By Richelle Raaphorst (the Netherlands)
The distribution of products comes with environmentally polluting effects and improving the efficiency of a supply chain can have significant benefits related to environmental issues. One aspect upon which improvements can be made is the sourcing of products. Research shows that the decision between locally produced versus globally sourced is not always unambiguous. GIS offers the opportunity to assess optimal routing and associated emissions, while including other relevant factors as production emissions. The resulting objective of this research is to compare the carbon emissions of local and global food distribution networks using GIS. The associated research question is:
Which scale level of food distribution networks serving urban areas is most efficient considering carbon emissions?
A tool is built that calculates the total carbon footprint of a food supply chain based on its production location, end location, transport mode, and product. It can be concluded that this research proves that production circumstances such as climate can outweigh the food transportation emission, and that Dutch consumers thus are better off with Mediterranean grown vegetables than local Dutch vegetables if they want to limit their indirect carbon emissions. It should be noted that the circumstances of production and corresponding supply chain scale level efficiencies vary per case study, and other conclusions might be drawn depending on the used data. It is suggested that building a tool that integrates all environmental aspects and an emission factor database enables easier and more realistic assessments.