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An overview of insights on the (un)sustainability of the international food system.

Food & Sustainability

What can I do… as agrarian, livestock farmer or fisherman?

As noted under the other questions, there are many opportunities for producers to become more sustainable. Producers are often expected to make great strides, in order to do that they must be able to get returns on their investment, and make sustainability measurable.

Measurement is key

A first step is making sustainability in the company measurable, in order to monitor progress and compare with other producers in the market. Producers can use software for business management and financial accounting to keep track of how many investments have been made in sustainability and what the results are. Next to that, Wageningen UR tracks the overall sustainability performance of the agricultural and horticultural sectors, and present an example of how a company report of financial and sustainability results might look like.

LEI (2013), p. 5-15.

Wageningen UR: Sustainability of agriculture and horticulture.

Wageningen UR: Example company report.

Return on investments

For producers, investments in sustainable processes are often high and not without risk. If the investment cannot be covered by personal equity, producers will have to take out bank loans. Furthermore, there is no guarantee that the new (more expensive) product can be sold in the market. One way to deal with this is to obtain a sales guarantee set down in long-term contracts with buyers. In this way, arrangements can be made about product quality, delivery schedule, payment and even the type of animal feed. With labels or (regional) brands, products are recognizable and distinguishable from regular products and may be charged at a higher price. Finally, producers can participate in a producer organization (such as a cooperative), giving them more leverage with buyers and creating opportunities for knowledge sharing and product marketing.

Reinders, M. J., Poppe, K. J., Immink, V. M., van den Broek, E. M. F., van Horne, P. L. M., & Hoste, R. (2013), p. 39-53.

Case study: integrated sustainability in Roundel eggs

A Roundel egg is produced within “a farming system designed around the natural needs and behaviours of the broiler, which at the same time uses high-tech solutions such as heat exchangers and manure drying.” In the Rondeel Stable hens can find their favourite spot in the dynamic and effectively regulated stable climate, exhibit their natural behaviour and even access a covered free-range area. The use of sustainable feed, low nutrient impact (phosphorus and nitrogen) and compostable egg packaging contribute to a lower environmental impact. This has led Roundel egg to be certified with three Better Life stars and Milieukeur (an ecological preservability certificate).

PBL (2013), p. 85-86.

Bos, A. P., de Greef, K. H., Koerkamp, P. G., van Hierden, Y. M., Kommers, M. A. W., van der Kroon, S. M. A., ... & van Wijk, E. E. C. (2004), p. 8-10.