University of Kent helps build new sustainable supply chains

Dr Sue Hornibrook

The University has been working with multinational company Unilever and charity Oxfam on a programme that aims to build sustainable smallholder-based food supply chains.

Members of Kent Business School collaborated with the two organisations on a study to help identify the learning to date from their joint work on establishing smallholder farmer-based supply chains.

Dr Sue Hornibrook, of Kent Business Schools’ Centre for Value Chain Research, recently provided feedback at Unilever’s headquarters in London.

Dr Hornibrook said: ‘Demand for food is growing and current food production in the developed world will not be able to cope. We therefore need to think differently in terms of how and where we produce our food.

‘This joint programme will be helping to demonstrate how global food and drinks companies and domestic manufacturers can invest in smallholder-based supply chains that can help meet this growing demand.

‘Oxfam has worked for decades on agricultural development to secure the income and food security of those living in poverty. A key work-stream within Oxfam private sector and livelihoods strategies is to increase investment in sustainable smallholder agriculture, particularly for women.

‘Unilever is an industry leader in sustainable agriculture. As part of its Sustainable Living Plan, Unilever has made a public commitment to involve more smallholder growers in its supply chains, to secure agricultural raw materials and to improve the livelihoods of farmers and their communities. The joint programme with Oxfam will be instrumental in developing the business models needed for this,’ she said.

Dr Hornibrook, who worked with KBS PhD student Chris Sausman on providing the programme feedback, added that she hoped to collaborate further with Unilever and Oxfam on similar work in the future.

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