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WSTA Summit: Beale outlines path for trade recovery

Published:  15 September, 2021

In his opening address at the WSTA Industry Summit 2021, CEO Miles Beale took an imaginary look back at the past decade from 2031 to highlight the lobbying and initiatives that the industry body has planned or instigated.

Describing a period of “post Brexit, post Covid recovery”, Beale added, “Any review of the period 2021-2031 would have to start with the challenges the industry faced in 2021 as the Brexit transition period ended, the UK left the EU single market, while at the same time business had to deal with the consequences of the prolonged Covid outbreak.”

Urging the drinks trade to pull together ever more, as it did successfully over the scrapping of VI-1 forms, Beale described how “fundamental issues… [not just] teething problems associated with moving goods to and from the EU” had emerged through spring and summer.

Solutions would most favourably be found if government worked closely with industry and its representative bodies, particularly to reduce the increased bureaucracy for UK/EU traders looking to exit one customs territory and enter another.

This, said Beale, was particularly pressing at a time when global shipping was disrupted, “which is why it is all the more important that [government] does all it can to help businesses and help the fragile economy recover”.

The WSTA’s input to the Government’s Border 2025 agenda, he said, would also be crucial in allowing prosperous trade to return to the full.

“We are an industry all too familiar with moving goods across borders and under control, we can bring both experience and ambition to the table,” he stressed.

“And, while we certainly want to see electronic customs controls, we can and should be looking to be so much more, we need to be genuinely visionary. How many times do you, or members of your team fill out the same information about the same product but for a different purpose?”

CEEV’s e-labelling platform, along with blockchain and other digital technologies, will be essential in providing the solutions of the future, added the WSTA’s CEO.

Moving beyond current pressing issues and looking to the WSTA and drinks trade’s collective Environment, Social & Governance (ESG) agenda, Beale highlighted three major areas where improvements and initiatives still need to be addressed.

Praising the industry for coming “a long way to meet and go beyond its environmental obligations”, the call was raised for government to be more supportive, including the dropping of Deposit and Return Schemes and folding in of drinks packaging recycling to existing kerbside schemes, to help the industry reach targets of a 78% reduction in waste by 2035, and to hit net zero by 2050.

“Our plea to government is to work with us on this and we’ll get there quicker, more cheaply and with a better environmental outcome.”

Singling out the ‘G’ of ESG – Governance – Beale outlined how the conversation had begun, but added that “The WSTA and industry as a whole will have failed if in ten years’ time if we can’t point to meaningful examples where our industry has tackled diversity and inclusion and brought about change.”

The opening address finished on a ‘glass half full’ note, with Beale saying that he was “really pleased that “for the first time in four years the main focus of my speech hasn’t been all about Brexit”.

Beale concluded: “I hope we’re beginning to return to business as usual, or at least the new usual, and the economic recovery is visible, if fragile. And I also hope it’s all one-way progress as we head towards your busiest and most important time of the year.

“And, as we become acclimatised to a new normal and you build back, we will do more to focus minds and efforts on the numerous challenges on numerous fronts that we face … 2031 is closer than you think.”

For the full agenda of the WSTA Industry Summit 2021 click here.