Sustainability is a growing trend among many businesses as consumers, industries, and governments increasingly demand it. In turn, it’s important for food supply chain management to be just as sustainable as other operations.

Food supply chains must be efficient to eliminate waste, which not only helps the environment but also comes with cost savings while making a business appealing to prospective partners and consumers.

In this guide, we’ll review how sustainable food supply chain management works, along with some tips for increasing efficiency to improve sustainability across the supply chain.

What Sustainable Supply Chain Management Entails

A sustainable supply chain uses energy-efficient and clean processes at every step, from choosing and extracting raw materials to distribution and disposal. Using the right technologies and practices, operations can remain eco-friendly and generally efficient, benefiting the environment, consumers, and businesses alike.

By creating a green supply chain, operations will reduce emissions, their carbon footprint, and certain health risks that concern consumers.

The Many Benefits of a Sustainable Food Supply Chain

Food supply chains often consume many resources and contribute to a large portion of waste, but there are ways companies can optimize them to conserve resources, preserve food products, and keep these products consistently fresh and safe for consumption.

In addition to contributing to a healthier environment, sustainable food supply chain management offers several benefits for businesses. These include:

Reputation Improvement

Organizations that maintain sustainable practices across the supply chain make their brand more appealing to audiences. Consumers are more willing to purchase from brands that advertise sustainability, as this aligns with their values. Subsequently, you’re more likely to attract environmentally conscious consumers over less sustainable competitors.

Increased Profitability

Through the use of efficient technology and better practices, businesses reduce waste while also increasing the efficiency of operations to boost profitability. While many technologies used to facilitate sustainability are expensive to integrate, the returns are often worth the initial expense.

Maintained Compliance

By implementing the right technologies and practices, your organization will more easily meet certain regulatory and industry standards in place. For instance, you can maintain compliance with Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations for food items. Increased compliance can also further increase reputability.

Tax Incentives

Another advantage of sustainable food supply chain management is the ability to maximize profitability through tax incentives. Federal and local governments offer a wide variety of tax incentives to organizations that are consistently sustainable.

All of these benefits make it necessary for businesses to do what they can to optimize the food supply chain. However, it’s not always clear what areas to tackle first and how to improve sustainability of operations at every step.

Tips for Creating a Sustainable Supply Chain

If you’re wondering how to make your company’s supply chain sustainable, there are multiple ways to go about optimizing various processes at every stage. The following are some specific ways you can ensure your supply chain uses sustainable practices that minimize waste and increase productivity.

Sustainable Farming Practices

In an effort to increase sustainability, many farms are using practices such as vertical farming to conserve resources and protect the environment.

Vertical farming helps protect crops from pests and animals while conserving water and reducing the need for importing crops. However, vertical farming comes at the cost of increased labor and energy expenses. This technology is also still in its infancy, which has prevented it from the expansion needed for wide-scale application.

On the other hand, while vertical farming is still a challenge to implement, farmers can conserve water through spray and drip irrigation in lieu of less efficient flood irrigation. Using these processes, irrigation equipment only supplies water to crops as needed.

Additionally, many farmers are abandoning synthetic fertilizers and pesticides in favor of organic farming practices, which further protect the environment and improve food quality.

Efficient Storage

Warehouses are often inefficient as they consume resources to maintain temperature-controlled environments and sufficiently lit spaces for all types of food items.

To make warehouses more energy-efficient, many equip LED lighting fixtures that consume less energy and last far longer than conventional bulbs. In addition, well-insulated facilities also benefit from decreased energy usage and increased cost-effectiveness, particularly in environments with cold winter seasons.

Other measures to improve the sustainability of warehouse operations include hydrogen fuel cells for forklifts and innovative software solutions that facilitate streamlined inventory management and other processes.

Improved Transportation and Distribution

Transportation and distribution processes also need to be efficient enough to maintain the freshness of food items while minimizing energy consumption.

Today’s technological advancements have enabled businesses to gain complete transparency of operations to proactively identify and address issues at any point. These systems can help establish the most efficient routes for transportation and determine if there are any bottlenecks that could reduce efficiency. While these systems are often costly to implement, they can ultimately optimize processes to generate a positive ROI while maintaining sustainable operations.

A Sustainable Food Supply Chain Can Drive Success

With a better idea of how to incorporate sustainable food supply chain management processes, you’ll be able to use them to your advantage. An efficient and environmentally friendly business not only looks good to consumers and others, but it also benefits internally through increased efficiency and revenue.

Ultimately, sustainable food supply chains benefit everyone involved, minimizing waste, streamlining processes, and making for more satisfied customers. All of these elements make sustainability the key to ensuring long-term growth for businesses in the food industry.