Reducing the environmental impact of MOD’s Deployed Food

Mikel Santos

By Erica Fuller, Mikel Santos

The UK Ministry of Defence (MOD) Sustainable Support Strategy sets out the ambition to achieve net zero emissions by 2050. The strategy proposes a range of initiatives relating to platform availability, opportunities for maintaining operational energy, building resilience, and increasing self-sustainment.

Deployed food is a contributor to the environmental footprint across Defence with rations procured and distributed to military consumers across the globe. This includes delivery to garrisons as far south as the Falkland Islands, military units in eastern Europe, and Royal Navy ships deployed to the Middle East. This extended supply chain creates the requirement to develop a robust, credible Net Zero Strategy that will guide the future procurement and supply of deployed food.

By establishing a collaborative network of partnerships with industry and academia, the MOD can develop, test, and adopt leading-edge technology solutions for deployed food. This ecosystem approach aligns with the MOD’s Multi Domain Integration (MDI) framework and can reduce the time and likely cost of introducing bespoke solutions.

Such an approach is key to identifying shared problems, gathering consensus, and establishing a way forward on the journey of sustainable actions. Creating a dynamic, supportive environment of psychological safety where different ideas and perspectives can be shared without fear sets the conditions to truly innovate at pace.

1. Understanding emissions through accessible dashboards and data

Firstly, you need to understand your baseline emissions and assess your carbon footprint to identify key hotspots. By breaking down emissions by source using an easily accessible dashboard, Defence Support can understand the carbon footprint associated with food supply, transportation, packaging, and other associated waste.

Analysing each geographic destination may expose quick wins for carbon reduction with the opportunity to establish supply through secure regional supply hubs as an alternative to effectively shorten the supply chain. By harnessing the network of enterprise partners, MOD Commercial teams can capture all emissions data throughout the end-to-end value chain.

2. Prioritise your net zero roadmap

After understanding the key challenges described in the Sustainable Support Strategy, you can start exploring and quantifying opportunities to reduce your overall environmental impact. These might include:

  • Minimising the environmental footprint associated with food supply and transportation
  • Exploring alternatives for plastics and packaging used for food
  • Applying circularity principles to reduce waste and incentivise recycling activity.

Focus thinking on realistic opportunities and actions. A successful roadmap will immediately prioritise high-impact areas, supporting sustainability while driving financial efficiencies.

For example, due to the significant use of plastic packaging in military rations, there is a huge opportunity to introduce innovative packaging such as PulPac. Our experts are working with the Swedish R&D company to develop and scale a proprietary production method at our Global Innovation and Technology Centre that can replace single-use plastic at a lower cost.

Additional benefits can be achieved by introducing universal packaging cases across the wider logistics supply chain. Consider refining the nutritional offer to closely reflect requirements which will improve resilience and reduce the discard rates of nutritionally lower value items. Routine consideration of the current preferences, values, and standards of operational troops will ensure the rations provided are enjoyed whilst sustaining demanding operational activity.

3. Prepare your stakeholders for the journey

Once you have set your priorities, communicate your intent, define the operating model, and set up a dashboard to prepare for your journey. Seek insights from current suppliers to gain recommendations regarding ‘quick wins’ and industry best practice. Identify focus areas that embrace data alongside a circular economy approach. Business wargaming techniques can sense-check different choices, targeting effort for maximum return.

Introducing a sales and operational planning tool will create and automatically update forecasts while managing demand. Any software introduced should extend to stock management at unit level to allow swift re-distribution of rations. The use of modelling and the creation of digital twins can improve supply chain visibility, offering powerful tools to navigate the complexity of decarbonisation. Additionally, causal mapping can identify issues before they become problems-signposting high impact areas, improving resilience, and minimising volatility which will in turn reduce food waste.

4. Implement your governance model

Identify the requirements to deliver against your objectives and define a high-level target operating model. As part of the process, establish your governance model. A carefully planned engagement strategy, building in all stakeholders, will enable you to monitor progress and drive change. A performance management and monitoring dashboard will help you track progress of the different initiatives in your roadmap.

Resolving the environmental impact of deployed food requires close collaboration between Defence Support and the wider industry, creating an integrated enterprise approach in an MDI-like network. Living up to that level of ambition presents an opportunity to take bold steps towards net zero and feed sustainability in the sector.

About the authors

Erica Fuller PA supply chain sustainability expert
Mikel Santos
Mikel Santos PA sustainability transformation expert

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