Sustainability is a continuous concern among governments, citizens, and businesses. An increase in climate change awareness, the harm of greenhouse gas emissions, and waste management bring a growing demand for action.
One of the crucial components of sustainability is proper food supply chain management. Putting in place practices that streamline the supply chain by minimizing waste has increased in popularity among companies all across the globe.
The benefit to businesses that implement sustainable practices also cannot be ignored. Conserving energy and water provide cost savings opportunities, improves a company's reputation, and attracts consumers.
Moreover, businesses are implementing sustainable processes within their supply chain because of the unique tax incentives afforded to them.
Read ahead to learn about how organizations can implement sustainable food supply chain management.
What is Sustainable Supply Chain Management?
Sustainable supply chain management refers to the integration of environmentally-friendly practices into the entirety of the supply chain. This includes raw material selection, extraction, production, manufacturing, packaging, logistics, distribution, ingestion, and discarding.
Utilizing sustainable supply chain management processes allows businesses to reduce their carbon footprint, decrease emissions, and meet health-conscious consumer needs.
If properly implemented, it can also streamline supply chain activities and save money through conservation. A green supply chain refers to the following priorities-
- Environmental protection
- Conserving valuable resources
- Reducing a company's carbon footprint
- Cost savings and improving a company's reputation
- Achieving corporate responsibility through sustainable development
How SCM Relates to Sustainable Food Supply
Because food supply chains greatly influence the environment, there is a need to highlight the sustainability concerns connected to logistics and administering of food items. A sustainable food supply refers to the manufacturing of food while protecting and conserving land, energy, and water.
Properly managing the supply chain by utilizing environmental practices can help to increase the food supply, deliver safe and fresh food to consumers, and support local communities.
Other than reducing a company's carbon footprint, organizations have several reasons to prioritize environmental concerns in their food supply chains, including-
- Increased Bottom-Line- Studies and experience show that sustainability practices increase profits.
- Tax Incentives- Governments provide many tax incentives to businesses that utilize sustainability initiatives in their food supply chain.
- Improved Reputation- Marketing a company as socially conscious and environmentally friendly can attract new customers and build a brand.
- Meeting Requirements- Most modern suppliers require organizations to utilize some sustainable practices to comply with FDA standards and promote corporate responsibility.
- Eliminating Waste- Conserving water, energy, and other resources save money and help to streamline all activities in the supply chain.
How to Ensure Sustainability is Maintained in the Food Supply Chain
Sustainability saves money, optimizes the supply chain, promotes corporate responsibility, increases the bottom line, helps meet consumer demands for fresh/safe food, and improves a company's reputation.
Because of the many benefits gained from promoting sustainable practices, most businesses are implementing new environmentally-conscious processes. Ensuring sustainability can seem overwhelming, particularly for newer businesses who want to start on the right foot. Best practices to optimize sustainability include-
1. Farming Methods
Farmers are implementing water conservation, utilizing renewables, and even vertical farming to maintain sustainability. Benefits of vertical farming include fewer crop losses due to pests, protection of crops from animals, water conservation, and less need for crop imports.
Unfortunately, vertical farming also increases energy costs, labor costs, and technology is not advanced enough to implement it on a wide-scale. Over time, vertical farming may be a sustainable answer to environmental problems, but it still has a long way to go.
Other practices include water conservation. Many farms are leaving flood irrigation in favor of drip and spray irrigation, helping to save water. Technology solutions can help by measuring moisture levels in the ground to know exactly when crops need water, rather than utilizing machinery to water crops at random intervals.
Organic farming allows farmers to grow crops without using pesticides or artificial fertilizers. This improves the quality and taste of food while reducing the company's environmental impact. Unfortunately, this is also an expensive and work-intensive process that yields fewer crops than mainstream farms do.
2. Transportation and Distribution Methods
Because food items must usually be refrigerated, companies are grappling with ways to save energy and maintain a fresh food supply. Utilizing a dynamic routing system that streamlines delivery times and minimizes stops can help reduce energy waste.
Implementing a technology system to help gain real-time visibility into this process and use data analysis to improve order demand forecasting can also help to optimize logistics. One company was able to decrease miles driven per day by almost 7%, saving 571,000 per year in costs.
Using technology systems can also help to combine orders and complete deliveries earlier than usual. Investing in these solutions may be expensive, but the cost savings opportunities are worth the risk.
3. Optimize Warehousing
It can be very expensive to heat, cool, and light large quantities of food in a warehouse. Minimizing energy expenditure has become a goal of businesses that seek to save money by implementing sustainable practices.
Many facilities are using LED lighting, which lasts much longer than traditional light bulbs. Implementing a motion sensor system to know which areas don't need as much lighting as others can also help minimize waste. Improving the insulation of facilities can decrease heating costs and save energy, especially during the cold months.
Software solutions that use platforms to connect warehouses with space and shippers who need warehouses has been mutually beneficial for both parties involved. Some warehouses are also using hydrogen fuel cells to power their forklifts, which are much more efficient and environmentally durable.
In summary, here are the key takeaways to remember about ensuring sustainable food supply chain management-
- Utilizing sustainable supply chain management processes allows businesses to reduce their carbon footprint, decrease emissions, and meet health-conscious consumer needs.
- A sustainable food supply refers to the manufacturing of food while protecting and conserving land, energy, and water.
- Properly managing the supply chain by utilizing environmental practices can help to increase the food supply, deliver safe and fresh food to consumers, and support local communities.
- The top practices to increase sustainability include improving farming methods, optimizing logistics, and improving warehousing practices.