Sustainable distribution soon to hit centre stage

By Rick Pendrous

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Food ethics council Government

Sustainable food distribution is set to take centre stage next month when independent advisory body the Food Ethics Council (FEC) publishes the...

Sustainable food distribution is set to take centre stage next month when independent advisory body the Food Ethics Council (FEC) publishes the results of a project looking at road pricing and sustainable food.

While ideas about a national road pricing scheme are pretty much off the government's agenda, local schemes are still being considered. As a consequence the FEC report will reflect the likely changes in government policy and concentrate more widely on the environmental, social and ethical implications of different food distribution systems.

The report will take account of other recent developments affecting the food chain, such as rising fuel and food prices. "We will be focusing the main outputs on transport policy and also taking into account things like planning," says FEC executive director Dr Tom MacMillan. "In terms of the policy areas, we will be making recommendations on transport policy and planning rather specifically just road pricing."

Macmillan adds: "Although national road pricing has gone down the agenda, through the Transport Innovation Fund - which is quite a lot of money - there are various local initiatives underway at a city and regional scale, some of which are pretty ambitious."

The report will also ask whether the many initiatives to improve carbon efficiency in supply are up to the scale of the challenge, says MacMillan. "In contrast to the view that distribution is simply about how you get stuff from A to B, we will look at how the shape of the food system - including what stuff it is that you're moving from A to B - is tied up with decisions and policies around logistics," he says.

The report will provide recommendations for:

l Transport policy - how the Department for Transport does impact assessments, assumptions on discretionary/non-discretionary travel, alternatives to shopping by car.

l Planning policy, including on hubs and shared warehousing, residential (low-refrigeration, deliveries, etc) and obesogenic environments.

l Supply chain, to help businesses make step changes towards sustainability over and above incremental improvements.

l Consumers, helping shoppers to behave sustainably while businesses and governments have a duty to make that much easier.

Recently the FEC also published a report on air-freighted food, which identified the need for a more consistent approach to this mode of transport. It recognised that the 'food miles' versus 'fair miles' debate had matured. And it suggested flying food more efficiently should be a priority and needed to be considered in a wider sustainable sourcing context.

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