How FMCG & Retail companies are creating sustainable solutions?

  • Amarnath Halember, Executive Director and CEO, NextG Apex India

A prominent study by Kantar revealed that one in five consumers has switched to more eco-friendly shopping habits since the advent of the pandemic and that the sustainable FMCG market will be valued soon at $382 billion. Minimising negative environmental effects through buying ethically-sourced local organic produce and seasonal fare; purchasing biodegradable, energy-efficient, reusable, and recyclable products; and supporting companies who are adopting progressive models such as zero-waste manufacturing processes is how the conscious consumers operate today. What companies have to understand is that retail sustainable innovation is not only an extremely lucrative market but a future necessity. And that creating awareness about sustainable diets that are nutrition-rich, eco-friendly, economically fair, etc. is what is necessary in the long run.

With a rapidly growing population that is increasingly malnourished, the industry’s end goal should be to ensure there’s enough nutritious food available for everyone on the planet. Since agriculture is the principal cause of environmental change including deforestation & desertification, climate transformations, damage to marine & coral ecosystems, the real start would be at this end.

Here are some essential practices that can foster sustainability in FMCG & Retail:

Realign agricultural aims from production of high quantities to healthy crops: The aim of farmers and landowners had been shifted in the past few decades to increase the quantity of their output. The industry should bring back the emphasis to producing a wider range of organically grown, nutrient-rich crops that will offer a nutrition-rich diet.

Shift the narrative towards the importance of healthy diets: For the above shift to happen, the global populace has to understand the need for organic, healthy diets. Reducing global consumption of unhealthy produce such as sugar and red meat by 50% and channeling consumption interest towards fresh fruits & vegetables, legumes, and nuts is a must. ‘Healthy’ food ranges need to be made available, accessible and affordable to the masses for this massive change to occur.

Increase sustainable quality food output: Reiterating what we just said, for the shift to healthy fare, the industry has to employ technology & innovation, and produce better yields. And this has to happen alongside conserving biodiversity and without adding much of a carbon footprint. Only when ‘healthy’ foods are available in the required quantity can the narrative shift be seen at the grassroot level.

Reduce food wastage: The UN Sustainable Development Goals mentions food wastage needs to be reduced by 50% by 2030, at the consumer and retail ends. If industry leaders are serious about reducing the incredible amounts of food waste happening, they will need a relevant mix of technology, public policies, and social awareness campaigns.

Create transparent supply chains: With forward-looking companies focusing on sustainable sourcing & production, the next change will be the creation of transparent supply chains. That could mean devoting efforts in sustainable farming, fishing, or sourcing of materials. Industry leaders must take a hard look at their present processes and identify ways to upgrade them to sustainable options across the entire supply chain. Most commonly, retailers could reduce emissions and waste, minimise transportation, avoiding animal testing, shorten supply chains, recycling non-eco-friendly materials, etc.

Pack responsibly: Single-use plastic waste is a chief pan-industry issue today. Retailers have to rethink their packaging systems by embracing the use of reusable, recyclable and compostable materials.

The FMCG sector is heavily dependent on consumer tastes but it’s not just the directed consumer-led shift that’s leading companies to work gradually towards a sustainable environment – it’s the degradation of the environment itself. It is important for FMCG companies to become responsible in understanding the need to take sustainable initiatives by focusing on fresh, organic produce that’s straight from farm-to-table. Only when they apply relevant initiatives and change the narrative can the real work towards a healthy, sustainable food future begin. Since time is of essence, the industry has to collaborate with the public and government to make this massive and necessary transformation a reality – NOW.

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