Sustainable sourcing

Europe’s food and drink industry purchases 70% of EU agricultural produce; it is thus crucial for the long-term health and prosperity of the industry that farming systems are sustainable and that biodiversity loss is prevented.

 

Biodiversity is vital for the long- term success of food and drink companies. However, the expansion of agricultural land into rainforests and its adverse impact on biodiversity, soil degradation and erosion are key concerns for the environmental sustainability of food production.

The ability of food manufacturers to promote decoupling economic growth from adverse environmental impacts in agriculture varies considerably depending on numerous factors, such as the structure of the chain, whether they have direct contacts with their suppliers and whether the company is a large or small buyer.

Progress

Significant steps have been taken to improve the sustainable supply of key commodities with the development of many new initiatives and schemes in recent years, which, increasingly, adopt a more holistic approach to sustainability. Many companies are integrating sustainable sourcing into their overall business strategy, product design and corporate policy too.

However, certification schemes may not suit every situation. Long-term contracts, based on performance and close relationships with farmers that cover all three pillars of sustainability should be established to mainstream sustainable sourcing.

Opportunities

  • Designing sustainable supply chains
  • Mobilising public and private investment in agricultural productivity and yield growth
  • Providing technical assistance to farmers, especially smallholders, and advice on farming best practices where feasible
  • Policymakers are encouraged to should facilitate the development of an environment in which progressive public and private initiatives that achieve results beyond the regulatory framework, can thrive.
  • Civil society should work with industry to promote further roll-out and development of multi-stakeholder initiatives that go beyond regulation.
  • Certification scheme achievements at field level should be more transparent and better communicated.
  • Harmonisation of sustainability standards.