Shortening supply chains

Helping shorter supply chains to survive and thrive will make our food system more resilient and sustainable.

The fragility of longer supply chains has been highlighted by COVID 19 and the ongoing climate emergency. Finding ways to source local and sustainable food - like organic - is more important than ever.

Benefits of short supply chains

Whilst long supply chains have their place, having a mix of long and short supply chains has a number of benefits like:

1. Boosting the local economy

Giving small food businesses more access to the local markets boosts the regional economy. With fewer stages in the supply chain, local producers may also enjoy higher profit margins. 

2. Coordinating logistics to lower carbon emissions

Many local governments have declared a climate emergency. Supporting the development of local food production and distribution could lower transport emissions and increase efficiency.

3. Strengthening food security

COVID-19 showed some of the drawbacks of long supply chains. Having short, regional supply chains, alongside longer supply chains, bolsters food security so that we're better prepared for times of uncertainty.

Shortening supply chains: Roads to regional resilience

Find out how businesses and councils are already working to shorten supply chains, and what opportunities exist to increase the availability of local, sustainable food in your community.

Our thanks to Friends Provident Foundation, who kindly funded a project carried out by Soil Association to explore possibilities in supply chains. 

Farmer-focussed routes to market

Find out the environmental, social and health benefits of decentralised supply chains.

With thanks to Growing Communities and the New Economics Foundation who worked with us on this evaluation of the impact of Growing Communities’ weekly veg scheme and farmers market.

New research has found that for every pound spent buying organic food through a farmers’ market or veg scheme, almost £ 3 more is generated in benefits to farmers and growers, their workers, local suppliers, citizens and the environment.

Challenges with sourcing regional, sustainable food

There are limited regional food processing and distribution frameworks in certain parts of the UK.

There are no legal requirements for local and sustainable food businesses to be supported through public procurement.

Limiting regulations and pressures mean that most public bodies source food from major food service providers. This can restrict access for small regional suppliers who want to sell to these markets.

Innovation in action

Helping local producers join forces, increases their buying power - enabling them to compete on price with larger companies.

Growers working together to diversify their output also improves product ranges for customers. 

But producers need support to navigate procurement processes and documentation, and to master digital platforms. 

Some organisations are already seeing the benefits of shortening their supply chains, including reduced carbon emissions, simplified operations and opportunities for cost savings. 

Recommendations for policymakers

1. Incentivise sustainable food sourcing and short food supply chains in the public sector.

2. Recognise and pay for the ‘public goods’ delivered by sustainable and regional food production – like climate change mitigation, higher food security and bolstered local economic resilience.

3. Develop planning policies that allow the development of regional food processing and distribution infrastructure.

4. Invest in the co-ordination and mapping of local food producers in pilot areas.

5. Give local food hubs technical support to develop IT and logistics expertise.

Want to know what you can do at home?

Getting a local box scheme delivered to your door is a really easy and great way to choose local, organic produce.

Get in touch

If you’d like to hear more about our work looking into opportunities to shorten supply chains, get in touch.

If you’re a policymaker, contact our Policy team on  

If you’re a caterer, contact our Food for Life Served Here team on

If you’re a farmer, contact our Business Development team.