difficulties in importing goods from the EU post-Brexit. It warns that, inevitably, the increased costs will have to be passed on to consumers.

ParcelHero’s Head of Consumer Research, David Jinks M.I.L.T., said: ‘April’s figures on the importing and exporting challenges facing British businesses are pretty dire. The Government can no longer hide its head in the sands of Britain’s coastal borders. There was a huge flaw in the Government’s final trade deal struck just before Christmas, and it’s seemingly insoluble.

‘Under the Brexit so-called “free trade” deal, goods arriving in the UK from the EU that are sourced and manufactured in Europe don’t pay tariffs. But how many products are entirely sourced and made in a single area in today’s world of global supply chains? The answer is very few. Electronics incorporate components from across the globe, while clothing can include materials from many continents. That’s why importers are paying more duties, customers are finding unexpected charges on items ordered from EU traders, and transport costs are rising because of mounting delays and returns.

‘This latest ONS Business Insights assessment, in the section entitled “Exporting and Importing Challenges”, reveals that 41% of importers are still struggling with the nightmare of increased paperwork. Changing tax rules and new proof of origin forms have proved difficult for many companies, both large and small.

‘Additionally, a slew of other Brexit difficulties had not been ironed out by April. Nearly 7% of importers said their suppliers were still not Customs ready, while 4.5% of British importers said their regular suppliers had stopped trading with the UK entirely in April, as the full impact of Brexit bureaucracy hit home.

‘Smaller importers have been hit disproportionately by the cost of Brexit. In April, 25.3% of SME importers experienced disruption at UK borders, as opposed to just 14.4% of large companies, and 38% of smaller companies wrestled with transport costs, as opposed to 30.5% of larger importers.

‘The basic problem is that EU manufacturers and sellers are no longer fighting to get their goods into the British market. The UK is no longer seen as an easy and profitable market. European transport companies hate the new duties, delays and the fact that goods are still being turned away at ports because of incomplete paperwork. Those companies that continue to serve the UK are increasing their prices to compensate.

‘Importers are bearing the brunt of these changes for now but, before long, these increased costs will have to be passed on to the beleaguered British shopper. The challenge of Covid may at last be subsiding but, for Britain’s retailers and manufacturers, the impact of Brexit is not going away.

‘Our fear is that there could be even worse to come. Let’s not forget that some of the most complex new EU border regulations have been postponed, unilaterally, by the UK Government. It remains to be seen what their impact might be on these already worrying import figures once they are imposed.

The Digital Divide: Research Reveals Discord Between Marketers’ Actions and Consumers’ Behaviours

  • 83% of marketers agree it is challenging to unify customers’ data when so many have multiple identities 
  • Email remains by far the most popular channel for consumers to interact with brands, but only 56% of marketers use it to interact with consumers 
  • Despite the pandemic, over half of consumers enjoy interacting with brands in-store, with this method coming in joint second overall 
  • Over a third (37%) of UK consumers would prefer to share their first-party data directly with a brand they trust, rather than a tech giant, to improve their shopping experience 
  • Marketers are failing to act upon around almost half of the consumer feedback they collect 

The ever-evolving digital landscape, with its ever-increasing online channels, is posing significant challenges on marketers to understand how best to interact with their customers. According to research announced by Upland BlueVenn, marketers are struggling to establish a unified customer experience due to the sheer volume of channels and devices they need to manage. The research further highlights the rise of the ‘Hybrid Consumer’, with customers now interacting with brands across a mix of digital and offline channels and expecting their experience to be consistent across all.

On average, UK consumers are using more than 20 channels to interact with brands across online and physical touchpoints. As a result, 83% of marketers believe it is now a challenge to unify consumers’ data when so many have multiple identities across platforms. In addition to this, nearly two-thirds (64%) of marketers believe their team lacks the knowledge or skills to effectively analyse and segment customer data. The impact of this is confirmed by consumers themselves, with just 35% believing brands they interact with understand their shopping needs – despite 79% of marketers claiming to have unified customer profiles. 

 

That begs the question therefore of whether the responding marketers can identify their customers and track brand journeys as effectively as they think. Since 39% of UK marketers claim they can deliver a consistent, personalised message on three or more channels, while only 12% of customers (1/3 of that proportion) agree that brands provide them with a consistent experience, on all channels, it is clear there is a discord between the two.  

 

Steve Klin, General Manager of Upland BlueVenn, commented, “It’s common knowledge that ecommerce has dramatically increased since the pandemic due to global lockdowns, but now that lockdown regulations are easing, shoppers will be eager to purchase in-store again, whilst others will continue to transact online. Our research has found that many UK brands are simply not prepared to keep track of the many digital interaction points and are potentially not focussed on the channels that they need to be. Consumer expectations are at an all-time high and many are looking for a more personalised experience whilst engaging with brands in more places than ever before, which makes the life of the multi-channel marketer very challenging.” 

 

Online or in-store engagement depends on what consumers are purchasing 


Understandably, the preference of either online or in-store consumer interaction varies depending on the product or service. When shopping for clothing, homeware, and exercise equipment, 48% of UK consumers prefer to do so via a laptop/desktop web browser, similarly 41% prefer to use this channel when shopping for financial services. However, when in the market for a new car, the majority (36%) would prefer to shop in branch.  
 

 

However, the research indicates this focus on laptop/desktop web browsing could easily switch to mobile handsets, with 40% of consumers stating that they’ve increased the amount they’ve used their phone over the last year. Furthermore, 34% of consumers stated that a better user experience on a mobile app would encourage them to use it over a web browser proving that the mobile customer experience is something businesses should be focussed upon. 

 

Consumers want to give brands their data directly 


Despite the influx of data now available to brands due to the multiple channels that exist, consumers remain hesitant in sharing their personal data. There are concerns from consumers when shopping online (75%) and in-store (56%) over their data security, which is indicated as one of the main reasons why a consumer may not purchase a product or service. It should be seen as a priority for marketers to do what they can to allay consumer fears about how their data will be held and used in a transparent way. Encouragingly for brands themselves, over a third (37%) of UK shoppers would prefer to share their data directly with a brand they trust rather than with a tech giant, however 36% said they’d prefer not to have to share their personal data with neither brands nor tech giants.
 

Consumers want to be targeted, but marketers aren’t listening 


With a demand for personalised marketing and a good customer experience, understanding what resonates with the customer is important in order to get it right. Seven in ten UK consumers (69%) find it frustrating being contacted regularly by brands and 80% find pop-up notifications on their phone or laptop frustrating. With so many channels and opportunities for businesses to engage with a customer, brands need to be mindful of how frequently customers are being contacted and ensure that annoying CX niggles are removed, and message fatigue is monitored.
 

 

With three in four consumers saying a poor user experience will stop them buying, both online and in-store (76% and 74% respectively), marketers need to gain a better understanding of the evolving customer journey or risk losing customers altogether. 

 

Encouragingly, almost half (48%) of marketers collect information regarding how frequently their customers want to be contacted, however, a substantial 43% collect this insight but do not act upon it. Similarly, 44% of marketers are collecting data on their customers’ likes and dislikes, but a disappointingly higher percentage of marketers (46%) are obtaining this information but not using it, and a further 10% don’t collect it at all.  

 

Klin continues, “In order for brands to provide customers with the most personalised experience, they really need to move beyond just collecting this data, but also start to put it to use. There is no worth in asking a customer what they like and dislike if you don’t have the skills or marketing platforms to be able to activate this information. Customer Data Platforms are becoming essential to make this customer data actionable across all channels, and with consumers moving between digital and offline channels more frequently, it’s essential that businesses empower their marketing teams with the ability to activate their customer data more effectively.” 

 

Consumer behaviours vary internationally 


For businesses reaching international audiences, it is key to understand market nuances and the most effective ways of reaching target consumers in each region. For example, our research finds 25% of US consumers prefer to use Twitter to browse for clothing, homeware, and exercise equipment, compared with just 4% of UK consumers, indicating US homeware marketers should consider investing to a higher degree in social media.
 

 

In general, US consumers are more inclined to embrace many channels. Around 20% of stateside respondents favour 10 or more channels to browse for homeware, cars, charitable donations, and holidays, while UK consumers shop primarily on one or two channels for these products (they especially favour their laptop/web browsers, which they are twice as likely to use when shopping for certain products as their US counterparts). A seamless, multichannel strategy is therefore a must-have, right now, in the US, but perhaps the UK has a little more time to catch up.  

 

For those developing personalisation strategies, it is interesting to note US consumers are over three times as concerned (40% vs. just 11%) about receiving a personalised customer experience.  

 

Meanwhile, mobile commerce is becoming popular in the US, with mobile browsers and/or apps regularly appearing among the most popular shopping channels. This correlates with the considerable uptick in mobile commerce in the US (61% increase) compared to the UK (40% increase) over the last 12 months. This popularity may be driven by the more personalised experience that can be delivered via a mobile, since 89% of US consumers reported they would use an app over a browser if it offered better personalisation (compared with 50% in the UK).  

EU Business News Announce the Winners of the 2021 Irish Enterprise Awards

United Kingdom, 2021 – EU Business News has announced the winners of the 2021 Irish Enterprise Awards.

Now in its fourth year of showcasing exemplary Irish business, this awards programme has continued to highlight and recognise the enterprises that are thriving across the entirety of Ireland.

Whilst it is an understatement to say that the last year has been a challenging one, the COVID-19 pandemic has also been a catalyst for immense change. There have been times of uncertainty which has forced a colossal transformation of global business; however, many Irish enterprises and businesses have achieved great things despite the obstacles facing them. Ultimately, every success – whether a minor victory or major achievement – should be celebrated as an extraordinary accomplishment given these unprecedented times.

Speaking about the winners recognised as part of this programme, Awards Coordinator Katherine Benton commented: “Congratulations to all the winners of the Irish Enterprise Awards. It is with great pride and joy that we showcase the best of the best from across the entirety of Ireland. I hope you all have a wonderful rest of 2021 ahead.”

To learn more about our award winners and to gain an insight into the working practices of the “best of the best”, please visit EU Business News at https://www.eubusinessnews.com, where you can access the winners supplement.

ENDS

NOTES TO EDITORS

About EU Business News

The EU is a vital and exciting region filled with businesses and individuals creating unique innovations, supporting their customers around the world and, ultimately, driving change. As such, EU Business News aims to provide an absorbing overview of this exciting region and the businesses and individuals operating within it.

Much more than just a magazine, our online publication EU Business News also boasts an informative newsletter, a regularly updated website and a series of awards programmes showcasing the excellence of businesses and the individuals behind them from across this vibrant region.

Taking Startups to the Next Level with Kickstart Innovation

Kickstart Innovation, one of Europe’s leading, zero-equity, open innovation platforms based in Zurich, is currently launching its sixth program, and welcoming applications from businesses across the world. The application period is from April 15 to May 17.

National and international scaleups are invited to apply now and work together with Kickstart and leading companies to benefit from direct access into lines of business, knowledge and network. Through this ecosystem Kickstart connects scaleups, companies, cities, foundations and universities, supporting commercial partnerships between them and accelerating deep tech innovation.

Since Kickstart’s launch in 2015, a total of over 170 deals in the form of Proof of Concepts and commercial partnerships have been successfully initiated between startups and leading institutions in Switzerland, and more than 200 scaleups across 5 industry sectors have engaged from more than 40 countries. In addition, startups and scaleups have raised over CHF 850 million.

The partners are looking for tech scaleups in the areas of: EdTech & New Work, HealthTech, FinTech & InsurTech, Food & Retail Tech, Smart City & Technology, as well as Circular Economy.

Last year, despite the challenges posed by Covid-19, Kickstart participants managed to establish over 50 commercial collaborations. Accelerating digitalization became a greater priority for organizations than ever before, and with a strong focus on digitally enabled goals such as scaled remote work capabilities, safeguarding data, automation in supply chains and remote health solutions.

“Although we were not able to meet live, we completed a very successful program with a record number of commercial collaborations between companies and scaleups,” explains Co-Founder and CEO Katka Letzing. “We have attracted a record number of global partners for 2021 who are engaged across all industry areas.”

 

Benefit from strategic advice by industry experts and investors

Kickstart invites scaleups from across the globe to Switzerland to gain world-class access to the Swiss business ecosystem as well as direct distribution possibilities within lines of business at Kickstart’s leading institutional partners. The focus is not on startups in early stages, but more mature ones that are already positioned to collaborate with large companies (e.g. existing product, experience in working with B2B customers).

The bulk of the programme takes place between September and November, and promotes technological innovation and collaborating on specific opportunities. The scaleups receive three months of support from industry access to a vast network of advisors and experts who have successfully founded, scaled and often sold a company themselves.

During the program, each Kickstart scaleup also gets matched with an advisor who consults with them regularly and shares access to their network and market knowledge. Kickstart also offers free office space to scaleups at Kraftwerk, one of the largest innovation spaces in Zurich housed in an old power plant and other Impact Hub locations.

Applicants will have the opportunity to forge partnerships with  renowned Swiss partners such as PostFinance, AXA, Coop, Migros, Swisscom, die Mobiliar, Sanitas, The City of Zurich, Credit Suisse and other organizations.

A remarkable example was Kickstart alumni, OneDoc, which launched a collaboration with Medbase (part of the Migros group) during the program, and has now enabled more than 1.2 million COVID-19 vaccination appointments on their online platform.

“Swisscom Ventures invested in a STEM startup – Labster in 2018. The scaleup has raised over CHF 60 million by now. It’s just one of the many alumni stories from Kickstart that show the possibility of scale, growth and success.” explains Swisscom’s Chief Digital Officer, Roger Wüthrich-Hasenböhler. The company is revolutionizing science education by preparing students for real lab work via simulations. The benefit, in addition to a reduction in costs, is that techniques are learned faster, and the process of learning is more engaging and fun.

Next to building partnerships, Kickstart also provides access to a diversified investor network for scaleups and alumni raising financing rounds. Partners with corporate venture arms are actively involved, including Swisscom Ventures, AXA Venture Partners, and others.

More information and the application link.

SMEs Face Difficult Decisions as Lockdown Eases

Business owners, for the first time in over a year, can enjoy the sense of knowing what’s to come. The government’s announcement of a roadmap out of lockdown gives entrepreneurs a timeline for when they’ll be able to open up again, and when business will return to “normal”.

But for many it’s not that simple. While the majority of small businesses and sole traders now have an idea of when they’ll be back up and running, they now face another challenge: after more than 12 months of limited, or no, activity, how do they get started again?

1. Is the price right?

With lockdown forecast to ease throughout spring, some SME owners will be looking to tap into pent-up demand for their goods and services and increase their prices to reflect this. But they face a conundrum, as products priced higher than their perceived value will fail to sell enough volume. And after a year with no custom 38% of small businesses are wary of this, contemplating forgoing even planned annual price hikes this year. 

Considering factors such as brand value, quality, number of competitors and demand can be useful for setting prices when it comes to reopening. It may be possible to release a small quantity at different prices to see how much sells at each price level. It may also be possible to charge different prices to different markets or customers, but remember there are administration costs associated with maintaining multiple price lists.

2. Dealing with demand 

One in seven (15%) small business owners are worried that they won’t be able to meet demand when they’re finally able to reopen later this year. After redundancies, limited capital and a general lack of practice after a year of interruptions, the promise of returning to business as usual can raise more questions than it answers when it comes to stocking and staffing businesses effectively for the country’s reopening. 

It’s always worth planning your business on paper so that you can spot any possible mistakes before paying out real money. Doing groundwork ahead of reopening can help anticipate demand and get supply levels right; notifying existing and prospective customers of your plans and researching the market can all help here. 

3. Keeping an eye on supply

After a year of limited trade, closed workplaces and restricted travel, supply chains are far from guaranteed. As a result more than a third (36%) of SME owners and sole traders have raised concerns about their supply chain in the wake of Brexit and COVID-19. 

Keeping an eye on government updates and what the latest COVID restrictions may mean for your industry can help to give some foresight and allow small businesses to start planning for the future once again. 

If your business has been affected by Brexit, the first port of call should be the government’s dedicated Brexit hub for business. It starts with a few questions about your company: where you’re based and where and how you do business, along with what sectors you work in. The information is used to tailor results. There are also a number of industry bodies offering specific advice for different sectors, so searching around can help to find the support that’s out there to best equip your business for dealing with changes. 

4. Steering the ship 

The last year has been challenging for everyone, whether they own a business or not. But employers face the additional challenge of reintegrating employees who have been out of work, away from the physical workplace, or with changed remits back into pre-COVID ways of working. One in seven (14%) SME leaders are conscious that their staff may be feeling anxious about returning to a physical workplace, and will be navigating the challenges of making sure work spaces comply with government guidelines and keep everyone safe.

But staff morale is also important, especially when going through periods of transition, and communication can have a huge impact on employee engagement and motivation levels. Setting up effective ways of chatting with your team in advance of reopening can give a sense of everyone’s comfort levels and expectations for returning to work to make sure your business is a happy and productive one.  

Starling Bank has created a number of business guides, to help small businesses navigate various challenges, from getting started to accessing COVID support. 

How to Get Your Business in Touch with the Low Touch Economy

There is still a certain sense that things may never been fully the same as before the world went into lockdown. With social behaviours and etiquette sharply changing, how can businesses built upon years and years of the ‘old’ normal embrace the new world that will emerge after the pandemic is brought under control?

Experts have coined the phrase ‘Low Touch Economy’ to describe how they believe businesses will need to operate after lockdown. Here, we will guide you through what the Low Touch Economy is and how your business can get ready to reopen to a low touch world.

What is the Low Touch Economy?

The Low Touch Economy is a concept developed by the Board of Innovation. It essentially predicts a new overarching process that all businesses, regardless of sector, will need to follow in order to remain safe and accessible in at least the early days of post-lockdown.

The model outlines how customers and workers will need to operate at distances, using technology as a means to avoid physical human contact. It highlights the need to increase hygiene awareness and practices, protecting both staff and customers. In essence, the Low Touch Economy is the ‘new’ normal, and businesses that can’t adapt to this new world will be left behind in the memories of how businesses ran pre-lockdown.

Savvy businesses are already looking into ways for their companies to embrace the change: according to search volume data from Google, searches for “low touch” were up 75% between February and April in 2020, with “non contact” up 91% in the same time frame. Year-on-year, searches for “low touch” have increased 133% in April 2020 compared to April 2019. “Non contact” increased 200% in the same time frame. The impact of the pandemic has supercharged our move towards a Low Touch Economy.

So, how can your business continue to prepare for the Low Touch Economy?

Supplies for you and your customers

As with any plan, preparation is key. No matter what sector you’re in, keeping the workplace cleaner than it’s ever been before will now be the norm. Don’t just rely on the evening cleaning team either — you need to be prepared to do regular top-up cleaning throughout the day, particularly on any surfaces that might be touched, such as door handles and counters. Stock up on essential cleaning products, such as antibacterial spray, bin bags, and disposable gloves. Blue roll is a great option for fast-paced environments, as it can be used and disposed hygienically, rather than having to stop and clean out a reusable cloth each time it is used to keep it sanitary.

Place hand sanitiser stations around your business for your employees and your customers to use — having one at the door for customers entering and leaving is an effective way to keep everything in your premises clean.

Reducing contact as much as possible

As well as keeping your business clean, you will want to keep your customers and employees safely spaced. If your floor size permits, having stickers on the floor indicating two metre distances is an easy way to help guide customers and employees around the building without danger.

Alongside this, establishing a one-way system will keep everything running smoothly without causing too many hold-ups along the way. It also means customers don’t need to worry about turning around and accidentally bumping too close to someone going the other way!

In terms of your staff, similar rules would apply in terms of keeping your staff spaces safely apart. If they are working in customer-facing roles, such as on a shop floor, having designated help desks with two-metre markings near it will help prevent customers walking around in search of staff and potentially having to get too close to get their attention for help with something.

If you haven’t before, now is the perfect time to look into technological upgrades for your business too. According to Sifted, one robot delivery service has witnessed a business boom since the pandemic began, with around 70 robots rolling across Milton Keynes to deliver groceries and takeaway food. They’ve been active for the last two years, but now the company says they’ve noticed people moving from asking about their robots’ customer proposition potential to their robots’ hygiene and safety perks. After all, if a robot is carrying your food to your door, that’s one less set of hands it has touched.

Lowering the amount of human contact along your business’ supply chain may seem like a painful decision to make, but in terms of hygiene, opting for robotic and automated workers presents a perfect no- to low-touch environment.

Staggered timing

You may well have a small space for your business, such as a local shop or small café. In this case, a one-way system may not be in your best interests, nor will you be able to keep your customers two-metres apart.

An appointment system would allow your customers to call or book online for a time slot to enter the premises. This means you can set out the small place to efficiently accommodate a set number of people safely, keeping their needs and your staff’s needs in mind. While this may reduce your overall footfall, it would be a way of welcoming some customers back to your business.

This idea of staggered visiting times extends to your staff too. Especially in a manufacturing setting, to avoid having too many workers on the line at once, consider staggering shift patterns. You may decide not to call back all of your employees straight away or have “teams” working alternate weeks at a reduced number. Be sure to leave a small break period between the shift switch-over period to clean down the place before the next shift comes on. Either option would reduce the number of people in the building at any one time, maintaining a low touch environment.

It’s a trying time for everyone, but for businesses who are willing and able to adapt and let go of the comfort blanket of old processes, the world is still waiting after lockdown. Preparation is key, so start planning for change within your firm — can your company convert to low-touch?

Sharing Your TV Channel Internationally: What EU Businesses Need to Know

There has been a boom in the consumption of audio-visual content since the beginning of the pandemic. This could change the future of the TV and entertainment industry forever, and we still don’t know if people will go back to their old habits after restrictions are over. We can expect the sector to keep growing, which presents a prime opportunity for EU businesses that want to get in the field. The only issue is that they have a very tough regulatory landscape to navigate, especially if they intend to broadcast their content outside the EU’s borders. Here’s what all EU businesses should know about launching their TV channels internationally.

Regulations More Lax for Streaming Services

For anyone thinking of entering the field, they should know that the barrier to entry for starting a traditional TV channel locally, let alone internationally, is much tougher than for VOD or streaming services. This makes streaming services a much more realistic option for those who may not have the time or resources that it would take to get a TV channel off the ground.

How Can EU Businesses Start their Own Streaming Service?

It’s not as complex as many may think. The first thing you should do if you want to start a service is look at your options. One common option is to start an OTT channel. An OTT channel will allow you to stream directly from your platform without using a third-party service.

If you want to know how to start an OTT platform, you can work with a team like Red Bee Media. They handle everything from content delivery to granular analytics. You’ll have your own professional channel that you will be able to serve on all devices. You’ll also be able to collect subscriptions or create pay-per-view events among other things.

Changes to Regulation

However, you have to know that even if it’s generally easier to start an OTT service, there are still some regulations you will have to follow. New rules were introduced in September 2020 to deal with the competition of OTT platforms like Netflix. These new rules are there to make the playing field more even for TV companies who now have to compete with services that can offer much better deals to clients. For instance, the definition of a “programme” is no longer limited to television-like services. This could have far-reaching consequences, especially for those who want to move from a traditional platform to an OTT one.

The new definition is more dynamic, which will allow it to fit different media formats that may come in the future. If a broadcaster decides to provide content through a streaming platform, then the new definition means that the content that is streamed will also fall under general media regulations.

Challenges for New Chanel Creators

As a new channel creator, you will have many challenges to face. The first will be to make sure that you have an embedded audience. The next is making sure that you have strong market research backing your idea. Once everything is in place, you can start looking at building your online presence either through a small channel on YouTube or Facebook and build traction. From there, you can make your channel official if there is significant interest in it.

EU businesses will have to be prepared to abide by a new set of rules if they want to start a channel and distribute it internationally. This is why you must get all the information needed before getting started so you can avoid any fines.

How to Choose the Right Accountant for Your Business

Getting the right professional support for your company is one of the most important things that you can do for success as a business owner. It’s not uncommon to end up taking on many different roles within the business when you run your own company, and there are tons of apps and other resources now available to help you DIY areas that you might not be extremely skilled in. However, when it comes to business money and tax, it’s always worth investing in professional help and support. The right accountant can make a huge difference to your business. Here’s how to find the right one for you.

Know What You Need

First of all, understanding what you will need from your accountant is essential before you get started. Accountants offer a wide range of different services to choose from including general bookkeeping, audit preparation, tax returns, and payroll, and knowing which ones your business is going to benefit from will be essential to helping you choose the right accountant for your company.

Experience Working with Medium Sized Businesses

Another key factor to keep in mind when choosing the right accountant for you is whether or not they have experience working with businesses like yours. Accounting firms like Azets are able to help many businesses from start-ups to medium to large sized businesses and therefore are the best choice for any business looking to work with financial professionals who understand the industry and the unique challenges that businesses will face.

Industry Experience

Along with choosing an accountant that is experienced with working with businesses, it is also a good idea to find a professional that understands and knows your industry well. When an accountant has worked for clients within a certain industry for a long time, they will be familiar with all the related challenges and have a better understanding of your company compared to an accountant that is not familiar with your industry.

Software and Tools

When selecting an accountant, it can be worth asking about the software and tools that they use for accounting services, especially if you want to be able to manage some of the business accounts from your end, or work with an accountant that uses tools which can easily be used in conjunction with the tools that your business uses on a regular basis. Many accountants will now use popular business accounting tools like QuickBooks that allow you to take control and work together with them for the best results.

Getting Recommendations and Quotes

Once you have determined which services you are going to need from your accountant, it is time to start getting some recommendations and quotes from other business owners that you know and trust. Ask about accounting services in your professional circle to find out more about the accountants that other business owners in your industry have worked with and would recommend.

Be Selective and Ask Questions

Finally, don’t just go with the first accountant that you find that seems suitable for the job. Be selective about who you work with and ask plenty of questions to ensure that they are the right fit for you. A good accountant will be more than happy to provide you with more information about the type of experience that they have, clients that they are currently working with who are happy to be contacted for more information, and any other reasonable requests that you might have for getting to know them and what they do.

Choosing the right accountant for your business can be a daunting task, so keep these tips in mind to help you find the best professional for your needs.

86% of UK and European Tech Professionals Don’t Want To Return To the Office Full-time

  • Survey by tech job marketplace hackajob shows changing attitudes to work. Hybrid working is the new deal breaker – only 14% want to return to the office full-time
  • Job hopping culture is here to stay – 80% don’t think they will be working for the same company in the next two years
  • Diversity and inclusion policies are lacklustre – rated ‘poor’ by non-males

As restrictions continue to lift and organisations prepare to bring employees back to the workplace, a new report from hackajob has revealed that 86% of technology professionals in the UK and Europe don’t want to return to the office full-time at all.

Only 14% of the 1,700 tech professionals surveyed want to go back to a company office full-time. Around one in four (26%) would like to work remote permanently, while 60% are happy to work from the office occasionally and spend the rest of the week working from home.

“Hybrid working is the new deal breaker for tech professionals,” says Mark Chaffey co-founder and CEO at hackajob, the tech jobs marketplace behind the survey. “The past year has allowed for greater flexibility and freedom like never before. Although working from home may not have been the easiest for individuals this past year, tech professionals clearly find the value in not being in the office every day. Employees are feeling more comfortable and happier working from home, having cultivated a work-life balance. They are just as productive when working from home, even more so in fact thanks to fewer distractions and no commute.

“Giving tech professionals the freedom to choose how and where they work is key to attracting the best talent. The office should remain as an option but businesses must remember there is no one size fits all approach for a market where talent moves quickly. They must give employees what they want – a hybrid working model which provides the best of both worlds.”

Interestingly, the survey reveals that 80% of tech professionals don’t think they will be working for the same company in two years. This suggests employees care more about job flexibility and gratification than permanent jobs, private healthcare and pensions. 

Mark adds: “For baby boomers and Generation X, it was quite common to stay in the same company for most of their working lives. Today’s working landscape is different, with millennials and Generation Z open to the concept of job hopping. People changing jobs every year or two can be seen by employers as a red flag but, actually, it shows these people are ambitious, adaptable and knowledgeable – traits that every employer looks for.

The survey also highlights the need for potential employers to ditch CVs and eliminate the bias that still exists in the hiring process today. More than half (57%) of tech professionals want to be assessed on their skills – not their CVs or indeed their gender, ethnicity, education, sexuality, disability and socio-economic status. In addition, many say blind interview processes are crucial if organisations are to both hire people based on their potential and commit to creating a diverse and inclusive culture in the workplace.

While 77% of those surveyed feel their current employer’s Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) policy is either ‘good’ or ‘excellent’, a deeper dive into the findings shows there is more work to be done. Nearly a third (32%) of people who do not identify as male rate their company’s D&I policy as either ‘satisfactory’ or ‘poor’. Looking further into the job titles of the respondents certain specialists are not as happy with their current employers’ approach to diversity and inclusion as their colleagues. For example, 43% of systems architects – none of whom identify as male – rate their employer’s D&I policy as either satisfactory’ or ‘poor’. 30% of devops engineers and 28% of back end engineers feel the same sentiment.

Funding Circle is one organisation that is committed to building an inclusive culture and wants to become the best fintech company to work for in the world. Jatinder Bansal, Global Head of Talent Acquisition at Funding Circle, comments: “D&I is a big part of our focus at Funding Circle. Building a diverse team, in simple terms, is great for business. Creating an inclusive culture is what will help us thrive and go further. With the help of hackajob’s platform, we hire engineering talent from so many different backgrounds, enabling us to innovate and keep building the place where small businesses get the funding they need to succeed.”

Other key findings from the survey:

  • 76% say flexible working matters the most to them – higher than annual leave (63%), learning and development (62%), private healthcare (47%) and pension (35%).
  • 56% of tech professionals say they are ‘happy’ or ‘very happy’ in their current job.
  • Respondents are split on the future of work post Covid-19. Half are more likely to move to a new role, while the other half are more likely to stay put.
  • 64% say a technical Q&A is the best way to assess technical people during the hiring process, followed by take home technical tests (46%), online technical challenges (42%) and live pair programming (32%).

Hackajob surveyed over 1,700 respondents based in the UK and Europe to understand what matters most to technical talent, including software developers, engineers, data scientists and more. The report explores their experiences in job seeking, technical assessments, perks and benefits, diversity and inclusion, and working life post-Covid-19.

Shipping Construction Goods and Products in a Post-Brexit World: A Guide

Brexit – a word that we are sure most, if not all of those reading this, are familiar with. While many people have switched off and tuned out the word entirely, there are companies across the country who are still needing to factor this element into their business decisions. None more so than when wanting to ship construction goods and products to mainland Europe.

If you have found yourself in this position and need to find out more on how you go about doing just that, then read on for more.  

Knowing Where to Ship to 

This can seem something of a challenge, no matter the size or age of your business. As time progresses, so do consumer habits; it is crucial that you stay up to date with what existing and potential customers expect of you and other companies within your industry. 

Being aware of where you will be shipping products and goods to is crucial to ensuring that you can be successful in your efforts when shipping to the EU and beyond. By establishing the scope of interest before jumping head-first into the process, you can rest assured that your future efforts will pay off.

However, one thing that should be taken into consideration; there are always going to be construction projects cropping up. You can rest assured that there will always be someone who will be in need of your products or services.

Adequately Storing the Goods and Products 

No matter whether you are outsourcing your goods and products to mainland Europe or are importing goods, you will need somewhere safe, adequately sized and secure to store and manage the goods. Warehouses are typically used by companies who ship goods overseas and those who are strictly more domestic-oriented.

With this in mind, you want to ensure that those who are working in your warehouses can safely access the goods within the space without the risk of injuring themselves in the process. None more so, than when handling constructions goods, for they can be large in size and weight.

Some warehouses have vast and tall storage spaces; therefore, it is necessary to implement forklifts and other machinery to access the products in a safe way. Whether you are looking for forklift hire in Newcastle or Newquay, companies like Bel Lift Trucks have everything that you would need.  

Customs Specifications 

Before the UK left the European Union, there were not as many stringent rules to follow in terms of customs as what there are now. When shipping goods out of the country and receiving goods and products, it is crucial that you are aware of what rules you need to follow to do so successfully. 

When sending parcels out of the country, you will need to fill out specific forms attributing to the customs declaration. Documents like these can be attained from your local post office, and this is also an ideal place from where to send the parcel.  

Both when sending and receiving parcels – no matter the size or the weight – the recipient in both situations should expect to pay some sort of customs and import charges. Generally, the costs of these charges depend on the country of origin or destination, so it is something you should factor in when sending goods abroad.  

While this was a short and albeit brief guide into all things shipping post-Brexit, we hope that it has highlighted some of the things that should be considered when going down this route.  

Is Wind Energy the Future for Meeting UK Business Energy Requirements?

Now that the world has placed a greater focus on the effects we have on the environment, finding more environmentally friendly ways to source our energy is vital. The world has already found some innovative ways to sustainably produce energy without the reliance on coal, oil, and natural gas. However, there is still more to be done. Other than the changes we as individuals make, businesses need to adapt their operations to use greener sources of energy – such as wind power.

With Boris Johnson pledging that by 2030 offshore wind farms will generate enough power for every home in the UK, the race is on to make wind energy the future. However, what does the future look like for businesses? Here, we discuss if wind energy will be the future for meeting UK business energy requirements.

Wind energy: the pros and cons

In short, wind energy relies on wind turbines to generate electricity. As the blades turn, they rotate a generator and a shaft that converts the energy into electricity. The UK is one of the best places in the world for wind-powered energy. So, why is it not being used more often by businesses? Here, we discuss the pros and cons to businesses for using wind energy as an electric connection.

The pros
  • It is one of the cleanest forms of energy. Since no fossil fuels or other pollutant forms of energy are required, wind energy will provide your business with clean, low carbon energy.
  • Offshore wind farms can produce a high amount of energy since there is more wind at sea. For businesses, having a reliable supply of energy is vital to prevent delays in operations.
  • Offshore wind farms provide reefs for fish. Not only do they have very little impact on wildlife, but they are also an incredibly green way to generate energy.
  • In 2019, the Renewable Power Generation Costs in 2019 report found that it cost more to keep coal plants in operation than to run onshore wind farms. Other than the environmental advantages, there are also cost advantages too.
 
The cons
  • For offshore wind farms, these can be expensive to construct and to repair.
  • When the turbines are not running, they rely on fossil fuels for backup. This means wind turbines don’t always provide absolute green energy.
  • Wind turbines impact views. Since onshore turbines tend to be built on the top of hills, these can be seen as negative blights on some landscapes.

Wind energy and business energy: the requirements

With the pros and cons considered, the environmental aspect of wind energy undeniably has many benefits. However, whether wind turbines are the future of energy for businesses comes down to more than just the environmental factors. The overall question is whether wind energy can produce enough to supply UK businesses with power all year round and how the energy sector balances its electricity general profile in a low carbon way

In terms of how much electricity UK businesses require per year is as follows.

  • Micro-sized businesses can require between 5,000 to 15,000 kWh each.
  • Small businesses can require between 15,000 to 30,000 kWh each.
  • For medium businesses, these average at 30,000 to 50,000 kWh each per year

As for how much gas UK businesses consume per year, the average varies depending on the size of the business too.

  • Micro-sized businesses require around 10,000 kWh each
  • Small businesses require approximately 25,000 kWh each
  • Medium businesses need around 45,000 kWh each

The level of output per wind turbine varies depending on its size and how fast the wind is travelling through the rota. The more wind, the more energy. An onshore wind turbine with a 2.5-3MW is thought to produce around 6 million kWh of energy per year, supplying on average 1,500 households with electricity.

So, is there enough wind energy for UK businesses?

The average UK household requires around 3700kWh of electricity per year and 12,000 kWh of gas. To help supply this, there are 8,600 onshore wind turbines and 2,300 offshore wind turbines currently in the UK. In comparison to the amount of energy businesses require on average per year, it’s clear that more wind turbines are needed to generate enough power to cover both homes and businesses.

However, that’s not to say this isn’t an unrealistic goal for the UK to achieve. With the Government setting numerous targets to help lower the impact of climate change, a huge part of this is finding more environmentally friendly sources of energy. Although initial investments might be high, in the long run, wind energy can cost less than the likes of coal-powered energy as mentioned above. Therefore, it is financially possible for wind energy to be the future power for businesses.

In terms of reliability, there has been some issues raised with this. If wind-powered energy causes delays when supplying businesses with electricity and gas, this could severely impact production levels for businesses. Therefore, other sustainable energy resources, such as solar panels, may be more beneficial. Or another solution to this is to strategically place wind turbines in specific places. For example, since offshore turbines are exposed to higher speeds and consistencies of wind, investing in more wind farms at sea will help prevent the issue of power inefficiencies for businesses.

There is no possible way to give a definitive answer about what the future holds for energy sources for UK businesses. However, one thing for certain is that switching to wind-powered energy is a possibility and a mix of local carbon energy generation technologies will be key to achieving the balance needed to power our lives. With more investments in the efficiency and scale of wind farms to provide enough power for businesses, the future of the UK could be a much greener one.