The study – published in the Journal of Environmental Management – aims to address a deficit in knowledge of how the food industry interacts with farmers and producers in relation to environmental goals.
Study author Daniela Kempa, from the Institute of Environmental Planning at Leibniz Universität Hannover, Germany, surveyed food companies to identify their interest in environmental services. She reveals that in general the food industry sees an additional need to communicate environmental benefits, with many companies interested in documentation of environmental services of farms.
“Leading companies in the food industry have observed an increasing consumer awareness and, due to higher competition, see an additional need to communicate environmental benefits which result from either organic production methods or agri-environmental measures,” says Kempa.
“The findings of the present study can support the consideration of the food industry's requirements for environmental documentation at farm level,” she adds, noting that such changes would not only benefit the environment, but would also aid farmers and help to boost profits by creating unique selling propositions.
Kempa suggests that such assessments of companies' demands and farmers' attitudes toward documentation of environmental services “provide essential findings for the further development of documentation strategies for environmental benefits within the supply chain.”
Kempa notes that while a lot of research has been dedicated to evaluating governmental support of agri-environmental measures (AEM), very little is known about how the commercial market supports such measures.
She reveals that although the response of food companies to the questionnaire was ‘rather low’, important trends could still be identified for further research about environmental services with respect to farmers and food companies.
For example results show that food companies have an interest in the documentation of environmental benefits of supplying farms for their marketing strategies.
“Demands of the food industry for environmentally friendly goods and their effects on farmers' decisions have not yet been analyzed.”
“This creates advantages for both the farmers and food companies,” she explains. “Farmers could measure and document their environmental services, and thus they offer for food companies more information. The food companies can then use the documentation to satisfy the consumer demand for environmental friendly produced goods.”
In this way, Kempa believes food producing companies can help to set industry-wide benchmarks by, for example, “connecting biodiversity services to their products as a unique selling proposition.”
“Such documentation helps food companies to prove that real benefits are associated with the production on their contract farms.”
“Consumers, on the other hand, have the chance to support real ecosystem services through their buying habits,” she says.
Source: Journal of Environmental Management
Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.1016/j.jenvman.2012.06.006
“Environmental services coupled to food products and brands: Food companies interests and on-farm accounting”
Author: Daniela Kempa