Sustainability is a hot topic in the food and beverage industry. As manufacturers seek to reduce costs and maintain customer loyalty, implementing sustainable practices can help to achieve these aims while at the same time ensuring that companies are playing a responsible role in their industry and society in general.
According to the UK’s Food and Drink Federation, “the global food system is coming under increasing pressure from the impacts of climate change, population increase, a growing demand for limited resources and changing diets.” The organization’s research indicates that consumers are also increasingly seeking reassurance that businesses are managing their supply chains sustainably. There is therefore a growing realization across the industry that building a secure and sustainable supply chain not only makes good business sense, but also has the potential to bring with it a number of additional benefits: demonstrating a company’s commitment to wider stakeholder and societal interests, building a more resilient supply chain, and stimulating innovation, which results in increased productivity and meeting customer demands.
Today, food and beverage manufacturers are incorporating sustainable practices in a number of different ways. These can include a wide variety of activities and initiatives, including streamlining logistics to minimize emissions in transport, reverting to packaging materials that are made of recycled or recyclable materials, auditing the utility usage at their facilities as well as investing in energy-efficient machinery.
The global regulatory landscape is shifting to accommodate this drive towards improved sustainability, supported in many cases by the efforts of major retailers to incorporate sustainable practices into their guidelines. For example, in the US, Walmart’s long established Sustainability Scorecard rates and ranks the green efforts of the companies in its supply chain. By examining aspects of its supplier business including greenhouse gas emissions, utility and water usage, the sustainability of packaging materials and waste management, among others, the retail giant calculates an overall sustainability score for suppliers and thereby encourages further improvements across its supply chain. Similarly, leading European supermarket chain Sainsbury’s has invested heavily in its 20×20 Sustainability Plan, which includes a commitment that by 2020, Sainsbury’s suppliers will also be leaders in meeting or exceeding the company’s social and environmental standards. This plan incorporates targets for significantly reducing carbon emissions across the supply chain.