Sustainability has many definitions. The dictionary meaning of it suggests it means the ability to sustain or endure. However, it is noteworthy that the United Nations World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED) Brundtland report known as “our common future” published in 1987 served as one of the mediums for making sustainability a popular global issue.
Sustainable development was defined in the report as the “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”. The report has in a way served to unite countries to toll sustainable development paths.
Global efforts to contribute to sustainable development have gained momentum. Recently, many countries agreed to combat climate change in what is today known as the “Paris Climate Agreement”.
Popular global efforts towards improving the environment are mainly voluntary. And there is no penalty in place for non-compliance. Still, it is vitally important to be at the forefront of global sustainability efforts that are aimed at improving the environment. This is due to concerns that current voluntary sustainability agreements or commitments might be made mandatory in the nearest future- this is a strong possibility. It is imperative to note that the agriculture sector is global with everyone depending on it for sustenance – the sector is crucial in contributing to sustainable development.
A few things that can be done to improve sustainability in farming supply chains within the agriculture sector will be discussed briefly below.
Sourcing of raw materials/ seeds: Actors involved in the sourcing of materials (for growing food crops) can achieve sustainability by responsible sourcing practices. This means incorporating positive social, economic and environmental considerations when sourcing materials. This will help to avert social, economic and environmental risks and help to improve the social and environmental performance of their businesses.
Transportation: Food products are grown in many places around the world and transported to different places. Air and surface transport are used to this. It is noteworthy that air and surface transport are environmental concerns. Growing food locally reduces the use of these transport systems and in turn lower emissions.
Production: Most production companies in the agriculture sector runs on traditional systems. Traditional systems are energy and time intensive and mostly based on batch processes of production. Switching from a batch to a continuous process of production saves energy and time and can help to improve the environmental performance of the sector.
Use: Customers are part of the agricultural supply chain and definitely one of the solutions to sustainability challenges faced in the sector. Food waste is increasing at an alarming rate and contributes to landfill emissions. Cooking the right amount of food that can be consumed can help to reduce food waste and lower landfill emissions.
End of life: Food items at some points reach its end-life. Customers have a role to play at this stage. They can either choose to be environmentally responsible and dispose of their food waste in ways that render them reusable or they can choose to be environmentally unconscious and send them to landfill, thereby contributing to landfill waste.