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So Fresh and So Clean (Energy)

April 01, 2022

SC Americas Logistics Operations Works to Fulfill Sustainability Goals through Transport & Storage Improvements

As SC Americas’ Logistics Operations attends to the business of physically storing and transporting South American food products, the methods of storage and transportation must be constantly improving; the goal is always to provide more efficient, safe and sustainable logistics operations. In this arena, SC Americas hopes to improve its food transport through emerging refrigeration technology that differentiates the company from others, and contribute to solving today’s pressing food transport issues.

Part of the future of logistics involves mitigating the negative ecological impact that most businesses face, and Hiroshi “Ocean” Takayama, General Manager of SCOA’s Logistics Group & Head of SC Americas Logistics Operations, believes the aforementioned technology can push SCSA to the next level of operation and service with decarbonizing goals as part of the strategy.

“The future is now, which means we must look to lower greenhouse gas emissions,” he said, explaining that their processes and proposed improvements are already cutting down on unnecessary energy waste. “So, how can we contribute to a lower carbon footprint for ourselves and our subsidiaries? All of this can be achieved, but a new business model will be needed. We are excited because we are heading that way in the next three years.”

The most daunting logistics and logistics management challenges for food sustainability that SCSA faces involves both transportation and storage; developing technology that allows food to stay fresher for longer periods of time is a top priority, but also in methods that decrease the carbon footprint. Now, Takayama’s team is involved in the development of new food containers for ocean transport that use greener refrigeration technology. Takayama states that his group will promote this business opportunity in South America after it comes to full fruition and they introduce the tech in North America.

“For our current business situation, we address the challenges of international ocean transportation,” Takayama explained. “There is a limitation for what Sumitomo’s logistics organization can do for the food industry, but we are now developing new technology for refrigeration to keep the products lasting even longer than we can at present. Ultimately, we plan to establish and/or expand this leasing business of containers or trailers that are equipped with this refrigeration technology. Considering our current business activity, the leasing of the refrigeration facility – not currently by warehouse but by container or trailer – is an area we look to explore more in the future, since this new refrigeration technology can contribute to reducing food waste and mitigate food loss.”

The biggest challenges in the logistics of working with food is the quality of the services, according to Takayama. As much as the successful logistics operations reinforce the Company’s reputation for quality, the opposite would not only damage the Company’s relationships, but the potential loss of food through inadequate logistics operations has repercussions that can ripple through the food chain and cause catastrophic consequences, both economically and ecologically. 

“Contributing to food waste reduction and food loss are serious social issues that must be addressed, even in times of supply chain difficulty,” Takayama said. “This is not easy, but this is one of the important challenges on the road to realizing true sustainability. The timely delivery of fresh food products is just one way we get closer to achieving our worldwide sustainability goals.”

New obstacles during the pandemic made international logistics work even more challenging, creating limitations in nearly every facet of food transport and storage by deficits - from workers to space to schedules. The ecological ramifications had to take a backseat to keeping operations steady when possible, which increased product prices.

“The challenge of a lack of space in ocean transport, road transport and air transport of foods was constant,” Takayama explained. “Timely distribution could not be achieved, and freight rates increased, which ends up increasing the final selling price for the product because the inflated costs are passed down to the consumer. The COVID pandemic gave us all difficulties, but the supply chain disruption was unprecedented.” 

Takayama does see a light at the end of the tunnel, as all processes do connect in the end.

“Logistics must be evolving, adapting and changing in order to meet the challenges,” he explained. “Sustainability cannot be ignored when you talk about the future of the global marketplace, so despite everything, we still look forward to what tomorrow brings. We know we can move forward with this new technology to lower greenhouse gas emissions, and a host of other methods to keep our promise of enriching lives and the world.”

Food Waste vs. Food Loss 

According to the Food and Agricultural Administration of the United Nations, there is a distinct difference between food loss and food waste.

Food loss is the decrease in the quantity or quality of food resulting from decisions and actions by food suppliers in the chain, excluding retailers, food service providers and consumers.

Empirically, it refers to any food that is discarded, incinerated or otherwise disposed of along the food supply chain from harvest/slaughter/catch up to, but excluding, the retail level, and does not re-enter in any other productive utilization, such as feed or seed.Food loss, as reported by FAO in the FLI, occurs from post-harvest up to, but not including, the retail level.

Food waste refers to the decrease in the quantity or quality of food resulting from decisions and actions by retailers, food service providers and consumers.  Food is wasted in many ways:

  • • Fresh produce that deviates from what is considered optimal, for example in terms of shape, size and color, is often removed from the supply chain during sorting operations.
  • • Foods that are close to, at or beyond the “best-before” date are often discarded by retailers and consumers.
  • • Large quantities of wholesome edible food are often unused or left over and discarded from household kitchens and eating establishments.

Less food loss and waste would lead to more efficient land use and better water resource management with positive impacts on climate change and livelihoods.

Above, SC Brazil Logistics staff, left to right: Kazuhide Matsuda, 
Cintia Shimabukuro, Katia Galafassi, and Guilherme Pires.