What role can technology play in transforming the food and drink industry for the better?: transparency roundup

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“For every $1 spent on food, society pays $2 in health, environmental, and economic costs”

(Source: Ellen MacArthur Foundation)

The comprehensive report, “Cities and Circular Economy for Food” from the Ellen Macarthur Foundation, looks to address key challenges created by the food industry today:

  • Annual costs of $5.7 trillion globally on health, environment, and the economy
  • Pollution from the agrifood industry contributes to a quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions
  • Inefficient food consumption with the equivalent of six rubbish trucks of edible food lost or wasted every second
  • Current food production processes could lead to 5 million lives lost every year by 2050

With more than half of the world’s population living in cities and consuming 75% of natural resources and 80% of the energy supply, triggering positive shifts on the circularity of our cities food systems is key. The report goes on to propose a combination of three strategies cities can undertake to achieve a circular economy for food.

Image credit: Ellen MacArthur Foundation

The headline impact of this approach is the annual $2.7 trillion worth of economic, health and environmental benefits by 2050.

Other benefits include the increased resilience and biodiversity of our planet. Which would directly impact cities in the form of cleaner streets, better air and water quality, reduced risk of foodborne diseases and new bioeconomic opportunities – all contributing towards the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Why we find this interesting:

Key to what is being proposed is collaboration and transparency between multiple parties, from food brands and retailers to governments and waste managers. We echo the report’s hypothesis on the important role that technology can play to build trust between these parties, fostering greater collaboration. This can then develop closer relationships between consumers and producers that trigger the behavioral changes required.

“Improved traceability technologies, particularly logistics solutions supported by blockchain, can help provide consumers and buyers with the production details needed to make informed purchasing decisions and enhance the food shopping experience.”

(Source: Ellen MacArthur Foundation)

For more detail and analysis, read the full report from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.

“A new investigation finds that one-fifth of U.S. seafood tested is mislabeled.”

(Source: Huffington Post)

Ocean advocacy group, Oceana, published their findings on US seafood labeling after testing 449 different fish from more than 250 restaurants, markets and shops across the US. The results show that 21% of US seafood is mislabeled. Several species of fish, domestic and international, are missold as a result.

This has an impact on the consumer safety and trust of seafood in the US, as well as the livelihoods of domestic fisheries. Whilst 80% of seafood consumed in the US is imported, only 2% of that is tested by the Food and Drug Administration. This enables fraudulent parties within the supply chain to unfairly undercut the rest of the market.

Why we find this interesting:

“Our seafood supply chain is so non-transparent […] We know from other research that mislabeling can happen at any point.”

(Source: Kimberly Warner, Author & Senior Scientist at Oceana)

With environmental wellbeing compromised by human-rights abuses and unreported fishing practices, our experience in the seafood industry resonates with the findings of the report. Traceability from shore to plate is complex due to the number of parties involved, and whilst the data exists across the supply chain – it often sits in silos.

Our project with IPLNF and Humanity United demonstrated how technology can be used to track seafood from origin and through the chain. With blockchain technology underpinning the data to ensure trust throughout.

Unilever and Blockchain: What it is and why they’re excited

Unilever released their explanation of blockchain, the potential use cases for the technology and why it could have a significant impact across their business.

They are exploring a number of use cases to identify where blockchain technology and transparency can add value to the business. From reducing costs and time inefficiencies between advertisers and agencies in media buying, to avoiding disputes and manual intervention in the accounts payable processes within their supply chain.

“…We believe blockchain has enormous potential to improve trust and transparency.”

(Source: Unilever)

Why we find this interesting:

The use cases proposed by Unilever bring to life the positive impact that transparency can have across the supply chain. For example, in our own project with them, the ability to unlock financing for small businesses at the start of the chain to help plan and invest in sustainable practices early on. This, in turn, delivers significant social and environmental benefits in the short and long term. Read the article here.

Low and no-alcohol drinks creating a more sustainable planet and lifestyle

Image credit: Lucky Saint

With the UK’s alcohol consumption falling 16% between 2003 and 2017* and 52% of US adults aiming to reduce their alcohol intake**, brands are increasingly looking to embrace this growing segment. From small players to big icons, the industry as a whole is shaping up with more commitments around ingredients and environmental impact. Pernod Ricard’s recently unveiled sustainability strategy is evidence of this wider industry shift.  

Learn more about the drinks putting craft, sustainability or wellness at the core of their business in our latest post.

(Sources: *The Guardian, **Forbes)

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About Provenance’s transparency roundup

From the UK’s Modern Slavery Act to the rise of startup brands with open price breakdowns, transparency is an important movement affecting marketing, branding, supply chain and core business strategy for consumer goods brands all over the world. As the market leaders in tech-powered transparency, each month the Provenance team selects our picks of the most impactful and insightful news stories.