Sustainable Food Systems

The Sustainable Supply Chains Approach

Agri-food supply chains work like other supply chains, but are unique in their dependence upon the natural resource bases that sustain them. They often span considerable geographies – requiring a wide breadth of social, environmental and political knowledge to identify the appropriate sustainability risk and opportunity strategies for both the short and long terms.

The UNEP report, Unchaining Value: Innovative Approaches to Sustainable Supply, stresses that managing a sustainable supply chain involves all the established practices of managing total costs and benefits across the chain, but – crucially – over a longer time horizon than the typical quarter and across a broader chain of participants and considerations. The agriculture and fisheries sectors, as industries that are utterly reliant upon the long-term health of ecosystems and resource abundance, have an elevated stake in the successful management of their supply chains. Balancing total costs and benefits – both internal and external - across their industries is imperative to their very survival.

Source: Adapted from IIED

With strategic, sustainable supply chain interventions, market-based tools such as payment for ecosystem services, certification, traceability, public-private partnerships, and consumer awareness campaigns can be utilized to provide incentives for sustainable management.  These tools also have the potential to add significant value for producers, retailers and consumers alike.

UNEP DTIE: Establishing Sustainable, Resource Efficient Agriculture and Fisheries Supply Chains

UNEP's Division of Technology, Industry and Economics deploys expertise to the agriculture and fisheries sectors to support the application of improved technologies, policies and tangible market-based tools. Its work examines methods for optimizing efficiency in production and the application of market-based incentives and government interventions that may enhance or counter opportunities for promoting a sustainable global food supply.

To further this work, UNEP, in collaboration with the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) and AidEnvironment, has embarked on a project, “Establishing Sustainable, Resource Efficient Agriculture and Fisheries Supply Chains.”

In partnership with diverse stakeholders including government, producers, processors, global retailers and wider civil society, UNEP is building the partnerships necessary to leverage market-based incentives for promoting resource efficiency and sustainability throughout commercial agriculture and fisheries supply chains.

Four areas are emphasized within the project’s Sustainable Supply Chain Approach:

  1. Partnership between country producers and global retailers for adoption of market based tools for sustainable supply chain management.
  2. Application of the ecosystem approach to resource management.
  3. Broad stakeholder consultation and participation in policy and program design.
  4. Promotion of payment for ecosystem services to producers to encourage sustainable management of natural resource systems that provide the platform for longer term, efficient production.

The goals of the Establishing Sustainable, Resource Efficient Agriculture and Fisheries Supply Chains project are to:

  1. Pilot new approaches to constructing sustainable food supply chains through the engagement of public and private sector actors.
  2. Create value and capture new growth opportunities for producers and retailers of sustainable agriculture and fisheries products.
  3. Expand opportunities for application of payment for ecosystem services.
  4. Produce replicable, best practice case studies for sustainable agriculture and fisheries endeavours globally.