Food retailers must consider sustainable ‘brand power’ of British

Creating a brand concept around the sustainability of British farming and food could help drive better environmental practice across supply chains for food producers and retailers.

This concept is just one illustrative example mooted under Defra’s Sustainable Consumption report released this week, which has examined how policy-makers and businesses can address the challenges of future food security.

The report, which is a follow up to Defra’s Green Food Project launched last year, attempts to identify possible market drivers that could accelerate sustainable consumption and growth as well as tackle behaviour change among consumers.

One intervention suggested was for supermarkets and food manufacturers to create a sustainable brand around locally-sourced food to encourage greater consumption of domestically produced fruit and vegetables.

“British food and farming has a good story to tell in terms of sustainable intensification (producing more from less and with less environmental impact) but this needs to be better articulated and communicated in ways which resonate with consumer concerns,” the study’s working group pointed out.

However certain enablers would be needed to foster the level of collaboration needed across supply chains, such as a clear strategic framework setting out the direction of travel.

The report also pointed out that more work is needed to capture the costs and benefits associated with this, which are not currently monetised within the food system: “This has to be done at EU and international level as well in order to maintain a level playing field.”

A common agreement on the definition of healthy, sustainable diets and the production chains associated with is urgently required, according to the working group. This would provide a focus for activity, enable industry action, and drive much more effective communication to consumers.

A number of areas where government could demonstrate more leadership were also identified. These included reinforcing a “sense of urgency” around the whole issue by indicating priority areas for action and enabling key stakeholders to deliver on this.

Going forward, an integrated approach between government departments, such as Defra working in tandem with the Department of Health, was thought to be highly beneficial.

“We recommend a broadening of economic thinking to capture the value of ecosystems services, and conversely the costs of environmental damage, the costs to society of ill health and loss of educational attainment due to poor nutrition, and the costs of food waste,” the study stated.

Maxine Perella

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