Small businesses, particularly those involved with food sales and production should have a large interest in the growth of food sustainability. There is a growing trend of people wanting more sustainable food, which is a large incentive for your business. It will provide you with many benefits such as a reputational benefit, reducing your organisations carbon footprint and improving employee health, morale, and satisfaction. In following the opportunities laid out in this article, you can experience such benefits by making your approach to food more sustainable.
Re-thinking what you eat is important in improving sustainability. Whilst food is one of the greatest pleasures in life, you must also think about how the food industry has changed radically over the decades. The exponential growth of the variety and availability of produce is immense, tastes have become more diverse, and demand has skyrocketed. However, because of this convenience, the detriment to the environment and sustainability increase.
Farming today is full of monocultures – with whole areas covered by a single crop with very minimal diversity. Public understanding of where our food comes from and how it is produced is also very minimum. Artificially boosted food and genetically modified organisms (GMOs) have made the convenience much easier – as it is a quick fix and cheaper than fresh, organic alternatives.
However, in recent years – groups who are more resistant to this way are cropping up and people are becoming increasingly aware of the impact the food industry has on the world and are increasingly concerned about what they eat. Companies such as ‘Klimato’ offer services such as food-carbon labelling on menus, allowing customers to make an informed choice on their food consumption habits, which gives the consumers power to ‘vote with their wallets’.
How can your business reduce emissions in the food industry?
You can buy locally produced food from local shops and farmers' markets. In doing so, you are acting in a more sustainable manner and supporting your own community and its economy. This is more sustainable as it reduced the hugely unnecessary CO2 emissions from food transportation.
Buying fruit and vegetables according to their seasonality is also important when considering food sustainability. Their seasonal lifestyle is taken advantage of due to the high demand for certain produce as vast swathes of land away from the western world have been taken over by companies growing out-of-season produce. This restricts those who live in these areas from growing the produce they need, which is wholly unsustainable. Furthermore, these farmers then must buy back the crops they grow so that they can survive.
Eat less meat
Meat production is the method of farming that produces the most greenhouse gas emissions globally through the resources it uses. To produce one kilogramme of beef, 10,000 litres of water is needed. This is disproportionately higher than the water needed to produce one kilogramme of potatoes at 500 litres. Going meat-free for even a week can drastically reduce your personal carbon footprint.
What are the benefits?
When considering the switch to more sustainable methods of food consumption, the benefits must be considered. As stated, buying locally can improve your local economy, often smaller businesses, and helps to keep businesses afloat. This is incredibly important post-pandemic.
Following the seasonality of produce reduces strain on overseas farmers who struggle to maintain their own livelihoods to grow produce that they will then have limited access to.
Going meat free for even just a week is key to reducing the emissions from meat production and improving the way of lives for the animals, bettering your sustainability efforts.
What is the impact of genetically modified food?
Genetically modifying plants and animals to improve production involves editing the genes of one species and inserting them into another to give them certain qualities, such as resistance to cold weather and improved shelf life. There is a risk that these new genetic qualities can transfer into the natural ecosystems – irreversibly damaging them. Consideration must be made to purchase organic, FairTrade produce, such as bananas. This means that farmers are paid a fair price for their crops and work in great conditions. If your business buys FairTrade products, you are certainly acting in a more sustainable way.
Sustainable food sources are increasingly important as we head into the climate crisis. Supporting local suppliers can lead to a much more sustainable food market based on more sustainable processes.