Simplifying for action: sustainability in food sourcing

Already five years ago, the UK adopted the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These global goals laid out a particularly pressing set of challenges for our food supply chains, and in particular food production, which is alone responsible for one-quarter of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. 

Still, in today’s food wholesale industry, it is all too easy for food to be bought on the basis of price, without an understanding of the impact on our environment or in what conditions a particular food option originated and was produced. The food wholesale industry is indeed more wasteful, destructive and opaque today than ever before. Meanwhile price tends to trump all other factors in decision-making and the cost of food is far from reflective of its impact on our natural environment. 

Removing the knowledge barriers

Today, foodservice operators should not only be able to answer questions regarding traceability, but also be able to tell stories of production and, increasingly, of impact. More often than not, however, this information is not readily available to operators as their current suppliers either cannot, or opt not to, provide it. In addition to this, sustainability is an umbrella concept at risk of being interpreted in different ways without a standardised approach. This makes it even more challenging for food buyers to define sustainability, understand it, measure it and ultimately bring it in the purchasing decision process.

If we are to move towards a more sustainability-conscious foodservice industry, buyers need an additional layer of product and producer information to better understand the provenance and sustainability of products sold, and, in doing so, begin a better dialogue about impact in the food supply chain.

This is why Collectiv Food, a food service company leading the transition to a fair, transparent and sustainable food supply chain, is launching a new tool, the Producer Sustainability Index: a tiered ranking system aimed at scoring producers they source products from for restaurant chains, meal-kit companies, food manufacturers and caterers, based on key food safety and sustainability criteria.

Data gathered for the Index is used to produce a “Scorecard” for each producer. These data are gathered from external sources as well as from responses and evidence provided by producers themselves. 

Four main issue areas and accompanying criteria are weighted to provide an overall rating for the producer in question, which enables better knowing the impact and origin of proteins supplied as well as evidencing if business imperatives, such as whether their food supply is safe and fully traceable, are met. These four criteria are:

  1. Food safety and traceability: certifications, and value-added processes
  2. Environmental impact and action: packaging, emissions, food waste and loss
  3. Origin sustainability: an overall country rating from third-party food sustainability index, distance travelled
  4. Protein category impact: greenhouse gas emissions per kg of each key protein category (meat, seafood, plant based) 

The outcome

Collectiv Food's Producer Sustainability Index aims at demonstrating in a simple way the environmental commitment and impact of the producers through a customer-facing badge, with a tiered approach to ranking producers based on their relative scores. 

 Whether it's about innovative initiatives to reduce carbon emissions or new and existing supply challenges, the Index builds a simple, transparent, standardised view of sustainability in food production, to help empower decisions based not only on traditional metrics such as price, quality and consistency but also on increasingly important metrics such as traceability, provenance and environmental impact.

Foodservice Footprint collectiv-150 Simplifying for action: sustainability in food sourcing innovation marketplaceHowever, the version of the Index being launched soon is not the final solution. The goal is to increasingly strengthen the connection of the criteria with, and the impact on the attainment of, the UN's SDGs, as well as the specific supply issues relevant to the hospitality sector. Watch this space!

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