Navigating 2024: Operationalizing sustainability in the food and beverage industry

Our experts came up with five key themes for 2024 to guide companies, and the industry at large, toward a sustainable future.

For the food and beverage industry, 2024 presents a pivotal moment for companies to move beyond sustainability commitments to decisive action. Our experts came up with five key themes for 2024 to guide companies, and the industry at large, toward a sustainable future in which both business and the planet can thrive. 

1. Increase resilience in the food supply chain

In the face of potential financial crises and unforeseen environmental shocks, companies must invest in supply chain programs that foster business resilience. Increasing investments in regenerative agriculture programs can ensure long-term commodity supply, nurture farmer and grower relationships and secure business continuity within a planetary-aligned economy. By prioritizing sustainability in the supply chain, companies can adapt to disruptions and contribute to a more robust, sustainable food ecosystem. 

2. Transform product portfolios

What are the highest and lowest-performing products across environmental, nutritional, quality and profitability metrics? A forward-thinking approach to sustainability involves a comprehensive assessment of alternative ingredients, recipes, packaging design and portion sizing. Scaling sustainable practices requires pragmatic piloting and collaboration within the industry. Innovation in product portfolios should be driven by both the desire to reduce environmental impacts and risks while also meeting consumer demands for quality and diversity. 

3. Shift away from carbon tunnel vision

To effectively transition our food systems to align with a planetary economy, companies have to broaden their perspective beyond purely reducing carbon emissions. In the food and beverage industry, nature has a crucial role to play, given the sector’s heavy dependence on agriculture. While leaders may be overwhelmed by the idea of adopting a nature strategy in addition to climate initiatives, nature strategies can actually enable companies to reach their climate goals and ensure long-term resilience. 

4. Drive consumer behavior changes. 

While setting nature and climate strategies can help lead companies in the right direction toward holistic sustainable transformation, it’s just as important to embark stakeholdersespecially consumers, in the push for progress on sustainability goals. Companies remind consumers of their direct impact on planetary boundaries and how to positively contribute to corporate sustainability goals through responsible consumption, reducing food waste and encouraging more sustainable diets. 

5. Prepare for the upcoming regulatory landscape. 

Preparation is key when adapting to ever-evolving regulations. Companies should hold C-suite, board members and functional leaders accountable to ensure compliance with upcoming regulations related to deforestation, packaging, ecolabeling and broader ESG reporting. Some such regulations to be aware of include the EU Deforestation Regulation (EUDR), the 2030 EU Biodiversity Strategy and the Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation (PPWR). Staying ahead of regulatory changes in end markets and supplier regions will not only avoid incurring the cost of inaction, but also position companies as leaders in sustainability. 

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