Sustainability is bread and butter to food and drink firms

12 October 2012

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14 October 2012 | Adam Leach

Resource and reputational considerations are driving mid-sized companies in the food and beverage sector to embed sustainability in their supply chain operations.

Sustainable Businesses, published by Grant Thornton, found that 32 per cent of mid-sized companies in the sector - those with turnovers between £250 million and £1 billion - had fully embedded sustainability goals into their supply chain. At just under a third of respondents, the sector had the highest proportion of companies factoring in sustainability.

The professional services firm attributed the widespread adoption from companies operating in food and beverages to a combination of demand from investors, consumers and a growing need to take account of resource scarcity. By taking a responsible approach to sustainability through the supply chain, companies get brand benefits from consumers, enabling them to maintain the value of their products. This was highlighted by the fact respondents in the sector identified “communicating sustainability performance to customers”, as very important.

Jane Stevensen, head of sustainability at Grant Thornton, said in a statement: “For companies looking to capitalise on green growth opportunities, commercialising new products and services to help with carbon monitoring and reporting and energy efficiency are critical. Water scarcity and rising commodity prices are lower down the agenda but are likely to become more pressing for mid-market organisations over the next few years.”

The main risk highlighted by respondents was gaining access to raw materials due to growing demand from emerging economies. Concern was particularly strong in UK-based companies, which said they relied more heavily than companies in other areas on importing materials, rather than relying on domestic produce.

The report said the sector needed to continue to increase efforts to get the most out of the produce it used throughout its supply chain. Further, it called for the government to take action to liberalise international trade, so the UK’s relatively low level of self-sufficiency did not put the sector at a major disadvantage.

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