Helping shorter supply chains to survive and thrive will make our food system more resilient and sustainable.
In our new report, 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.
COVID-19 highlighted the fragility of long supply chains and we're facing a global climate emergency, so finding ways to source local and sustainable food - like organic - is more important than ever.
We have five recommendations for ways that short, sustainable supply chains can be supported.
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 processing and distribution infrastructure has potential to increase efficiencies and lower transport emissions.
3. Bolstering 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 the nation is better able to withstand shocks and shortages to the system.
- Research from the New Economic Foundation
There is limited regional food processing and distribution infrastructure in certain parts of the UK.
There are no legal requirements for public bodies to support local and sustainable food businesses through public procurement. Limiting regulations and pressures mean that most public bodies use traditional contracts and source food from major food service providers which can restrict access for small and regional suppliers to supply these markets.
So what tools do businesses need to help them get access to local markets?
Regional supply chain infrastructure and the coordination of deliveries and logistics via central locations provides routes to market for smaller producers.
It does this by increasing cost and delivery efficiencies.
Helping local producers join forces increases their buying power - enabling them to compete on price with larger companies.
This also improves product ranges for customers if growers can work together and diversify their output.
Producers need support to navigate procurement processes and documentation and to master digital platforms. This is vital to them being able to access new markets.
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.
Below are three examples of organisations already innovating to shorten supply chains.
Some are already seeing the benefits including reduced carbon emissions, simplified operations and opportunities for cost savings.
Individuals who support local and sustainable supply chains help drive change in public procurement. Pioneers like Jackie at Leicestershire Trading Services.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you’re a caterer, contact our Food for Life Served Here team on email@example.com.
If you’re a farmer, contact our Business Development team.
Our thanks to Friends Provident Foundation, who kindly funded a project carried out by the Soil Association to explore possibilities in supply chains.