Suppliers and manufacturers need to adapt to the fast-increasing market for lower carbon footprint goods requested from retailers and food service companies, who have to cater for increasingly discerning customers and help meet government targets and commitments. Food businesses can be ahead of their peers and communicate their environmental credentials to business customers by acting now.

Climate change and food

Food, the essential consumer product, is increasingly under the spotlight as we debate the impacts of global supply chains including agriculture, food miles, processing of food and food waste. One EU study found that food accounts for over 30% of the EU’s Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions, but this includes not only impacts of all food produced, but also food imported for EU consumption. Taking the UK as an example, approximately 19% of all consumption-related emissions relate to food consumption; and out of this nearly 8% is from agriculture, the stage that usually has the highest contribution to emissions.

Agricultural emissions – what are the sources? Agriculture’s impacts are largely caused by direct emissions of methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O) from farms. Both gases, while present in the atmosphere at lower concentrations than CO2, have a more potent global warming impact. Livestock rearing generates most of the agricultural CH4 emissions, due to release of gases during digestion by cattle and sheep. N20 emissions are caused primarily by soil chemical processes and from manure. Agriculture also contributes to GHG emissions through its role in land-use change – the release of carbon into the atmosphere resulting from deforestation or conversion of savannah land to arable land. Inclusion of these carbon losses puts the contribution of agriculture at 17–32% of all humaninduced GHG emissions, although there are large uncertainties. For the poultry sector, the impact of feed production is the highest, as discovered in a recent SGS study on the carbon footprint of a chicken processor. Feed production, depending on the source, can contribute significantly to global emissions through land conversion.

Technological solutions in meat and dairy sectors

Food brands, retail and hospitality sectors can drive improvements in the carbon footprint of the food sector through working with suppliers. A life cycle or supply chain carbon footprint study can provide useful data which will help the business to identify critical areas for improvement and provides a focus. Such studies also demonstrate a company’s commitment to reducing carbon footprint now ahead of other competitors as well as preparing companies for potential regulation. In addition to increased market advantage and differentiation eco-efficiency can also help to reduce costs where alternative energy systems are implemented.

As energy security is increasingly uncertain, energy efficiency is an urgent issue in itself for all businesses. There are a number of other technological environmental improvements or sustainable production techniques being utilized in the meat industry.

SGS sustainability experts can provide assistance to food businesses at every step of the supply chain. To learn more about how SGS can help you with carbon footprinting contact our ecodesign team.

For further information, please contact:

Bethany Murray

SGS United Kingdom Ltd
Saunders House, 52-53 The Mall,
Ealing, London, W5 3TA
t: +44 203 008 7876
f: +44 203 008 7870

About SGS

The SGS Group is the global leader and innovator in inspection, verification, testing and certification services. Founded in 1878, SGS is recognized as the global benchmark in quality and integrity. With 59,000 employees, SGS operates a network of over 1,000 offices and laboratories around the world.