Organic businesses invited to Soil Association webinar to help prepare for Brexit

Soil Association Certification is holding its final webinar for organic businesses to get ready for Brexit this week.

The free Brexit webinar takes place on Wednesday, December 2, between 2pm-3pm, and is designed to support the organic industry in their preparations for Brexit. The webinar is the last in a series designed to help Soil Association Certification licensees and all other organic businesses and industry stakeholders in the UK get ready for the end of the transition period.

Lee Holdstock, Trade Relations Manager at Soil Association Certification, commented: “This webinar is a critical opportunity for organic businesses to stay informed of the latest developments on trade continuity in the organic sector and ensure that they’re ready for trading in 2021. Through continued interaction with DEFRA and other key stakeholders, we’ve put together these webinars to ensure all organic businesses are up to date and able to run as smoothly as possible, throughout the transition period and beyond.

“We’ve worked hard to achieve EU recognition of our certification offer and have raised a number of other import, export and labelling issues, which we’ll continue to update organic businesses on in the coming weeks.”

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Organic pioneer urges for a greener world, post Covid-19

A well-known organic leader has urged for organic food and farming to be at the heart of greener efforts in a post-pandemic world.

Alex Smith, the founder of pioneering organic and ethical food company Alara Wholefoods, made the comments in a wide-ranging interview with Ian Wright, the Chief Cxecutive at the Food and Drink Federation (F&DF).

In the interview, he says that the present pandemic should be put into sharper perspective, commenting: “Covid has been terrible in terms of the shocking disruption and dreadful loss of life but climate chaos is going to be much worse, and a much harder thing for us to deal with.

“That’s why gaining a better understanding of the profound climate impacts that food production has is so vital. Food production accounts for around one third of climate change gases, and 10 per cent of all climate change gas on the planet is nitrous oxide, mainly arising from artificial fertilisers. These are absolutely key things that the food industry is going to have to take on board. It’s not just about greening electricity and factories, we need to think about the embedded CO2 in all the food that is being sold.”

Smith points out that organic offers a proven template for sustainable food and farming and he is convinced that sustainable food systems can be a vehicle for transformational change. This is why Alara is fully behind the Grow Back Greener movement.

He added: “There is a real opportunity now for us to go to a really amazing place. It’s not sackcloth and ashes, it’s the next iteration of society.”




Small businesses feel more prepared in second lockdown, data reveals

Two third of SMEs in England have reported feeling more prepared in the second national lockdown, according to new data from Barclaycard.

The research found that business owners knew what to expect going into this lockdown and had made changes to make their company more resilient, with 66 per cent feeling more prepared than the first lockdown. Barclaycard Payments SME Barometer data also found that SMEs across the UK are going online to stay ahead, with just under half increasing their online presence since March 2020; its data shows sustained growth in online payments to SMEs, with e-commerce transactions up six per cent since last quarter

And in encouraging signs, almost three quarters of SMEs are looking to invest in their business over the next 12 months.

The top reasons given for feeling more prepared were mental preparation (36 per cent), the changes they’ve made to their business to make it more resilient (32 per cent), and the Government support in place (14 per cent).

With regard to e-commerce, SMEs are turning to this as a way of recapturing some of the opportunities they’ve missed out on, with just under half (45 per cent) increasing their online presence since March 2020 – with website improvements (67 per cent), putting services online (66 per cent) and social media advertising (64 per cent) cited as the measures which have had the most positive impact.

Barclaycard Payments data show that small businesses are being rewarded for adding the ability to take online payments, with e-commerce transactions at SME merchants up six per cent since last quarter, and up 16 per cent year-on-year.

Looking ahead to next year, nearly three quarters (74 per cent) of business owners are planning to invest back into their business. The most popular areas for investment are marketing (29 per cent), and new equipment/technology (28 per cent).

Prior to the lockdown announcement for England on October 31, 63 per cent of SMEs expected to return to 2019 levels of output by the end of 2021, although the latest restrictions may make this less achievable for some businesses.

Konrad Kelling, Head of Small Business at Barclaycard Payments, commented: “The past year has been incredibly difficult for SMEs across all sectors, so it’s reassuring to see that many have been able to take advantage of the lessons learned during the first lockdown to adapt their business ensuring that they are able to continue to serve their customers.”

He recommends that SMEs invest in the ‘new normal’ with regard to your online presence and make sure people know who’s behind your business – many customers are looking to support their local SMEs during these tough times, so make sure your customers know the stories and people behind your business.

Emma Jones, founder of small business network, Enterprise Nation, added: “SMEs have again and again proved their resourcefulness and flexibility in this crisis. They have been proactive in looking at ways to adapt their business for a Covid economy – with investment in online tools, and having staff working from home all crucial to their ability to ride out the latest round of pandemic disruptions. In light of all of the economic setbacks, SMEs are hopeful that 2021 could bring back a degree of normality – and we are hopeful that they will persevere.”