Coronavirus Chaos to Destroy Sustainable Product Supply Chains
For retailers and consumers alike, the coronavirus extends beyond a virus spreading like wildfire causing danger to public health. It has had an immediate and profound effect on global supply chains. Meanwhile, it is busy sinking its teeth into economies that particularly rely on import / export and tourism.
The first case of the deadly coronavirus was reported in Wuhan, the capital of Hubei, China. As of 24th February 2020 around 80,000 cases have been reported worldwide. Around 12,000 of these cases are categorised as 'serious' and 33 separate territories have confirmed cases.
For eco-conscious consumers and retailers disruption exists in a big way. Many manufacturers of bamboo products (specifically those in China) are on lockdown and not due to re-open until mid-March. Already prompting a huge backlog of orders and uncertainty for eco-friendly retailers and consumers alike.
Colgate Launch Bamboo Toothbrushes
With giant brands such as Colgate recently going into the retail of bamboo toothbrushes there is increased pressure on suppliers to keep up with demand. The coronavirus outbreak has caused the vast majority of bamboo manufacturing factories to close, pending further guidance from the Chinese government. The manufacturing aspect is one issue, but the harvesting and transportation of raw materials is causing nightmare logistical holdups. Indeed, an enforced transport blockade around the Hubei province in China, which houses almost 60 million people, has meant that citizens have been confined to their homes and goods stopped en route to destination. The rest of the world is imposing their own travel regulations for people and goods. The shipping industry has been hit massively by the outbreak, which is particularly worrying considering 80% of the world's goods (by volume) are transported by sea. China has 7 of the 10 busiest ports in the world.
It is widely expected that eco-friendly product retailers will experience drastic shortages of certain products, particularly those made from bamboo, a sustainable material that is primarily found and manufactured in China, India and Japan.
Picture: Bamboo products, such as bamboo toothbrushes, are expected to be in short supply due to the coronavirus outbreak
What Does This Mean for You?
You may be thinking. Why do I care? I am not an eco-friendly retailer. However, you may buy zero waste or eco-friendly products - and that's why you should take note. Not only may supply be affected, but that will have a knock-on effect on prices. Companies like Colgate supplying bamboo toothbrushes is great on one hand - as it presents sustainable products to the masses within supermarkets across the globe. But on the other hand, their huge purchasing power, and influence of supermarkets means that when anything (products / products) are in short supply prices can and are proven in similar cases to rise. Already, as an online retailer of eco-friendly products we've been told that we will have to pay more for certain products and transfer funds far in advance, in order to receive our products at all, and in a realistic timescale. When asked when production will resume, many manufacturers are simply not sure, but are speculating that by mid March 2020 they will be able to begin ploughing through the backlog of orders.
Picture: Global shipping has been hit hard by the virus outbreak
The bigger picture
It's not just niche industries such as eco-friendly products affected by the coronavirus. Global supply chains are already under immense strain in the technology, health care, general retail and automotive industries. Wuhan, the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak contributed a staggering $213 billion in GDP in 2018 and more than 50% of Fortune 500 businesses have some presence in the area. Notable companies include Starbucks, Costco Wholesale and Apple. For consumers, the effect will not be noticeable yet, but many experts are predicting, that if the coronavirus continues for many months - this could have devastating and lasting effects on the stability of global economies.
Precautions against Novel Coronavirus
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has its own set of guidelines on protecting against coronavirus. We have also collated a list of best practice from other expert sources below. As it is a relatively new illness, experts do not know exactly how it can be spread. Similar viruses can be spread via cough droplets, and it is highly unlikely that it can be spread through food or via packages sent from affected countries.
- Clean hands regularly with soap and water, or alcohol-based hand rub
- When sneezing and coughing, do so over a flexed elbow, or into a tissue. Throw the tissue away immediately and wash hands thoroughly afterwards
- Avoid close contact with anyone that has a fever and a cough
- Avoid uncooked food, such as meat and eggs
- Avoid unprotected contact with live wild or farm animals
- Do not travel while sick
- Clean and disinfect regularly touched objects and surfaces
*Although wearing a face mask is one of the most visible measures to take against coronavirus. Experts believe it is one of the least effective in preventing the contraction of the virus, although it could help prevent the spread of the virus from one person to another*
Washing your hands thoroughly with soap and water is a precaution against coronavirus recommended by the World Health Organisation