Primary Data Needs in the Supply Chain

In the global quest for a more sustainable future, the food industry stands at a pivotal crossroads. With the needs of an ever-increasing world population and the weight of environmental challenges intensifying, the demand for industry-wide transformation towards sustainable practices has become urgent. Amid this transformative landscape, the role of primary data collection emerges as indispensable. Stakeholders across the food industry recognise the importance of gathering first-hand, accurate, and comprehensive data to drive their journey toward substantial change.

In today’s interconnected world, consumers empower their decision-making through information, which has resulted in a more impact-orientated market. Consumers increasingly seek products that align with their values of sustainability, ethics, and transparency. This often presents a challenge due to the prevalence of misinformation and deceptive marketing practices, commonly known as “greenwashing”. Consumers are no longer satisfied with superficial assertions of eco-friendliness or vague claims of sustainability. In response, industry stakeholders are recognizing that genuine sustainability narratives are rooted in accurate, verifiable data. Thus, primary data collection emerges as a beacon of trustworthiness. It offers a direct route to substantiate claims and validate the sustainability credentials touted by food industry players.

Primary data refers to direct measurements or data collected firsthand from the source of GHG emissions or other environmental or social risks. This data is typically obtained through monitoring, measuring, and recording specific emissions-related activities within an organization or facility, and allows them to track and quantify their GHG emissions for example. Primary data can include data on energy consumption, production processes, transportation, and other relevant sources of emissions. For example, an organization might measure the amount of electricity consumed, the fuel used in vehicles, or the emissions from industrial processes.

Embracing primary data collection enables companies to communicate their sustainability initiatives transparently. It allows for the creation of detailed sustainability reports, eco-labels, and traceability systems that offer consumers unprecedented insights into the journey of their food from farm to table. These transparent supply chains not only instil confidence but also empower consumers to make informed decisions that align with their values and contribute to a more sustainable future. Moreover, as regulatory bodies and governing agencies worldwide intensify their scrutiny of environmental claims and sustainable practices, the importance of verifiable primary data becomes even more pronounced.

However, it’s vital to note that data collection is merely the outset. Collecting data without a defined target can lack context. Setting specific goals for emission reductions or resource efficiencies provides a purposeful framework for data collection, guiding actions toward impactful sustainability outcomes rather than collecting data for the sake of having it. A retailer like Woolworths reiterates the value of target setting. They incentivise forward-thinking suppliers through their sustainability initiatives. Their approach is rooted in the thinking that “to be in the game you should be collecting data, but to be ahead of the game the game you should be setting targets”.

Primary data is essential for organizations seeking to understand, measure, and reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and assess their carbon footprint in accordance with established protocols and science-based targets. It provides a foundation for informed decision-making and strategic planning to address climate change concerns. GHG protocols act as guidelines or standards for measuring and reporting greenhouse gas emissions. Science-based targets are GHG emission reduction goals that are set to align with the level of decarbonization required to limit global temperature increase, as outlined in the Paris Agreement.

The measuring, recording and interpretation of primary data is made easier with Confronting Climate Change (CCC) and SHERPA, online management tools offered by Blue North Sustainability. CCC is a specialized tool designed to benefit South African growers and service providers in the fruit and wine sectors. CCC provides users with a platform to centralize primary data and empowers farmers to effectively measure and address their product carbon footprint. CCC identifies ‘carbon hotspots,’ where greenhouse gas production is particularly high, which enables users to develop targeted solutions for emissions reduction. This strategic approach not only enhances environmental sustainability but also positions farmers to effectively manage perceptions among buyers and policymakers, which has the added value of enabling access to premium markets.

At Blue North, we recognise the power of sustainability strategies that are embedded in the core values of an organization. SHERPA understands that every farm is distinctive, and sustainability solutions for one farm might differ from those of another. With SHERPA, we empower farmers to shape their sustainability journey by tailoring strategies to their unique production system characteristics. Our approach aligns with “strong sustainability,” recognizing that the economy exists within the boundaries of a finite natural system – the earth. SHERPA guides farmers in crafting and implementing a sustainability strategy grounded in their business’s economic, social, and environmental facets. By adopting SHERPA, farmers take charge of their sustainability narrative, fostering practices that align with their specific needs and goals.

Moreover, SHERPA serves as a comprehensive platform, offering farmers the ability to objectively measure and centrally monitor all aspects of production, and in doing so, calculate their corporate carbon footprint. This is achieved through a robust suite of Key Performance Indicators, providing farmers with valuable insights into the performance of their operations. With SHERPA, farmers not only own their sustainability journey but also gain the tools to effectively track and enhance their overall system performance.

As the data collection and reporting process can often feel daunting at first, the CCC and SHERPA teams provide guidance and support every step of the way, even in the collection of primary data! Regular sense-checking and grading means that clients can be assured that they are reporting high-quality data and that their datasets are complete and accurate. In an era where prioritizing sustainability is not merely an option but a fundamental requirement, let SHERPA and CCC guide you to a more economic, social, and environmentally conscious world.