Study suggests a limit to consumers’ willingness to pay for sustainability

Consumers may not be willing to pay food companies a premium for high standards of social and environmental responsibility, according to a new report.

The Sustainable Food Supply Chain Commission found, in its ‘The Long and the Short of It’ study, that companies reaching high standards face the problem of competing with other companies that may not share those aspirations.

The commission added there was also a limit “to how much companies can expect consumers to pay for higher standards – a limit in terms of the premium that consumers will be willing to pay and also in terms of the market share that can be commanded”.

The Sustainable Food Supply Chain Commission included academics, parliamentarians and representatives from the agricultural and food industries.

Report commissioner Professor Rosemary Collier explained: “The commission has affirmed the considerable complexity of the ‘food system’ and the substantial linkages and interdependencies between the environmental, social and economic aspects of sustainability.”

The study covers five issues concerning the maintenance of a sustainable food supply chain, entitled ‘How the Market Operates’, ‘Volunteerism or Regulation’, ‘Engaging with People as Citizens and Consumers’, ‘Certification and other Assurance Schemes’, and ‘Investing in Supply Chains’.

The findings form the basis of a delegation to the European Commission. Anthea McIntyre MEP said: “‘The Long and the Short of It’ does a good job in exploring some of the key themes surrounding food supply chains, an issue that needs to be addressed to ensure the demand for food can be met, and in a sustainable manner.”

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