Sustainability a 'survival strategy' down the supply chain

By Sarah Hills

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Supply chain management Sustainability Human rights

Ingredients companies need to keep on their toes as supply chain management decisions are increasingly influenced by environmental, social, and economic sustainability concerns, according to campaign group Fairfood International.

“Sustainability is not only an ethical thing, it's also a survival strategy,”​ said Frank van der Linde, executive director of Fairfood, who has just announced he is stepping down from the role after 7 years.

He added: “Ingredients become more scarce and quality becomes worse and worse.”

Fairfood campaigns for food and beverage brand owners to increase the level of sustainability of their products and claims to be in talks with 1,700 such companies.

Van der Linde told that it was not going to target ingredients companies - or those lower down the supply chain - directly as pressure would filter down from the big brands.

However, it has just published its Long Range Plan 2011 – 2013, which states: “Sustainable supply chain management (SSCM) is arguably one of the most important topics in today’s discourse on CSR/CR (Corporate Social Responsibility) business strategies and one which companies are increasingly paying attention to. “

It adds that concerns, such as ill-treatment of workers and labour exploitation on farms and in factories, toxic waste production and emissions, soil and water contamination, use of hazardous chemical substances, deforestation, bribery and corruption, discrimination and other forms of human rights violations, all involve the supply chain and can easily be traced back to the companies engaging in business with them.

Therefore, Fairfood “advocates to food and beverage companies to ensure that any proposed business practice or programmes designed to address sustainability extend beyond their internal operations and are sufficiently integrated into their supply chains and distribution channels by engaging in SSCM”.

According to van der Linde: “Our food system is about to collapse. Now more than ever we are confronted with the unsustainable practices in the food industry and governments all over the world don't take enough responsibility.

“It is positive that many food companies accept their responsibility, on the other hand many still lag behind.”

Van der Linde listed several reasons why he felt the food system would “collapse”​ without action.

These include food prices rises and failing harvests due to, for example, climate change, overuse of antibiotics creating resistant bacteria and “too many sugars in almost all food products​”, contributing to obesity and diabetes.

He said this would all become more severe in 2050 with a growing population.

Van der Linde explained that brand owners were the main focus of their campaign as they were sensitive to public pressure and had the power in the supply chain.

But many companies still do nothing on sustainability or only if they export to countries where sustainability is an issue.

Van der Linde said every food brand owner needed to: “Identify the severe issues and incorporate sustainability into the whole organisation. Otherwise it does not change the culture of the company.”

Fairfood is now looking for a new executive director.

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