For years, food and beverage manufacturers have worked to revamp packaging and use more organic ingredients to meet consumer demands for sustainability. However, with increasing challenges from climate change, the industry needs to take even more steps to protect the food supply chain from degradation and disruption. Efforts must extend beyond food and beverage manufacturers’ operations and food safety certification, and all the way to the operations of their suppliers. 

Industry wide, food and beverage manufacturers have done an excellent job meeting compliance standards, earning an impressive 48.9 score on the EcoVadis Sustainability Risk and Performance Index in 2021. In 2022, this score rose even higher to 50.4, making it one of the most sustainable industries in the index. But given the unprecedented climate dangers facing the food supply, there’s always room for improvement beyond simply food safety certification. Here are four ways to increase sustainability across the entire food supply chain: 

1. Promote sustainable agricultural practices 

As proper farmland utilization becomes more important, so do sustainability practices that promote soil health and protect biodiversity. Practices like crop rotation, conservation tillage, and organic farming must become more widely adopted by the industry to reduce soil erosion, chemical contamination, and greenhouse gas emissions. On the livestock farming side, sustainable practices like restricting antibiotic use help prevent the development of treatment-resistant bacteria strains. 

2. Utilize renewable energy where possible 

Food and beverage manufacturers can exert control over how much energy they use and where they draw it from. Investing in modern, energy efficient equipment can dramatically reduce power bills and help mitigate related carbon emissions. Installing solutions like solar panels is a major step forward in achieving carbon neutrality. For companies trying to make their supply chain more sustainable, they can prioritize working with suppliers that have similar energy consumption reduction goals, or draw their power from windmills, hydroelectric dams, and other alternative sources. 

3.Reduce water usage 

Water plays an important role throughout the food supply chain, from providing nourishment to crops and livestock to cleaning processed food products prior to final packaging. Making any changes in water consumption in the journey from farm to table can have a cumulative impact on sustainability. For farmers, strategies like precision irrigation, rainwater harvesting, and wastewater treatment make more efficient use of water, providing more benefit from fewer quantities. Manufacturers can install similar wastewater treatment and recycling systems in their facilities, as well as prioritize inspection and maintenance to prevent leaks or make repairs in a timely manner. 

4. Improve RSPO compliance 

The palm oil industry has played a dangerous role in deforestation, habitat destruction, and loss of biodiversity wherever the oil is harvested from. The industry has even been implicated in human rights abuses like labor exploitation and land grabbing. Unsustainable palm oil production can also contribute to climate change by releasing carbon dioxide emissions from deforestation and peatland degradation. Using palm oil that’s RSPO-certified (vetted by an organization called the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil) avoids burning land and focuses on conserving primary forests and wetlands without violating human rights. Food and beverage manufacturers that commit to sourcing only sustainable palm oil can protect the environment and support small farmers that make ethical cultivation possible. 

The global food supply is more interconnected than ever. Now, it’s clear the choices that food and beverage manufacturers make do more than affect their customers or bottom line — it impacts the entire planet. Making conscious decisions about energy and water conservation as well as supplier standards is critical for conserving the environment. 

Sustainability requirements, especially in regard to suppliers, can be challenging for organizations of every size to navigate. AIB International has a century-long track record of providing food safety certification and raising standards for the entire industry. The experts can help manufacturers meet the RSPO’s supply chain requirements. Learn more about the RSPO supply chain certification here.

Back to Blog