When people eat too much, they go on a diet to shed pounds and improve their health. Now some companies are trying to do the same for their supply chains by reducing their "food miles." "Food miles" refers to the distance between the point where a product originates and where it is consumed. Originally associated with groceries, the term now is applied to consumer goods as well.
Transporting products from faraway locations to consumers, critics say, generates more carbon dioxide than sourcing products from local markets does. Environmentalists further contend that "just-in-time" practices harm the planet because they require more frequent deliveries, and thus generate more air pollution.
Activists also are raising concerns that centralized distribution networks may contribute to environmental damage. When retailers with a centralized network transport products over longer distances to their stores, they generate more pollution than they would by shipping from local sources. To avoid that problem, environmentalists argue, they should use more local suppliers.
The campaign to minimize food miles is gaining momentum in Europe, where some politicians are calling on consumers to shun produce that has been transported over long distances, especially by airfreight. In its November 2007 report "Global Contract Logistics," the research firm Transport Intelligence Ltd. noted that if local sourcing policies should become widespread, it could have a negative impact on Africa, which supplies vegetables and flowers to Europe.
This is no small matter, and it will have longterm consequences, the report's authors write: "One of the biggest challenges that the global logistics industry faces over the next few years is from environmental legislation as governments and consumers take an increasing interest in the level of food miles."
[Source: "Global Contract Logistics 2007," Transport Intelligence Ltd., www.transportintelligence.com]