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Supply Chain Mapping - Sustainability

21 November 2023

For the last two years, SAOS Supply Chain Development Manager, Rona Sutherland, has headed up our work with key sector businesses and organisations on the foresighting, analysis and mapping of more than twenty major food and drink supply chains. We know that the maps are proving to be a valuable resource and starting point for discussion with partners in each sector's supply chain. We asked Rona to tell us a bit more about the maps and their application in our ongoing work in supply chain sustainability.

“The maps are updated biannually using key industry approved references and their most recent update was in October 2023 so, as I "speak", they are literally “hot off the press”! One of our key considerations while mapping the sectors was sustainability. I think we’re all agreed that we need to continue striving for and developing a more sustainable and healthy food system, but it’s often difficult to qualify what is really meant when we talk about sustainability for the agri-food industry.”

“We’ve had to be clear on what we in SAOS mean when we talk about sustainability. Broadly speaking, we consider it to be about making the best use of the natural resources we have in Scotland (soil, climate, topography) to grow and rear plants/animals for food in the most natural conditions possible, while preserving the integrity of those resources for future generations.  It’s about ensuring that our agri-food and drink businesses remain profitable over the long term, to continue to support the economy and preserve the social fabric in our remote and rural communities, ensuring a fair living is available to all.”

Our mapping work includes assessment of the three pillars of sustainable development for each sector, namely environmental, economic and social, and we see all three as equally important when it comes to facing current and future global challenges.

Factors identified as impacting on the economic sustainability of sectors include having a narrow customer base, leading to pricing pressures and a shortage of warehousing, cold storage and blast freezing capacity, in turn, limiting ability to cope with fluctuations in market demand.

When it comes to social sustainability, factors include a heavy reliance on EU labour in some sectors and the rising cost of labour generally.

For our work on the environmental pillar, we break this down further into three broad areas - protecting our natural environment and resources; energy, water and transport; and efficiency and waste.

Our work has enabled us to highlight areas where sustainability is strong and others where it can be further developed.

For example, livestock farming accounts for around 5% of total greenhouse gas emissions in Scotland. Although these emissions are far below transport, industry, and power (which combined amount to 68%), Scottish agriculture still has an opportunity and a crucial contribution to make by reducing its emissions.

Regardless of the system of production, there are a few common areas where improving the efficiency of livestock production makes both commercial and environmental sense. These include, improving fertility, improving growth rates, reducing the number of unproductive stock and lowering morbidity and mortalities through better health and welfare.

MyHerdStats, which launched earlier this year, has been developed by ScotEID using statutory cattle registration and movement data to provide farmers with a consistent and accurate insight into herd performance.

Performance and year-on-year herd variability insights help highlight areas of opportunity for further improvement and enable informed, data-led management decisions to improve technical performance.

Farmers have access to a selection of herd performance indicators and trends including cows retained percentage, calves registered, cows calved, values of cow and heifer efficiency, and cow and calf mortalities.

The intention is for MyHerdStats to refine management lists of individual animals to action an identified trend; to present livestock numbers in a way to support financial accounting and carbon footprinting and to incorporate the facility to work with the data more flexibly for your needs.

For full info on our Supply Chain Maps and some examples go to: Supply Chain Insights - Sector Supply Chain Maps (saos.coop)

And find out more about MyHerdStats at MyHerdStats Information Guide - ScotEID Library (dozuki.com)                  





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