I was contemplating earlier the possible marketing related consequences of the flight bans in the UK due to the Icelandic Volcano eruptions and the ensuing ash clouds. Whilst there are many areas which fall into the “Managing Corporate Reputation” area due to the publicity with the obvious areas being in relation to airlines, holiday companies and particularly insurance companies who may not be doing themselves favours by trying to get out of paying out on things people thought they had cover for, I think one area which could have longer term consequences for food retailers is their environmental credentials.
Many retailers have recently been making bold claims about their environmental activities, becoming carbon neutral and generally looking after the planet. On another side, there have been many reports about food miles – the distance food we put on our plates has travelled from original growing before we get it. I suspect that whilst people are aware of food miles, quite a few pay very little attention to it. However, if the flight ban continues for a few more days, when people go shopping this weekend and find that a lot of the fresh food items they have taken for granted are not available they might, just might, think about the reason why and therefore where it would have come from.
My thought is that the retailers who have made a fuss about being environmental (part of what has become known as the triple bottom line of People, Planet and Profit) will be exposed as actually being involved in quite a lot which has a negative impact on the environment through flying food around the world to get it to our plates.
Whilst I love a wide variety of foods, many of which are not native UK items, and am certainly not what could be regarded as an environmentalist (too much of a Petrolhead for that) I do consider that we should think about what is involved in getting food to us, and I love buying from my local farm where food has covered at most 2 miles, plus another one back to my house. If Eyjafjallajoekull keeps erupting for a while then maybe we will all be forced to buy food grown much more locally, and retailers such as M&S really will have to follow Plan A!