Everyone has responsibilities — things we are accountable for on a daily basis. But thinking of responsibility as a reactionary obligation is short-sighted. George Bernard Shaw put it well: “We are made wise not by the recollection of our past, but by the responsibility for our future.”
American consumers are increasingly forward-thinking when it comes to how they view the foods they buy. They care about more than just the quality, price, convenience and availability of foods; they’re also paying close attention to where their food comes from, how it’s made, how it gets from point of production to their plate, and what impact supply chain processes have on the environment.
Awakening to responsibility
Several trends are evidence of this deepening desire for greater accountability. Consumers seek locally sourced food not just because they believe it’s fresher, but also because they know the shorter transportation distance means a reduced environmental impact for their foods. What’s more, they view local foods as a way they can share responsibility for supporting their local economies.
The now firmly established and widespread consumer preference for organic foods is another indicator that consumers are embracing responsibility in food production. They may perceive organic food as being more healthful for the people who consume it, but they also know organic farming practices, which aim to minimize the negative environmental impact of food production, can be better for the environment, too.
Consumers are also increasingly aware of animal husbandry processes. A 2013 survey by the American Humane Society found 89 percent of consumers say they’re very concerned about the welfare of the nation’s farm animals. In fact, the majority (95 percent) felt animal welfare was even more important than knowing if a product was organic, natural or antibiotic-free. And nearly three-quarters said they would be willing to pay a premium for meat, dairy and eggs from animals that had been raised humanely.
A future of opportunity
Consumer trends always create opportunity for those who are savvy about responding to demand. What’s more, the trend toward more responsibly sourced food is good for consumers, the environment and business.
However, humane animal husbandry, sustainable farming and local sourcing aren’t the only factors in improving responsibility in the food supply chain. How you package and transport product also figures into the equation. Reusable packaging like RPCs not only help companies improve efficiencies and reduce costs, they elevate the responsibility of supply chains.
When product is packaged for transportation in RPCs, companies can reduce the amount of waste generated by transporting that food, address food waste by right-sizing inventory and reducing shrink, and send a message to consumers that the organization is as passionate about responsibly sourced food as their customers are.
Operations that do that are well positioned to become vibrant examples of something another famous man (Winston Churchill) once said about responsibility: it is the price of greatness.