Around the world, people are becoming increasingly conscious of the environmental footprint associated with their food choices. The production of meat, particularly from intensive farming systems, has been identified as a significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, deforestation, and water pollution. Consequently, there is a resounding call for a shift towards more sustainable diets.
Livestock production has been linked to significant environmental impacts, such as methane emissions (a significant contributor to Global Warming and, subsequently, Climate Change) and deforestation of tropical forests in the Amazon for livestock feed production (particularly of soya beans). Whilst sustainable livestock production practices are on the rise, there are additional steps that consumers can take to reduce potential environmental impacts linked to meat consumption.
The reduction of the proportion of meat in diets and subsequent increase of plant-based nutrients (e.g. fruits, nuts, vegetables and legumes) has been identified as a potential strategy to follow. This has triggered initiatives, such as ‘Meat-Free-Mondays’, which encourage consumers to commit at least one day of the week to a plant-based diet. A good example of a diet with lower proportions of meat components is the popular Mediterranean diet which has been linked to reduced cardiovascular disease risk. With tighter economic conditions globally, shifting towards a plant-based diet not only reduces potential environmental impacts associated with livestock production, but also helps reduce grocery bills and can promote healthier physical functioning.
With the increased focus on plant-based diets, there has also been greater attention paid to the responsible sourcing of crops and plant-based products. Consumers and retailers in overseas markets, such as the UK, EU and USA, are placing greater emphasis on environmental sustainability when purchasing goods and materials. The current market trends include concerns over Greenhouse Gas emissions (and the subsequent impacts by Climate Change), responsible waste management, sustainable water usage and biodiversity conservation. Market access for the South African agricultural industry will be greatly determined by those supply chains that have taken the initiative to implement environmentally sustainable practices.
SIZA is well-recognized overseas for its ethical (social) and environmental standards through direct engagements with overseas importers, retailers and global not-for-profit initiatives. Through partnership with SIZA, the South African agricultural industry can be recognized by the market for the environmentally sustainable practices it implements. Based on the latest SIZA Monitoring and Evaluation Report (January-March 2023), there are already 1 307 primary members (production and packhouse/processing members) who have signed up for the SIZA Environmental module.
In an interconnected world, consumers are increasingly prioritizing sustainable and ethically produced goods which then shapes market dynamics. By aligning with the SIZA Environmental Standard, South African producers and packhouses/processers can demonstrate their commitment to meeting expectations of conscious consumers worldwide and therefore position themselves favorably in the global market. With sustainable practices becoming a key criterion for many buyers, these businesses gain a competitive edge, maintain existing market access and can explore new opportunities. As the demand for sustainably produced goods continues to rise, businesses that proactively address environmental concerns are well-positioned to thrive in the global marketplace.