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Bananas’ Carbon Footprint and Sustainability Report

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Updated: Sep 9th, 2020

Introduction

The majority of the critical issues topical to the modern world could be characterized as the environmental concerns appeared because of the rapid growth of the industrial sector. The Industrial Revolution resulted in the significant improvement of the quality of life of people. However, the progress of technologies and the extension of the industry also triggered the great changes in the environment and contributed to the significant deterioration of its state.

Nowadays, humanity faces a complicated challenge related to the balance between industrial and environmental issues. The modern living conditions and needs of the population evidence that society is not able to survive without the further growth of the industrial sector. At the same, the industrial expansion has a pernicious effect on the natural resources and the health of people. The given paradox gives rise to the number of environmental concerns.

However, the major one is related to attempts to reduce the emission rate and make the industry more environmentally friendly to stop the deterioration of nature. The attempt to find the needed balance is one of the main trends of the modern age. The success of these attempts lies in the deep investigation of a certain sector to determine the main polluters and processes which do damage to the environment. This analysis could highlight the main change areas and provide the information needed for the reconsideration of the traditional approaches towards certain activities to make them more environmentally friendly.

Literature review

The scale of the challenge is so significant that scientists give a great deal of attention to the sectors which traditionally have been characterized as innocuous to the environment. Besides, the latest researches of the agricultural industry evidence its ambivalent character and underline the tendency towards the further increase of the number of the environmental concerns within this very sector (Desjardins et al. n.d). Steenblik and Moise (2010) state that the production, processing transport and storage of agricultural products increase the rate of the greenhouse gasses emissions. These gasses include such unfriendly substances as carbon dioxide (CO2), nitric oxide (N2O) and methane (CH4) (Lim 2010). Combined with the emissions of the other industrial sectors, they pose a great threat to the state of the environment and its further improvement. The complexity of the problem also lies in the wide usage of chemicals to promote the growth of a certain crop and its protection.

These agents include several components which have a great negative impact on the state of the soil, water, and air (Robias, Elbern, & Hospido 2016). Many researchers have sought to determine the influence of the agricultural sector on the environment and highlight the most nagging problems (Lim 2010). The majority of these investigations devote a great deal of attention towards the carbon footprint of various final products (International Trade Centre 2012). This term is used to describe “the total amount of greenhouse gases produced to, directly and indirectly, support human activities, usually expressed in equivalent tons of carbon dioxide (CO2)” (What is a carbon footprint n.d).

The significance of the investigation of the carbon footprint is also proved by the evolution of climate concerns. The change of the climate conditions evidences the negative impact CO2 has on the environment and introduces the necessity of the creation of efficient monitoring and prevention measures. However, several scientists tend to prove the idea that the improvement of the carbon footprint could be taken as the impossible task in terms of the modern world (Morse 2015).

This concern results from the analysis of the customer needs of the developed countries. The data demonstrates the tendency towards the growth of the requirements towards the food and goods (Grewer & Bockel n.d). The improvement of the quality of life of people results in the evolution of their tastes and the thirst for diversity. To satisfy the existing demands, the agricultural sector should continue its expansion and enlarge cultivation areas. This tendency supports the importance of the analysis of the carbon footprint and its investigation which could provide information about the ways to change the situation.

Flysjo (2011, p. 5833) assumes that “To reduce the environmental impact of a product efficiently, it is crucial to consider the entire value chain of the product.” This statement introduces the idea of the reconsideration of the food-value of some products within the framework of their carbon footprint. This strategy might help to reduce the production of the products characterized by the low values and high emissions of CO2. Additionally, there is one more perspective on the given issue. It is related to the improvement of all stages of the production of a certain product to minimize the emission rate and make its carbon footprint less significant (Lescot 2012).

For these reasons, several pieces of research revolving around the universal product appear. Banana, its composition, and health properties are very often taken as the background for these investigations. This choice rests on the high food-value of the given product. Additionally, 80g of banana contains “140 calories as well as stacks of vitamin C, vitamin B6, potassium and dietary fibre” (Berners-Lee & Clark 2010). It has a great positive impact on the health of a person, stabilizing his/her blood pressure, digestive system, etc. A number of the undeniable advantages result in the growth of the level of interest towards this very product and give rise to the numerous investigations of its carbon footprint.

General description of the case

In this regard, the following case study centres around the deep and detailed investigation of all stages of the production, packaging and transportation of bananas. The case rests on the information provided by Chiquita Brands International (Craig & Blanco 2013), one of the leading distributors of foodstuff to a great number of countries all over the world. The banana supply chain provided in the case study helps to understand the essential stages of the production and distribution of the product. The overwhelming majority of bananas in the US market are grown in Central America (Craig & Blanco 2013).

The process of cultivation of the product involves the wide usage of chemicals like fertilizers, pesticides and fungicides. The application of these chemicals means the increase in the carbon footprint of the given product and makes its production less environmentally friendly. After the bananas have ripened, they have to be packed at the plantations and then delivered to the country ordered the products. Having arrived, they are to be unpacked and stored under certain conditions.

The description of the given supply chain promotes a better understanding of the whole cycle and the potential areas of change. Finally, the given case study also presents the detailed investigation of the factors which impact the carbon footprint of the product and introduces the discussion connected with the uncertainty of the determination of the footprint of any product in terms of the oscillations of the transportation emission. There are also several important concerns to be analyzed to determine the essential data points related to the issue.

Impact on the environment

The information presented in the given case study also results in the reconsideration of the carbon footprint of banana and introduces the main aspects of farming of this product. According to it, there are three main environmental concerns related to bananas, their distribution, and usage. These concerns are the process of transportation of the product to the markets, the production and the package. They have a significant impact on the carbon footprint of banana and increase the level of awareness related to it. Among these aspects, transportation is the main contributor to the increase in the number of emissions.

Ground transportation of bananas implies shipping from the plantation to the port, delivery of the cargo to the USA and the retail store. The distance of transportation may vary. However, the calculation of the average usage of fuel and the number of emissions resulting from it evidence the great negative impact this aspect of bananas producing has on the environment. The usage of tracks and ships to deliver the cargo results in the deterioration of the state of air and water. This fact influences the carbon footprint of banana greatly. The complexity of the problem of transportation is aggravated by the package needed for the successful delivery of bananas from Central America to the USA. Usually, CBI provides the reusable wooden pallets and plastic shrink wrap to transport its products (Craig & Blanco 2013).

These materials could be sent to recycling by a retailer; however, they also pose a great threat to the environment. Finally, the negative impact of the banana industry on the environment is aggravated by the chemicals used in the process of farming. CBI implements pesticides and fungicides to guarantee the successful ripening of bananas. These elements have a pernicious effect on the state of soil and promote the further deterioration of the environment in the region. The complex of all these environmentally unfriendly factors results in the significant growth of the bananas carbon footprint.

Ways to reduce the impact

The above-mentioned aspects of the production and distribution of bananas give rise to a certain environmental concern. It lies in the implementation of measures to decrease the number of emissions related to this sector and reconsider the nature of the given product. As identified above, the ground transportation has the most negative impact on the environment. It introduced the necessity of the significant improvement of this aspect.

First, the vehicles used for transportation should be replaced with those which are based on environmentally friendly technologies. This replacement will contribute to the decrease of the emissions and the cut down in spending related to the organization of transportation. Secondly, the distance between the manufacturer and distributor should be shortened. New directions will result in a decrease in the amount of fuel needed for the delivery and improvement of the carbon footprint of a banana. The approach towards packing should also be reconsidered. The company should avoid usage of plastic as the material for the package as it is one of the most harmful substances (Twenty five+ ways to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint n.d).

The usage of the wooden pallets is taken as a good strategy and should be supported by the implementation of another wrapping material. Finally, the refusal of the chemicals in farming will result in the significant reconsideration of the carbon footprint of a banana.

These substances could be replaced with the less unfriendly organic ones (Thirteen Strategies for Reducing Your Carbon Footprint n.d). The prevalence of environmentally friendly materials will trigger the process of change focused on the global restructuring of the whole industry and promote the improvement of the state of the environment in the region.

Sustainability

The investigation of the banana supply chain introduces the concept of its sustainability. The ability to continue its evolution in terms of modern conditions is crucial for every business. Sustainability is comprised of three important dimensions social, economic and environmental. The balance between all these aspects is extremely important for further evolution and serves as the guaranty for success. As for our case study, the sustainability analysis is crucial in terms of the determination of the significance of the carbon footprint of the given product and its perspectives. The above-mentioned supply chain presents several problems in the sphere of the environment related to transportation and farming. However, compared to other sectors of the industry, the banana supply chain is characterized by the much lower level of emissions combined with the great commercial significance (Berners-Lee 2010).

This fact evidences the perspectives awaiting the given sector and promotes its further growth. As regards the economic dimension, banana production provides stable incomes for its owners. For instance, the budget of Guatemala depends on the sales of the given product greatly. (Food and agriculture organization of the United Nations 2014). The production of bananas is popular in various regions and does not demand complicated equipment. This fact proves the profitability of the given agricultural sector and introduces perspectives to its further evolution. Although, the social aspect of the given industry also proves its high level of sustainability. Several investigations admit the essential role of this product in the diet of a common individual. Usually, a person eats from 1 to 3 bananas per week (Bananas n.d.).

The nutrition specialists underline the positive elements contained in the fruit and insist on its regular usage. These facts evidence the essential role bananas play in modern society and the diet of a person. Additionally, the simplicity of production and low price impact the image of the given product increasing its attractiveness. In these regards, the level of the sustainability of bananas production could be described as stable and high. The positive image of the given product, its low price combined with the widespread promote the development of the given sphere and guarantee good perspectives to its evolution.

Ways to improve sustainability

Yet, there are still possibilities for the improvement of the sustainability of this sector. The given paper has already presented information about the problems related to the package and transportation. These aspects hurt the image of the sector and its perspectives. To change the given situation, the practice of cleaner packing could be implemented. Traditionally, bananas are transported in wooden boxes wrapped in plastic. The sort of packing is used to guarantee the low amount of corrupted bananas and protect the cargo from the pernicious influence of the external factors such as moisture, sunlight, cold and physical damage.

It is rather efficient as the rate of spoiled bananas is low and does not exceed 10% (Bananas n.d). At the same time, the plastic materials used for packing hurt the environment and undermine the sustainability of the banana supply chain. To exclude this negative factor, producers should use the new sort of wrapping material which will not pose the threat to the environment. The usage of the recycled paper could be taken as a good choice under the given conditions.

Another way to improve sustainability is to implement the technique of the life cycle assessment. It implies the monitoring and analysis of all stages of the production of a product to make them more efficient and environmentally friendly. Chart 1 demonstrates the lifecycle peculiar to banana production. It provides the information needed for the improvement of the sustainability of the given sector. The ways to improve transportation and packaging have already been mentioned in the paper. However, it is also possible to initiate the process of the recycling of banana skin. It might provide organic and environmentally friendly fertilizer which could contribute to the significant improvement of the state of soil in the areas where bananas are farmed.

Banana production lifecycle.
Chart 1. Banana production lifecycle.

Finally, one more strategy contributing to the significant improvement of sustainability is the adherence to the idea of environmental purchasing. The given method implies the promotion of the positive image of a company by emphasizing the comparatively low damage to the environment. Regarding banana production, its carbon footprint should be presented as the great advantage of the given industry. Customers should realize the fact that buying bananas they contribute to the protection of the planet as all stages of the supply chain is not so harmful. The given strategy might contribute to the reconsideration of the customers attitude towards bananas and increase the level of demand.

The combination of these strategies should be used by a company to develop an efficient strategic plan to improve the level of the sustainability of the given sector and to contribute to the promotion of industries with the acceptable carbon footprint.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the modern world is characterized by the growth of the level of attention devoted to environmental concerns. Under these conditions, the issue of the carbon footprint obtains the great importance in terms of the attempts to stop the deterioration of the state of the environment. The majority of spheres of human activity are analyzed to determine their impact on nature. The analysis of the given case study proves the idea of the relatively insignificant carbon footprint of banana. The three main factors which impact the environment is transportation, farming and package. However, the statistical data provided in the case evidence that the rate of emissions is not very high especially related to the showings of the other sectors of industry. These facts prove the great sustainability of the banana supply chain and highlight the perspectives awaiting it. Additionally, the improvement of the package of bananas might result in significant shifts within the industry.

Reference List

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Berners-Lee, M 2010, How Bad Are Bananas?: The carbon footprint of everything, Profile Books, London. Web.

Berners-Lee, M & Clark, D 2010, . Web.

Craig, A & Blanco, E 2013, Carbon footprint of Chiquitas North American and European bananas. Web.

Desjardins, R, Worth, D, Vergé, X, VanderZaag, A, Janzen, H, Kroebel, R, Maxime, D. Smith, W, Grant, B, Pattey, E, & Dyer, J n.d., . Web.

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations 2014, . Web.

Flysjo, A 2011, ‘Potential for improving the carbon footprint of butter and blend products’, Journal of Dairy Science, vol. 94, no. 12, pp. 5833-5841. Web.

Grewer, U & Bockel, L n.d., . Web.

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Lim, A 2010, ‘‘, Our World. Web.

Morse, A 2015, . Web.

Roibás, L, Elbern, A, & Hospido, A 2016, ‘Carbon footprint along the Ecuadorian banana supply chain: methodological improvements and calculation tool’, Journal of Cleaner Production, vol. 112, no. 4, pp. 2441-2451. Web.

Steenblik, R & Moise, E 2010, . Web.

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