Surveys reveal growing consumer demand for food supply chain ethics

New research has revealed that an overwhelming majority of UK consumers believe it is the responsibility of Governments and businesses to guarantee food supply chain sustainability, while a separate YouGov poll has found that most Brits would now be willing to pay a premium for products which possess strong green credentials.

According to the first survey, carried out by independent research consultancy Globescan, 92% of shoppers stated that food companies should concentrate efforts on securing the future sustainability of food.

The view that Government should be held accountable for the long-term sustainability of food production was held by 85% of the survey’s circa 1,000 respondents.

“This research shows very clearly that British consumers expect businesses and government to take action to ensure the fairness and long-term sustainability of food production, both here at home and in developing countries,” said Globescan’s senior project manager Abbie Curtis. 

“It is important for retailers and food companies, alongside Government, to respond to this and take appropriate steps towards meeting these expectations.”

‘Strong message’

Respondents to the Globescan survey stated that the top Government priority for improving food production should be the avoidance of child and slave labour, followed by food safety and safe working conditions for producers. Just under two-thirds of respondents thought that farmers in the UK and developing countries are underpaid for their produce.

Less than half of respondents linked low prices and unsustainable food production with the future availability of food and 55% believed the risks posed by climate change to food supply chains are significant. However, 74% thought that steps must be taken to ensure sustainable food production for future generations.

Commenting on the findings, Fairtrade Foundation chief executive Michael Gidney said: “British people are giving a strong message to companies and the government about the kind of trade we want to see and now, more than ever, they must prioritise fairer, greener, more sustainable food production. Therefore progressive, responsible businesses will want to respond to their customers’ desire to see them treat farmers and workers fairly.

“And the public’s views on the importance of ensuring the human rights of farmers and workers is a clear sign to the Government to prioritise these issues and improve working conditions across supply chains.”

Investment decisions

Meanwhile, public support for sustainable products has been further highlighted this week by YouGov, which released the findings of a new survey which found that nearly two-thirds of consumers would be willing to pay more for products that deliver positive such impacts such as increased environmental credentials.

Commissioned by communications consultancy WE, the survey of more than 2,000 British adults found that 12% of people would be willing to a pay a premium of 25% or more for a product with a positive social impact, while only a quarter would refuse to pay any additional cost. Only 7% said they considered the “sustainability record/efforts of the company” when making a purchasing or investment decision, but 35% said a brand’s sustainability record was “important” or “very important” to them.  

WE vice president and EMEA technology lead Meredith Lynch said: “An audience who understands and connects with your brand purpose responds more powerfully than those who see your efforts as unconnected gestures of goodwill.

“Brands who commit to a purpose at every level – delivering a fairer deal, greater equality or increased opportunities – and demonstrate that both below-the-line and above-the-line are infinitely more likely to see return on that commitment.”

Supply chain ethics

In the face of this growing consumer awareness over the supply chain sustainability issues surrounding food production, a number of multinational nutritional firms have taken steps to deliver improved supply chain activities in recent years.

Global food and beverage firms Nestlé and Mondelez International have both ramped up sustainable business efforts over the past year, with an increased commitment to supply chain transparency.

Meanwhile, Mars and Danone have announced their intentions to invest €50m each into the Livelihoods Fund for Family Farming Scheme aimed at increasing the productivity of smallholder farmers to prioritise key crops including cocoa, sugar and palm oil across 40 projects worldwide. And Consumer goods firm Unilever recently topped the rankings of Oxfam’s ‘Behind the Brands’ campaign, which holds big brands to account for what happens in their supply chains.

Supply chain ethics at edie’s 2016 Responsible Retail Conference

Optimising retail influence on suppliers will be an issue explored at edie’s 2016 Responsible Retail Conference.

Taking place on 21 September in London, the conference equips retailers, government representatives, sustainability professionals and key stakeholders with the tools they need to achieve more efficient resource use and improve brand reputation in the process.

View the full agenda for this brand new conference here and register to attend here.

George Ogleby

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