Shortening Supply Chains: Roads to Regional Resilience

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.

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 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.

For every £1 invested in local and sustainable food sourcing in the public sector, the community could see up to £ 3 return in social, economic and environmental value

- Research from the New Economic Foundation

Challenges with sourcing regional, sustainable food

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?

Infrastructure

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.

 

Connection

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. 

Logistics and technology support

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.

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.

Download the report

Shortening supply chains:

Roads to regional resilience 

Innovation in action

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. 

Food hubs

Food delivery is convenient, but can it offer other benefits – not just for shoppers, but growers, businesses and the environment too? Growing Communities thinks so.

Pioneers of procurement

Individuals who support local and sustainable supply chains help drive change in public procurement. Pioneers like Jackie at Leicestershire Trading Services.

Tech getting fresh food in schools

How can technology help get more fresh, local food on the menu in schools? Fresh-Range may have the answer.

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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 policymail@soilassociation.org.  

If you’re a caterer, contact our Food for Life Served Here team on catering@foodforlife.org.uk.

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

Want to connect with caterers?

Connect with caterers and make purchasing easier with the Food for Life Supplier Scheme. 

Do you need support in relation to COVID-19?

See information and support for farmers, growers, schools, and communities.

Organic supply chain sourcing support

Whether you're a producer, processor or distributor we can help with your supply chain needs.

Friends Provident Foundation

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

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