Tales from the Conference Trail
This fall, during what I like to call “conference season,” I attended several food sustainability conferences. I attend conferences every year to learn about and share insights about the latest sustainability efforts and what still needs to be done. This year I really started to see some themes emerging across the conferences.
There are internal barriers companies can change to get more food to hungry people.
The fact is that 37 million Americans don’t have enough to eat. While food insecurity exists in every state, every county of the US, some communities are clearly impacted more than others.
However, a significant amount of food is wasted in the food manufacturing and distribution process. “Unsold or underutilized product is often not a significant driver of P&L, so it often doesn’t get the attention it deserves.”
Companies are committing to building a culture of efficiency and waste reduction. This includes new strategies and partnerships to divert human-grade food to feed hungry people. Many companies are rethinking their purchasing and supply chain strategies and policies to more effectively direct resources to their most economical and sustainable use. Companies are also realizing the value in repurposing excess resources into nutritious ingredients for pet food and animal feed. While these resources are no longer human food grade, they provide a valuable, cost-efficient input for animal diets, while keeping the product out of landfill. This process closes the loop and keep food resources in the food supply chain to feed hungry people.
Partnerships Are Key
Industry and community relationships will drive the optimization of supply chain sustainability. There exist many great partnerships to maximize the value of excess food resources. However, many companies cite lack of trust and transparency as a barrier to supply chain optimization.
Companies are seeking new kinds of partnerships. We face unprecedented challenges in feeding the world while protecting the planet and its resources. We can’t face new challenges with the same old partnership models. New models are being employed to drive innovation. Some leading companies are creating joint profit pools that get away from the annual procurement process and lead to greater transparency. They are finding holistic solutions that demonstrate how social, economic and environmental gains can be realized jointly.
Successful companies are learning that these new partnership dynamics make a difference from the Board Room to the factory floor. Sustainable, value-added corporate cultures are created when employees can clearly articulate what they’re doing, why they’re doing it and how their role has an impact on the communities in which they live and work.
Upcycling is the New Trend
We routinely hear the statistic that 40% of food is wasted in the US. From consumers to employees to investors, there is increasing demand for companies to stop wasting so much food. The renewable economy is a key part of sustainable and profitable business strategies. Consumers also want up-cycled products and companies are forming to meet this demand. Entrepreneurs are finding that products that have a food waste reduction story behind them are more popular and move faster.
The energy I witnessed from companies to improve food recovery efforts gave me hope that we are all trying to better value our precious food resources. At the core of Green Field Solutions is a passion for meeting the needs of our clients, partners and customers, while making the most out of excess food resources. While we’ve been upcycling by-products for 45 years, I think the most exciting times in this industry are still to come. Here’s to 2020!