Resource efficiency and eco-innovation for sustainable food chains
The 15th Forum on Eco-Innovation and the UNEP Roundtable on Eco-Innovation organised by the European Commission (EC) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) will take place in Hanoi, Vietnam, on 12-13 November 2013. The event, entitled Cutting waste… Resource efficiency and eco-innovation for sustainable food chains, will explore solutions to enhance the sustainability of food supply chains by highlighting:
- the business rationale for tackling food,
- resource efficient and eco-innovative solutions for processing, packaging and retailing food, and
- opportunities for businesses to partner and network.
The event will gather European and Asian actors from the private and public sectors, technical institutions and intermediaries working with small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs), to better understand the impact of food waste and the potential of resource efficiency and eco-innovation measures to create new business opportunities, as well as positive environmental and social benefits along the entire supply chain, with a particular focus on processing, packaging and retailing.
Why focus on food waste?
Analysis shows that the world is producing enough food to feed the entire population, yet paradoxically almost one billion people are still hungry and two billion are malnourished. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that roughly one third of all food produced for human consumption is lost and wasted annually due to inefficiencies from harvest/slaughter through to retail stages of food supply chains. In Asia, food loss and waste varies strikingly between industrialized Asia (32% from harvest to retail) and the rest of Asia, which stands at a massive 56%.
Global food supply chains over the next decades will experience an unprecedented confluence of pressures. On the demand side, global population size will increase from nearly seven billion today to eight billion by 2030. Many people are likely to be wealthier, creating demand for a more varied diet, the production of which will require a more intensive use of resources. On the production side, competition for land, water and energy will intensify, exacerbated by the effects of climate change which will become increasingly apparent.
As the structure of the global food industry evolves in response to these pressures and demands, the result is an increasing use of resources with related compounding pressures on the environment.
Processing, Packaging and Retail
Food processing, packaging and retail represent the transformative stages in the agri-food supply chain – from raw material to point of sale - and represent key hotspots of food loss and waste.
Many food processors and manufacturers are facing increasing energy prices, a challenge heightened by outdated and inefficient processing technology. Lack of capacity in logistics, management and infrastructure in food supply chains exacerbate these challenges, all of which can have an impact on product quality. In turn, processing damaged sub-standard raw material results in reduced productivity and profitability for the sector. Highly relevant in South East Asia are the efficiencies and savings that can be made by focusing on food supply chains and by changing the way that resources are sourced and used within the food processing industry. By implementing eco-innovative solutions, positive impacts both up and downstream in the supply chain can be achieved, including reducing waste.
Improvements in the packaging sector (across the three sub-sectors of manufacturing, machinery and service) can reduce losses at almost every stage of food chains, maintaining quality from harvest through to retail. In 2012, food packaging accounted for 51% of the global consumer packaging industry, valued at almost $400bn, but food packaging also accounts for more than 60% of total packaging waste. With raw materials comprising more than 50% of the total cost base for packaging manufacturers, leaner packaging solutions through resource efficiency and eco-innovation can provide a sound business opportunity for packaging manufacturers themselves and for their customers, leading to increased shelf life and quality of food products with a reduction in costs and environmental impacts.
The business case for resource efficiency and eco-innovation in the retail sector and their supply chains is also clear. Retailer energy consumption accounts for 15% of operational costs and the food and beverages sector constitutes approximately 60% of the retail sector market globally. Retailers are increasingly influential actors in food supply chains in Asia. As buyers and sellers of food goods, retailers are in a unique position to influence their value chains, from suppliers to consumers, driving more sustainable practices and behaviour. Concretely, they are well-placed to not only reduce wastage and resource use that occurs through handling, transportation and storage, but also to educate and provide information to their consumers and suppliers.
As market, reputational and regulatory pressures increase on the food industry in relation to global resource scarcity and environmental degradation, companies face both challenges and opportunities. Resource efficiency (using the earth’s resources in a sustainable manner while minimizing impacts on the environment; creating more with less) and eco-innovation (mainstreaming sustainability at the strategic level, throughout all the core operations of a company) are business approaches which can help address these long-term issues and help businesses increase their ability to access new markets, enhance product quality and technical capacity, and increase profitability. In sum, these approaches can provide a win-win solution to improving economic competitiveness and sustainability.
If you want to discover how to reduce resource use and access new markets;
if you want to strategically position your company in an ever-changing market;
if you are from the private sector or from an intermediary working with small and medium sized companies; and
if you are a technical expert or a key national or international policy maker…
Come to Hanoi in November and participate!
The joint event is the 15th in a series of the EC’s European Eco-Innovation Fora. The Fora provide platforms for discussion, debate and interaction amongst stakeholders and are designed to cultivate common objectives and actions. The Forum will also include a separate, EC-sponsored brokerage side event, organised in the context of the Mission for Growth to Vietnam led by Antonio Tajani, Vice-President of the European Commission. Its purpose is to enable participants to form new partnerships and launch collaborative project proposals.
The event is also the first UNEP Roundtable on Eco-innovation, building upon UNEP’s experience of engaging the private sector as a partner for sustainable development, working in target sectors to promote resource efficiency and sustainable consumption and production (SCP). The event will highlight UNEP’s work in the area of eco-innovation which is being developed in part within the framework of the EC-funded Resource Efficiency and Eco-Innovation in Developing and Transition Economies project. It will also build on UNEP’s expertise in food waste reduction, which is embodied in the 2013 World Environment Day campaign entitled "Think.Eat.Save, Reduce Your Foodprint". The campaign encourages awareness of the environmental impact of food waste, and empowers stakeholders – including business, government and consumers – to make more informed decisions relating to their operations, activities and food choices.
UNEP’s work fits within the broader framework of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), held in June 2012. The outcome document ‘The future we want’ calls for action against unsustainable patterns of production and consumption. Heads of State endorsed the 10 Year Framework of Programmes on Sustainable Consumption and Production (SCP), a global framework for action for enhancing international cooperation to accelerate the shift towards SCP in both developed and developing countries. For the business sector, this means improving technology transfer and capacity building, addressing the special needs of small- and medium-sized companies (which form the social and economic backbone of many countries), and enhancing business awareness of the potential of sustainability.
In cooperation with:
Ministry of Agriculture and Rural
Development (MARD), Vietnam