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How can your weekly shopping help save the world?

The world’s nations met in October in Glasgow to discuss the climate challenges facing the planet at the UN Climate Change conference, more popularly known as ‘COP26’. 

How can your weekly shopping help save the world?
Photo: Getty Images

Already, nations around the world are investigating ways to power their transportation and manufacturing infrastructure with electricity sourced from wind, solar and wave power. Consumers are also increasingly feeling their power in campaigns that influence businesses to change their practices to be more sustainable in the supply and delivery of goods. 

Together with online learning provider GetSmarter and the University of Cambridge’s Institute for Sustainability Leadership, who offer the Supply Chain Management and Business and Climate Change: Towards Net Zero Emissions online short courses, we explore five ways internationals in Europe can exert influence in guiding businesses to act more ethically and sustainably.

Shop local

Especially popular across Germany, Austria and Switzerland are campaigns that stress the need to source groceries locally. Consumer pressure has forced many supermarkets to place local produce front and centre, in prominent locations. This has been assisted by a surge of support for markets and local general stores, further forcing supermarkets to ensure that they are stocking produce from the surrounding area. While many of these campaigns have enjoyed state and federal support, they are by no means unpopular and enjoy widespread support. 

Further guaranteeing that local produce is prioritised are laws that ensure specific foods are not labelled in such a way to mislead regarding their origin. For example, Allgäu cheese and Schwarzwald ham cannot be labelled as such if they are not produced within these geographical regions.

Shopping in the local produce sections of supermarkets, and carefully checking packaging to ensure that regional specialities are, in fact, sourced locally, sends a clear message to retailers that local produce should comprise the majority of their stock. As a knock on effect, supply chains are shortened and emissions reduced. 

Learn how to become part of the teams developing, revolutionizing and streamlining the supply chains of the future with the Supply Chain Management online short course from GetSmarter and the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Management

Look for ‘greenwashing’

Sustainability is a buzzword these days, and as such, features prominently in advertising campaigns. However, the ‘bio’ or ‘green’ laundry detergent that you buy may not actually be as sustainable as the name would suggest. ‘Greenwashing’, by which firms overstate or exaggerate the sustainability credentials of their product, has become a significant issue in recent years. 

France was the first country in the world to introduce criminal charges for ‘greenwashing’ by companies, earlier this year. Those found to have misled consumers can be fined up to 80% of the cost of the advertising campaign in question. 

With significant losses for those who break these laws, ‘ESG’ (environmental, social and governmental) ratings are a major concern. Products are increasingly featuring the ESG rating given to them by one of many watchdog groups. 

At the consumer level, we can avoid ‘greenwashing’ by looking beyond the name, or packaging of a product, and look for the ESG rating assigned to it. If the watchdog assigning it is a member of IOSCO, an umbrella organisation providing oversight over these groups, even better. 

Sourcing goods that truly practice sustainability, rather than adopting it as a marketing device, reduce emissions and benefit the environment. 


Photo: Getty Images

Invest ethically

‘Activist investors’ have become a phenomenon in recent years, which means  consumers are increasingly buying shares in local manufacturers, or working with hedge funds in an effort to influence the sustainability of a business and their supply chains. 

One region that has increasingly seen this occurring is Italy. Over the last five years, activist hedge funds there have prevented a number of mergers and acquisitions, ensuring that supply chains are kept local, and that markets are not flooded with products from elsewhere. Around a third of firms in Italy are family-owned, and efforts to protect them from acquisition are a point of pride for many. 

Consumers in a position to invest can ensure the sustainability of supply chains by either investing themselves in local food and good manufacturers, or by working with funds that prioritise ethical and sustainable investing as part of their mission.

Discover how to guide your business towards zero emissions with the Business and Climate Change: Towards Net Zero Emissions 8 week course from GetSmarter and the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership

Avoid fast fashion

‘Fast fashion’ – cheap, mass-produced clothing imported from developing countries – imposes a huge burden on the environment. Its supply chains generate a huge amount of carbon emissions, and production in countries often without environmental protections causes a number of different types of pollution. 

Spain, as the home of Zara, one of the world’s biggest producers of ‘fast fashion’, has become a battleground against the practice. Activist groups such as Greenpeace have targeted the retailer in their campaigns, to a great deal of publicity. As a consequence, the Spanish public is increasingly aware of the costs of cheap clothing. 

Retailers across Europe, such as C&A and H&M have sought to avoid the ‘fast fashion’ stigma by supporting campaigns that ‘upcycle’ clothes, reusing fabrics, and sourcing textiles locally. This has the effect of reducing the carbon emissions created by supply chains, and aids in the creation of the ‘circular economy’ – that is to say, the reuse of materials within a market to improve sustainability on an environmental and economic level. 

Consumers can avoid ‘fast fashion’ by carefully sourcing their clothes from labels that reject these practices, by recycling clothes via a variety of online platforms and purchasing clothes made from recyclable fabrics, such as those produced through partnership with the ‘Cradle to Cradle’ Institute. 

Use apps to cut waste

Europe generates approximately 88 trillion tonnes of food waste each year – a truly staggering amount of waste, considering the supply chains required to bring fruit, vegetables, dairy products and other foodstuffs to your local supermarket.

The Nordics have been leading the way in tackling food waste, not only on a governmental level, but on a consumer level. Apps such as Denmark’s TooGoodToGo and Sweden’s Karma, that help both businesses and individuals distribute excess food to others, enjoy a great deal of support from the population. They have proved so successful that they are expanding into the UK, US and other markets, to great acclaim. 

Using food waste apps, and second-hand clothing marketplaces are an effective way for consumers to help develop sustainable, circular economies, where supply chains are streamlined and there is a reduction in emissions – and you might also be able to grab a great bargain

Become an active participant in developing the supply chains that will supply future markets, with the Supply Chain Management online short course from GetSmarter and the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership. Course begins February 9th

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FREELANCING

UPDATE: How small businesses in Spain can get €12,000 for digital improvements

The Spanish government has unveiled how self-employed workers and small businesses in Spain can apply for the so-called ‘Kit Digital’ and get up to €12,000 to improve the digital side of their businesses. Here are the updated details, the requirements and why you should apply as soon as possible.

UPDATE: How small businesses in Spain can get €12,000 for digital improvements

At the time of announcing the financial aid programme back in November 2021, the only real details announced were that the government’s so-called ‘Digital Kits’ would run until 2023 with an initial investment of €500 million and would be available to self-employed workers and companies with between 10 and 49 employees.

But on March 15th 2022 the Spanish government finally announced the details of the scheme, including how these digital bonuses will work, the requirements needed to get one and how to apply. 

Autónomos (self-employed workers) and small business owners in Spain have had a tough time during the pandemic, whilst also having to pay some of the highest social security contributions in Europe.

The Spanish government’s new ‘digital kit’ is aimed at helping many of these small business owners out by covering the cost of digital improvements, from their websites to social media management and marketing campaigns.

READ ALSO – Self-employed in Spain: What you should know about being ‘autónomo’

How will the Digital Kits work?

The Digital Kit funds will be distributed in the form of vouchers of up to €12,000 for small companies and autónomos who want to undertake a digital transformation of their businesses.

These vouchers will then be passed on to ‘digital agents’ – a series of companies authorised by the government to develop these projects, which they call “digital solutions”. That means that self-employed workers and small businesses will not receive the funds directly nor be able to choose which company to hire for the digital improvements.

Instead, it will be the digital agents who receive the final payment and will take care of the paperwork and digital improvements. Currently, there are already more than 3,000 companies authorised as digital agents, although the list is expected to continue to grow in the next few weeks.

Please note that €12,000 in funds is the highest amount and will only be available to businesses with the need for a complete digital overhaul. 

What digital improvements are available?

The digital transformation projects which can be financed with the Digital Kit fall into several different categories, which the government defines as:

  • The creation of web pages and visibility of the company on the internet (Google rankings, SEO)
  • Electronic commerce
  • Social media management
  • The improvement and digitisation of customer management systems
  • Business intelligence and analytics
  • Virtual office tools and services
  • Digitisation and automation of business processes
  • Electronic billing
  • Secure communications
  • Cybersecurity

Who will be eligible for the Digital Kits?

In order to be eligible for the Digital Kits, you must:

  • Be a small business, micro business or autónomo (A small business is considered to be one that has more than 10 employees and no more than 50 and a micro business has less than 10 employees whose annual turnover does not exceed €2 million).
  • Meet the financial and cash limits that define the categories of each type of company
  • Not be considered a company in crisis
  • Be up to date with tax and social security payments
  • Not be subject to an outstanding recovery order from the European Commission

When can I apply?

The Asociación de Autónomos (ATA) has confirmed to The Local that small businesses with between 10 and 49 employees are able to apply for the Digital Kits any time between now and 11am on September 14th 2022.

However, if you want to be in with a chance of receiving one, you should apply as soon as possible, as the aid will be granted on a first-come-first-served basis, depending on your needs and funds are already running out. 

ATA also confirmed that micro businesses with between three and nine employees are able to apply from June and sole traders or those with just two employees can apply from September. 

How do I apply?

In order to apply, you must register at www.acelerapyme.es and complete the self-diagnosis test. This will allow the government to know what level of digitisation your company has already and what you need. 

Remember, those businesses that have already registered will be given priority. 

You can also request ATA to help you apply for the kits by filling out the form found at https://autonomoskitdigital.es/.

You can then check the catalogue of digital solutions, where you can choose one or several of those offered by digital agents that best suit the needs of your business.

Next, you will request the Digital Kit aid at the Red.es electronic office (sede.red.gob.es) and complete the associated form.

Once your request for a Digital Kit has been granted, you will be able to access the catalogue of digital agents and decide which one you want to work with, before signing an agreement to start your project.

According to the latest stats available, there are approximately 2.9 million SMEs in Spain (around 70 percent in the services sector), and around 3 million autónomos. 

READ ALSO: How to set up an online shop in Spain

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