Sustainability in the food industry
Increased global awareness of the threat of climate change and of the adverse impacts of some business activities has propelled sustainability to the forefront of the regulatory, public and business agendas. The food industry has a particularly important role…
Increased global awareness of the threat of climate change and of the adverse impacts of some business activities has propelled sustainability to the forefront of the regulatory, public and business agendas. The food industry has a particularly important role to play in achieving progress towards a sustainable future, primarily because it permeates all of our lives, but also due to its significant environmental, social and economic impacts.
Food producers and retailers should not, however, view the increasing importance of demonstrating sustainability as a burden or threat to their business operations. Rather they should see it as an opportunity to realise business benefits, including positive differentiation of both their products and their brand, lower resource and energy costs, access to new markets and customers, enhanced regulatory compliance and, ultimately, increased profitability.
BROAD AND LONG-TERM VIEW
A sustainable approach takes a broad and long-term view of business objectives and impacts, including the following key principles:
- Wealth Creation
- Reduction of greenhouse gases
- Efficiency and waste minimisation
- Fair employment practices
- Health and safety
- Community engagement
- Local economic development
At its most basic, a sustainable approach seeks to actively and demonstrably minimise the adverse impacts of business activities and products on the environment and society, whilst maximising the positive impacts on the economy.
In considering wider impacts, a sustainable approach represents a new way of doing business. It is not at odds with the fundamental business objective of ensuring a return to shareholders on their investment, but instead provides an approach for realising profits that considers external impacts and ensures viability in the long term. In fact, wealth creation is a fundamental and important feature of a sustainable business. If a company is not profitable, it cannot employ local people, source goods from local suppliers, sponsor local charities and events and contribute to local economic development.
Businesses across the food supply chain – from farmers to retailers – are increasingly finding that they now have to demonstrate that their processes and operations, as well as their products, accord with fundamental sustainability principles. There are a number of drivers for this trend, which will only accelerate in the coming years.