Sustainability: growing focus on the supply chain

Sustainability: growing focus on the supply chain

New in-depth report from Leatherhead Food Research explores sustainability right on down to ingredients. Here's a sneak peek.

There are few companies within the global food and drink industry for whom sustainability does not have at least some bearing on their strategy. Formerly discussed as part of the term Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), sustainability has become far wider in its scale in recent years, encompassing a host of social, environmental and economic factors. As a result, food manufacturers and retailers are coming under increasing pressure from consumers, authorities and the media to ensure that their operations take sustainability into account.

Within the food industry, sustainable practices have become especially evident in the sourcing of ingredients and raw materials. The issue of sustainability within the supply chain has frequently been raised and pushed up the agenda by non-governmental organisations (NGO) and lobbying groups such as Greenpeace. Owing to pressure from these quarters and the desire of companies to mitigate risks before they occur, food companies are expected to become more proactive as far as sustainable sourcing of raw materials is concerned in the future.“

The sourcing of sustainable ingredients and commodities has, to date, focused on a core set of commodities; these include fish and seafood, palm oil, tea, coffee and cocoa. Many companies have entered into partnerships with organisations such as the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), the Rainforest Alliance, UTZ Cocoa, the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) and the various Fairtrade-accreditation bodies. As companies look further back up their supply chains, the trend is for companies to look more broadly at the sustainability of all their commodities, ingredients or products, with the aim of anticipating problems before they occur.

One of the most active food manufacturers in this sphere is Unilever, which has set down targets for sourcing ingredients such as tea, cocoa, palm oil, sugar and soya beans for the years leading up to 2020. Other multinationals such as Mars and Nestlé have also made major commitments in this area. In addition, food retailers have been addressing the issue of sustainability sourcing; for example, Wal-Mart hopes that 70 percent of all goods sold through Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club stores will be sourced from suppliers who use its Sustainability Index by the end of 2017.

Sustainability Strategy Leaders in the Global Food & Drink Industry is a new publication from Leatherhead Food Research, which updates the previous report published early in 2011. The report discusses how sustainability has become a cornerstone for many leading food industry multinationals, and measures the success of their various social and environmental initiatives in this sphere. Areas of focus include innovations and reformulations in the health and wellness sector, as well as efforts to reduce carbon and water footprints, packaging reduction and recycling and sourcing of ingredients in a more ethical and sustainable manner. 

The report will provide:

  • An overview of the key social and environmental issues driving the sustainability trend
  • Analysis of major markets affected by sustainability concerns
  • In-depth analysis of sustainability strategies undertaken by food industry leaders
  • Discussion of future strategic directions 

This full report is available from Leatherhead Food Research priced at GBP 720.00 + VAT, with a discounted price of GBP 570.00 + VAT available to Leatherhead Members. 


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