Food firms 'cannot expect consumers to pay premium for high sustainability standards'
Consumers who aren't prepared to pay a premium for high standards present a problem for food and drink companies wishing to improve their sustainability agenda.
That's according to a report - The Long and the Short of It - by the Sustainable Food Supply Chains Commission, which was formed by the Industry and Parliament Trust, the University of Warwick, and the Food Ethics Council off the back of the horsemeat scandal in January 2013.
The Commission suggests 'companies that aspire to promoting social and environmental sustainability in their supply chains are competing with other companies that may not share those aspirations.'
There is a 'limit to how much companies can expect consumers to pay for higher standards – a limit in terms of the premium that consumers will be willing to pay and also in terms of the market share that can be commanded.'
However, people are becoming more interested in sustainability issues and must be engaged with as citizens and as consumers and given the opportunity to make a 'specific practical difference to the lives of the people they want to help.'
Industry and Parliament Trust chief executive Nick Maher said: "The Sustainable Food Supply Chains Commission is a prime example of how parliamentarians, business and academia can confront an issue that is relatively underexplored.
"Food waste, efficient supply chains and finding sustainable sources of food are challenges we need to face, and this report is a great way to start the dialogue about how we can solve some of these problems."
The report identifies the 'role of Government leadership in promoting, or fostering, sustainable food systems' as being important, not just in the UK, but at European Union level as well.
Regulation can be 'empowering' for companies, allowing them to do what they may be held back from doing by the pressures of market competition.
At the presentation of the report in Brussels, Paul Brannen MEP said: "The Long and the Short of It investigates some of the most pressing issues that surround food supply chains, and how we can ensure future supply chains are sustainable."
Commenting on the report, the University of Warwick's Crop Centre director Professor Rosemary Collier said: "The Sustainable Food Supply Chain Commission has affirmed the considerable complexity of the 'food system' and the substantial linkages and interdependencies between the environmental, social and economic aspects of sustainability."