Commit to Sustainability in the Food Industry

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We  have impacted and been affected by food production, packing, transporting, consumption and disposal. Hence committing to sustainability in the food industry - a pervasive and wide impacting industry - will have a far reaching positive impact on our planet.

According to the International Resource Panel (IRP) report launched at the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA2)  in May 2016 in Nairobi (http://www.unep.org/resourcepanel/), food production is the biggest single user of natural resources such as land, soil, water, biodiversity, minerals and fossil fuels. Food production is responsible for 60% of biodiversity loss and 24% of global greenhouse gas emissions. About 29% of fish stock are over-fished, 33% of soils degraded and 20% of the world’s aquifers over-exploited.

The IRP report has called for a ‘resource-smart’ approach to the way in which food is farmed and transported to consumers to combat the detrimental effects on our natural resources and health. The approach hinges on three principles – low environmental impacts, sustainable use of renewable resources and efficient use of resourcesand will go a long way to improving sustainability in the food industry.

Manufacturers and Distributors

Manufacturers and distributors need to ensure that their products are:

  • Farmed and transported to consumers in a manner that has the least impact on the environment – be it in the farming, packaging or transportation
  • Correctly certified using international standards and are clearly labelled in terms of their biodegradability, compostability and recyclability. Better regulation of certification and standardisation is needed.

Manufacturers responsibility does not end as soon as the product leaves the factories and the distributors responsibility does not end when the product reaches the end of the supply chain and is within the reach of the consumer. All players in the supply chain need to not only ensure that the product are certified and labelled correctly, but that the facilities and opportunities are in place and education and communication is carried out to ensure the proper use and disposal of the product by consumers.

Government Agencies

Brexit is here to stay and we are still unclear as to what the exit will ultimately mean for businesses, our environment and the man on the street. As far as the environment is concerned, will our policy makers continue to affirm their commitment to strong environmental laws and ensure a united action across the UK and Europe on climate change?

  • Most of our environmental laws were drawn up with UK’s agreement in Brussels. Proponents of the environment have often used EU laws to challenge the government on issues regarding air quality, nature, toxics and transparency.
  • Brexit gives UK the autonomy to set its own targets and laws on air quality, pollution, waste recycling, nature and climate change which can be as good as or even better than the EU laws.

In this climate of political and economical uncertainty, sustainability – being adaptable and resilient to change – can be the constant that can guide both corporations and policy makers to promote innovation and growth.

Councils/Boroughs and Government Agencies need to take the lead to support this move towards sustainability by providing adequate:

  • landfills designed to promote biodegradation through the injection of water, oxygen, and even microbes.
  • compositing facilities that are able to separate the compostable from the non-compostable components of product efficiently and cost-effectively.
  • recycling facilities and communicating the demands of the local authority’s recycling system clearly and simply so as to make an everyday task for a confused consumer
  • easy to understand and widespread distribution of disposal bins for the various types of ‘green products’, whether for  biodegradation, composting, recycling or simply dumping.

Consumers

Are we a part of the statistics that cause food systems to be the biggest single user of natural resources?

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As consumers we are also players managing the food systems and can do our part in mitigating the detrimental environmental impact of our food systems. Behaviour change is a significant key to promoting sustainability

Required changes are needed not only in the production stage but elsewhere in the supply chain including consumer eating habits and food sourcing. We are all guilty of succumbing to ’supermarketisation’ which has pushed the fresh market and farmers out of the food chain. Supermarkets require packaging which results in a drain in resources and waste production. Consumers’ preferences has caused resource-intensive products such as meat, fish, diary and highly processed foods.

Consumers need to be educated on the type of products, their sources and the different disposal methods. Education should be led by suppliers and sellers of the product as well as the local council/borough and government agencies.

Remember, small changes go a long way:

  • Ensure that we understand the correct disposal method of the products we are consuming
  • Be aware of how the food we buy and consume is produced.
  • Include the friendly farmer and the smallholders in our food sourcing.
  • If there is space, turn the backyard to an eating lawn.
  • Reduce food waste.
  • Cut down on meat consumption and highly processed food.