The report, titled The Long and the Short of It, is the result of a commission set up in January by the UK’s Industry and Parliament Trust (IPT), Food Ethics Council and the University of Warwick to explore how to maintain a sustainable food supply chain. It was prompted by the horse meat scandal, when beef products throughout Europe were found to contain horse meat – and its findings will form the basis of a delegation to the European Commission and meetings with the European Parliament’s Agriculture and Rural Development Committee.
Even though some companies aspire to high social and environmental standards, they are at a disadvantage when they compete with other companies that “may not share those aspirations”, the report said.
“While there is evidently considerable scope for the market to reward these aspirations, there is also a limit to how much companies can expect consumers to pay for higher standards,” it said.
While some companies have been able to gain a competitive advantage by communicating their sustainability credentials – through the Fairtrade programme for example – there is a limit to how much market share this approach can command, the report said.
The commission found that price remains the key consideration for consumers when choosing which foods to buy, and supply chain issues are usually far from their concerns.
Commenting on the report, CEO of the Industry and Parliament Trust, Nick Maher, said: “The Sustainable Food Supply Chains Commission is a prime example of how parliamentarians, business and academia can confront an issue that is relatively underexplored. Food waste, efficient supply chains and finding sustainable sources of food are challenges we need to face, and this report is a great way to start the dialogue about how we can solve some of these problems.”