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Shaping a more sustainable food ecosystem relies on scale, speed, and collaboration

Marie-Neige Couriaut, Emmanuel Lochon
Jun 17, 2024

In the second installment of our food ecosystem insights series, we examine three prerequisites for effective sustainable solutions in the food industry.

Sustainability is at the top of the food industry’s agenda. More than one third of food produced goes to waste and this waste accounts for up to 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions. The food sector has the potential to drive significant positive change and companies are actively seeking ways to reduce waste and minimize their environmental footprint at every stage of the value chain.

Scaling up and speeding up the pace of change

While sustainability is not a new matter for the food industry, it is now a question of the speed and scale of change. There’s a growing awareness that small-scale initiatives, while unquestionably worthwhile, will not be enough to tip the balance.

Companies understand that sustainability solutions for the food chain need to be scalable and easily applied across diverse organizations, operations, and geographies. Designing and implementing such solutions quickly and throughout the food ecosystem requires a combination of vision, ambition, creativity, technical expertise, and profound industry knowledge.

Collaboration is the enabler of rapid, large-scale transformation

Collaboration is the key to achieving both the required scale and speed of change. This starts within the supply chain. Better, more open communication between farmers, producers, manufacturers, and retailers can help identify and address inefficiencies, reduce waste, and ensure sustainable practices are implemented at every stage of production and distribution.

Concerns about sharing commercial data with potential competitors have long held companies back from such partnerships, but the tide is turning. Advances in digital technology make it possible to automatically protect, aggregate, and anonymize data effectively – protecting sensitive information while leveraging data insights. Take the example of product impact assessments. They typically rely on average secondary data, meaning all similar products are given the same score. By using primary data, a business can demonstrate its efforts to reduce scope 3 emissions and source sustainably through the results of product impact assessments.

Furthermore, pre-competitive collaboration across the value chain can yield significant benefits for the entire industry. By working together on common challenges, companies can pool resources, share expertise, and accelerate the development and adoption of sustainable solutions. Several successful partnerships are already demonstrating the power of collective action in the food industry, including food industry coalitions and supplier-focused initiatives. By working together, companies can achieve greater impact and accelerate progress toward a more sustainable future.

Regulation as a driver of change

The food industry is closely intertwined with public policy and regulation. As new regulations, such as the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD) in Europe, come into effect, the industry needs to adapt. “We need to ensure regulations help foster sustainability instead of being seen as an administrative burden,” says Sophie Erhart, Coalition Manager at the European Sustainable Food Coalition. Collaboration will prove key to enable businesses to inform policy making, and governments to create an environment which is more supportive of sustainable businesses practices through regulations, incentives, and investments.

Take the European Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). The EU is targeting “a greener and fairer cap” with objectives covering climate change, management of natural sources, and biodiversity. Indeed, 25% of CAP spending from 2023 to 2027 will go toward eco-schemes – voluntary actions taken to go beyond obligations in nutrient management and agro-forestry, for example.  

It’s time to think big, move fast, and team up

The path to a more sustainable food ecosystem requires speed, scale, and collaboration. By transcending competitive barriers and working together, the food industry can drive long-lasting change. This will benefit the entire industry by safeguarding supply chains, building consumer trust, and shaping a more sustainable future.

This expert perspective leverages insights from the latest whitepaper in our ReThink series, Food for thought: How can collaboration and technology drive a more sustainable food ecosystem? We would like to thank all contributors & our partner, Microsoft, for facilitating and jointly developing this whitepaper.

Food for thought

How can collaboration and technology drive more sustainable food ecosystem

Find out more about Capgemini’s food waste offer for retailers and contact us to find out how digital solutions can take your business to the next level.

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Marie-Neige Couriaut

Sustainability Partners and ecosystem lead 
Marie-Neige Couriaut is a VP in the Global Sustainability Services team from Capgemini Group. She is in charge of the acceleration of sustainability solutions for all their biggest clients, in all the industries. She also monitors the ecosystem of partners to support technological innovation in the sustainability field, with whom she launches new solutions such as in 2023 a circular economy in the aerospace sector.

Emmanuel Lochon

VP, Sustainability Solutions Marketing Lead
Emmanuel is a seasoned marketing professional with 20+ years of experience in driving marketing, branding, and digital transformation programs. Passionate about sustainability and the protection of people and the planet, Emmanuel is dedicated to leveraging innovation and technology to support societal development. Before joining Capgemini, Emmanuel held various roles in sales, digital marketing, and branding across the consumer products, cosmetics, and consumer electronics sectors.