Autumn 2011

In this article, we argue that a rethink, or more correctly a more balanced understanding of what is meant by sustainability, is now required by food companies as the industry enters a new era. We argue that the true essence of sustainability is not the triple bottom line as described but rather the appropriate relationship between the three elements at a particular point in time. The triple bottom line is essentially a basis for determining trade-offs which will vary according to prevailing conditions and indeed, local variations. The world faced by the food industry today is very different to the one faced in the 1990s and we believe that the time is ripe for a re-evaluation of the tripartite sustainability relationship between people, profit and planet.

Figure 1: The triple bottom line
Figure 4: A new era in food prices
Taking the best from the past

Much has been learnt over the past twenty years and all responsible businesses are now very conscious of the importance of economising on the demands they make on the world’s natural resources and arguably this is truer in the food industry than any other given its close association with the natural environment. Thus returning the emphasis to economic sustainability is not equivalent to turning the clock back. On the contrary, our proposal is to embrace science in all its manifestations to deliver sustainably the increased volumes of food the world is now demanding.


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