Sustainable development has been defined by the United Nations as development that meets “the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” (United Nations, 1987). Therefore, a sustainable food chain implies that the entire food chain must be both competitive and resilient if it is to ensure a secure, environmentally sustainable, and healthy supply of food. There are currently a number of challenges to be overcome if we are to develop a truly sustainable food chain.
Wastage in the Food Supply Chain
Today, as much as a third of all food grown is lost as waste at various points along existing supply chains, with almost half of food waste in the developed world occurring after purchase by the end consumer. In addition, an estimated 50% of all food produced never even enters our mouths. This is significant as this accounts for a potential two billion tons of food waste per year. This is a waste of resources such as farmland, time, energy, water and money. The ability to feed 9 billion people by 2050 will rely on processed foods being delivered through complex and dispersed international supply chains, which have adverse effects on the environment if we do not do our part today. However, with the aid of inventory management software, there are solutions that are being proposed that directly involves the end consumer as a way to help reduce food waste and reduce the environmental impact of the food industry.
Change Starts with the Consumer
Monumental movements to reducing environment impacts can begin with the consumer. The consumer has the great ability to encourage change with their purchasing power. Notably we have seen new markets emerge, such as preference for fair trade products, organic products that create less harm to the environment in terms of recyclables and so forth. As we are increasingly becoming more conscious of our planet consumers are becoming more “green”. With the astonishingly high statistics of consumer wastage concerning food and myriad of environmental impacts this has associated with it there is an opportunity for consumers to do their part, by decreasing food wastage at their end. This movement needs to be helped by the aid of many players in the food supply chain with the sharing of information.
How can inventory management software help?
A proposed solution to cut down on food wastage and therefore the environmental impacts associated with this wastage is by having a user-friendly smart phone application that encompasses inventory management software. This app, would be accessible to everyone who wanted to make a conscious effort to help reduce food wastage and its flow on negative effects of impacting the environment. The app would in its basic form be an inventory of food items in a consumer’s home and have alerts of when food expiry dates are coming up. To make this appeal to consumers, it would need a recommended recipe function that would crawl websites that use the items of food in question nearing their expiry dates, coupled with a function to order items directly from a supermarket store for missing food items. The advantages are many, the savings involved in using food before their expiry date is many. For this to work however, there needs to be active participants in the food supply chain that has the power to put easily scannable food names and expiry dates on packing or on point of sale receipts so data can be computed into the app with ease.
With new technological advances, we will literally have the power at our finger tips to make good change. Positive changes that reduce impacts on the environment need to come from the collective consumer’s purchasing power. This is however a combined effort, with the help of major participants in the food supply chain that need to share information so consumers can reduce food wastage with ease.