Environmental challenges low priority for food and beverage industry

Environmental risk remains a low priority for the global food and beverage industry, while food safety, quality and financial risks are the most vulnerable areas, according to a survey.

Carried out by certification firm DNV Business Assurance and GFK Eurisko, the survey asked 500 food and beverage professionals from companies in Europe, North America, South America and Asia to prioritise the main risk areas to their supply chains.

According to the survey, food safety (63%) and quality (54%) are the areas of supply chain management that companies consider particularly vulnerable.

Financial risks (38%) are deemed less threatening, together with legal and regulatory compliance (35%), while environmental challenges (29%) are deemed a lower concern. Last on the list are community relations (10%) and ethics (8%).

Despite the survey findings suggesting that priorities will not change, a deeper awareness of the need for a more sustainable approach in the future is “hinted at by the growing perception of the risks associated with the possible impacts from community relations, the environment and ethical aspects”.

CEO of DNV Business Assurance, Luca Crisciotti, said: “Mitigating risks is about being pro-active. Managing each step in the supply chain must be part of a long-term strategy that aims at creating value in every aspect and for all stakeholders: from the grower to the processing plant, all the way to the consumer.

“Customers will reinforce their pivotal role, because the product will increase its added value from the perspective of quality, safety and environmental, social and ethical requirements. The surging attention for these areas shows how companies are increasingly shifting towards an approach that integrates sustainability into corporate strategies,” added Crisciotti.

The results of the survey have sparked concern, as food and drink manufacturers account for 5.3% of industrial final energy use globally, according to figures by industry association for the European food and drink industry, FoodDrink Europe. The industry also accounts for 1.8% of total water use in the EU.

In addition, food and drink products account for approximately 20-30% of the overall environmental impacts of consumption in the 27-Member State EU.
However, the European industry has made some progress towards reducing its environmental impact.

A report published last year from FoodDrink Europe claimed that food and drink manufacturers have made significant investments to improve their energy performance and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHG). Between 1999-2008, the industry cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 18%, despite increasing their production value by 29% over the same period.

Leigh Stringer

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