Firms 'must work harder towards sustainable food supplies'

Sustainable food supply chains are key, says top sustainable food advisor, who urges businesses to work more closely with suppliers towards positive change

A leading food sustainability expert is urging businesses to work more closely with suppliers to make food supply more socially and environmentally sustainable.

Sarah Blanchard is a leading sustainable food consultant, and warns that, while many businesses are “operationalising sustainability”, many “have not even started”. 

She says common hurdles include first understanding sustainability requirements, and then applying them in complex supply chains. She adds that diverging sustainability priorities within organisations and teams is another barrier.

“Such companies struggle to communicate effectively with suppliers,” she says. “This is a lost opportunity, when at least 80% of a fast moving consumer goods brand’s environmental impact lies in its supply chain.”

The security of food supply has been brought into sharp focus in the past week, after Vladimir Putin pulled out of an agreement allowing Ukraine to safely export grain via the Black Sea.

But there are also serious concerns about the wider world of socially and environmentally sustainable food supply chains, Blanchard says that it is “clear sustainability requirements that drive supply chain improvements”.

She says: “One way organisations can improve sustainability is by applying external standards. While there are hundreds of standards that add complexity and create inertia, inspiration can be taken from the food industry, which aligned on food safety standards after a series of scandals.

“Scandals involving the treatment of workers, as well as pollution incidents, influenced the international consumer goods community to agree a social benchmark via the, with an environmental benchmark underway.” 

Global Food Safety Initiative

That benchmark is provided by the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI), a private organisation that sprung from the Consumer Goods. GFSI-benchmarked certification is a globally recognised requirement that improves food safety worldwide. 

Blanchard continues: “Organisations must work faster to implement recognised standards and good practices well in advance of 2030 and contribute to sustainable development goals. However, competing internal priorities mean that suppliers are left struggling to understand and implement requirements. 

Blanchard says businesses that want to drive improvements in supply chain sustainability must communicate with clarity and consistency.

“Internal decision makers must be equipped to manage evolving standards and to support their suppliers in a spirit of continuous improvement, she advises.  

“Progress towards impact happens when teams work together, prioritise issues, engage suppliers, and use data to make and monitor improvements."

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