Food and beverage companies of every size are re-evaluating their processes and adopting evolving technologies with better tracking capabilities to transform their existing food supply chain. Apart from taking actionable measures to wipe out plastic, leading manufacturers are moving towards various sustainability models to address the evolving consumer needs.
When it comes to adopting sustainable operations, there is no one-size-fits-all solution for every business. Sustainable transformation requires organisations to review their products, sourcing of materials and processes, and analyse how they can build sustainability into every aspect of their business operations.
From defining sustainability for a company’s operation, and implementing cross-functional, eco-friendly initiatives across the organization, food and beverage companies can take various paths to begin their sustainability transformation.
Businesses must proactively set green goals that they aim to achieve and evaluate the short and long-term business case it presents. Defining and evaluating the potential impact of their goals and adopting intelligent tools and technology can help accelerate the process and open the doors to new opportunities for business growth.
Merging the public and private
In these exceptional times, cooperation, particularly between the public and private sectors, is of the essence. This two-pronged approach toward achieving sustainability is an important channel in ensuring prolonged and viable solutions.
Partnerships between public and private sector organisations are important to address sustainable solutions at the source — ensuring that policies and initiatives are in place to encourage sustainable practices amongst businesses and reduce wastage. Businesses must also realise that they have a responsibility to the environment and to their customers, who are demanding greater transparency and social responsibility in their purchase behaviour.
To that end, education is key for both the public and private sectors in developing a holistic understanding of the issues at hand. With the support of the government, leading players in the food and beverage sector can rally together to identify and discuss the challenges and opportunities in food production, manufacturing and packaging, as well as to consolidate research innovation and efforts in sustainability.
With India’s focused efforts in addressing sustainability issues, stakeholders of all sizes are realising the parts they are playing in the overall network. From working towards the banning of single-use plastics, to initiatives for reducing food waste in various stages of the food supply chain, food and beverage companies are increasingly taking measurable actions to achieve sustainable outcomes.
While consumers can do their best to reduce, reuse and recycle, nothing is better than preventing plastic and waste from entering the value chain in the first place. Innovation and public-private collaborations can play an effective role in sustainability, by intervening right at the source with policy and product.
Technology, once again, is also a key player in facilitating the processes. For example, predictive analytics has proven extremely useful in helping companies calculate the bottom-line costs of recyclable, reusable, or compostable alternatives. Driven by Artificial Intelligence (AI), and Machine Learning (ML), the data garnered from these analyses can provide valuable insights into the impact of using alternative resources and any production or manufacturing processes that need to be modified as a result.
Not a matter of size
This is the case even for smallholders, who might find themselves at a crossroads between sustainability and survival. Intelligent tools, like the Internet of Things (IoT), sensors that monitor growing conditions and help reduce the dissipation of water and maximise crop yields; along with the predictive analytics of expected crop yields and insight into the demand of end-use of the produce, will enable farmers to be agile and respond more efficiently.
If not, ecosystem partnerships with larger corporations can serve as an alternative. Smallholders can tap on the resources from larger corporations to help streamline their processes, and the collaboration between both parties can spur agile innovation amongst large corporate entities as well. Partnerships will facilitate knowledge exchange and the sharing of best practices, with mutual benefits for both ends.
Companies capitalising on sustainability as a profitable trend is expected to continue even in the foreseeable future. Hence, governments and regulators must ensure that guidelines and restrictions are placed to inhibit such practices – whether it is through the form of label management and compliance, or ensuring greater traceability through a company’s value chain – higher levels of accountability and transparency are both a desired outcome and means of prevention.
A changing world
And what of the pandemic? Covid-19 has exposed the various inefficacies in the global food system in the ways food supply, shortage, and wastage are negotiated. If there is a lesson to be learnt from businesses that have been affected positively and negatively, it would be: the ones who have evolved and made adjustments to their operations, are those who have, and will be, faring better than others.
Food and beverage companies have sought new growth opportunities by integrating sustainability across their core business operations, into their organisation’s strategic fabric, whether that is through minimising packaging, reducing waste in supply chains, or ecological renewal of the assortment. More importantly, these companies have leveraged technology to enable and accelerate this transformation. As the F&B industry now looks to navigate a post-pandemic future, technology will continue to be crucial in enabling smart, sustainable, and resilient collaboration and innovation across the sector — and lead companies into the future of food and beverage.
(The author is senior director and GM for India Subcontinent at Infor)