Fighting climate change is now a challenge to which we are all called to contribute to achieving the objectives set at the national and international levels. The agri-food supply chains can and must do a great deal to achieve climate neutrality, a balance between carbon emissions and their absorption.
To reduce greenhouse gas emissions, food chains must continuously improve the efficiency of production processes to use fewer resources and implement production practices that integrate natural ecosystems and protect carbon sinks. What are the carbon sinks? These carbon stocks – such as soil, forests, grasslands and peatlands – can absorb carbon from the atmosphere. Measurement and monitoring become essential to quantify actual greenhouse gas emissions, plan their mitigation and monitor their progress.
The “From Farm to Fork” strategy highlights what food supply chains must achieve to support the objectives of the Green Deal. In essence, we need to work on several important points for sustainable food production: the reduction of food waste, the reduction of packaging waste through the use and recycling of renewable materials for packaging, the reduction of energy in production processes with the introduction of renewable sources, the electrification of the means of work and transport for distribution.
Food chains are investing a lot in green products and technologies because of the awareness that investing in sustainability means being more competitive and with a higher average turnover than those not investing anything.
However, there are emissions that are not under the company’s direct control, although linked to its activities and over which the company has its influence. For example, the activities of suppliers, service providers, raw materials, the arrival and departure of employees, business trips, waste, etc., are the so-called “Scope 3” emissions. Calculating the Scope 3 emissions along the entire supply chain is much more complex than those related to the company’s activities or directly controlled by it (Scope 1) or those from purchased or acquired electricity, steam, heat or cooling that the company consumes (Scope 2).
This is because Scope 3 emissions are associated with other entities, different from the company itself but which the company interacts with, upstream and downstream of the supply chain. Upstream Scope 3 emissions include, for example, those generated by the production of raw materials, while downstream emissions include those caused by the use or disposal of the final product sold by a company. That’s why a company that has ideally reduced its emissions can then find that most of its impact is still caused by Scope 3 emissions.
What can be done to reduce these emissions then? Indeed the selection of suppliers is fundamental on the basis of the priority that they give to sustainability and their actions. In the same way, it is essential to communicate and collaborate among the various players in the chain. The aim is to share the objectives for the transition to Net Zero, to look for new partners to undertake a decarbonisation path, devising new ways to make the agri-food chain more ecological.