KNOWLEDGE MAP Back to overview

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

Food & Sustainability

…as food processor?

Food processors can function as the engine of sustainability, by optimising waste streams and making sustainable innovation measurable.

Optimisation of waste streams

There will always be waste and by-products created throughout the food chain, partly inevitable. The processing industry can play an important role in extracting as much value as possible from these waste streams (using Moerman’s Ladder). Key initiatives include fermenting waste to biogas, recovery of nutrients from process water and the reprocessing of organic waste to new foods or bio-based applications. An important first step is to make clear exactly where waste occurs and what happens to waste streams.

AVV (2015), p. 5-9.

Monitor Food Waste.


Measuring sustainability

By measuring how sustainable certain business processes or products are, processors can improve production and procurement, monitor targets, compare themselves with competitors, comply with product certification and communicate. Methods to measure the level of sustainability of raw materials, processes, products, and organizations can roughly be divided as:

  • Measuring impact on certain indicators (ecological footprint, life cycle assessment, etc.)
  • Measuring on established standards (certification, etc.)
  • Measure for comparison between products or organizations (ranking, benchmarking, etc.)

Per method one can choose to measure only on one specific indicator, such as CO2, or combine them into a composite indicator, such as is done for many certificate schemes. Here, it is crucial to specify precisely which indicators are being measured and how. The FNLI provides an overview of tools and initiatives that seek to make sustainability measurable.

FNLI (2012), p. 1-7.

Case study: Suiker Unie

Suiker Unie takes as a starting point not the end product (the sugar cube), but rather the raw material (sugar beet). This way it is able to get maximum value out of each sugar beet. During the process of beet processing leftover beet pulp and molasses are used for animal feed, beets spots are bio-fermented into green gas and lime fertilizer is recovered from raw juice, to be used for beet crops. This has resulted in higher crop yields, closed nutrient cycles and twenty million cubic meters of green gas produced and fed back into the power grid each year.

KWA bedrijfsadviseurs (2014), p. 14.

Case study: Nudging in the Plus supermarket

Nudging is a technique in which consumers’ physical environment, social norms and group experience are subtly altered in order to influence behaviour. In 2011 and 2012 the effectiveness of sustainable nudging was tested in Wageningen UR’s Virtual Supermarket and Plus supermarkets. Fairtrade tea placed at eye-level in the middle of the supermarket shelf was chosen more often. And placing poultry meat with 1 or 2 Better Life stars in between the regular and organic options causes the sustainable option to be bought more often. The study shows how the supermarket environment can be cleverly adjusted in order to stimulate sustainable and healthy choices.

Schuttelaar & Partners & WUR (2012), p. 5-6.