Jayne Hussey Mills & Reeve
Jayne Hussey of Mills & Reeve said companies are failing to check the sustainability of where their goods come from

Most businesses ‘do not know what to do with their data’

Business owners are optimistic about the year ahead, with 86% planning on growing their business, introducing new products or moving into new markets, but they need to get to grips with data and supply chains, according to research.

The turbulence of the past 12 months has posed many challenges and will continue to do so but according to the results of a YouGov survey commissioned by leading UK law firm Mills & Reeve, the consensus across UK’s businesses is one of optimism.

However, nearly a third of businesses are actually looking to cut costs and just one in five business owners plan on prioritising employees in the year ahead, despite record highs of unemployment and a mental health crisis following the pandemic.

For many, data is touted as the answer, but do business leaders know how to use it? Over 50% of the business owners interviewed by YouGov in February 2021 said they do not know what to do with the data they have, or they simply do not have quality data available to them.

Meanwhile, the survey revealed that businesses are prioritising price over sustainability when it comes to their supply chains. Over a quarter of those interviewed never audit their supply chain’s compliance with ethical and sustainability contract requirements.

Despite the changing attitudes towards more sustainable and ethical products and practices, 47% of businesses said they prioritise price in comparison to just 14% that prioritise sustainable and ethical practices. However, there are big regional variations with 21% of London businesses prioritising sustainability compared to just 9% in Yorkshire and Humber.

Jayne Hussey, partner at Mills & Reeve, said: “Understanding where your products or services come from and who is making them is vital. The Sunday Times report on labour standards in many of the Boohoo related factories in Leicester resulted in the share price of Boohoo dropping by 25% within a few days.

“If the pandemic has taught us anything, it is that the economy (and for that matter, the country) relies on a robust supply of goods. The early days of the first lockdown were exasperated for everyone by the lack of products. Not only could consumers not buy what they needed, things like toilet rolls, but companies struggled to meet the demand. And not just in the short term, with many companies still struggling with imports and exports.”

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