The sourcing of commodities is the sustainability area upon which food companies will place most focus in 2017, according to the results of just-food’s Confidence Survey.

Commodity sourcing was the most-chosen answer to a poll within the survey on the key sustainability issues on which our readers expected their business to focus this year.

The results of the survey, which polled our international readership on a range of issues in November and December, put the sourcing of commodities at almost 58%, up from 41% a year earlier.

The 17-point jump the sourcing of commodities saw between the two surveys chimes with activity seen in the food industry, with, for example, the world’s major confectioners increasing their investment in sourcing cocoa more sustainably.

The declines or more stagnant results for water, waste and carbon use appear to match the general underlying trend in sustainability programmes at food companies, with the emphasis of investment moving from within a company’s four walls – where issues around water use, waste and carbon emissions are more prominent and more easily dealt with – to further out in the supply chain. Many food companies have, for example, already invested heavily in making their use of water in their factories more sustainable and are increasingly taking their sustainability projects outside their walls.

A growing appreciation of the risk to business of volatile sourcing patterns has caused a number of food manufacturers to put more focus further into their supply chains.

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Looking at the results of the poll on the expenditure on sustainability initiatives, the number of respondents who say their companies will spend less than the previous year remained static at 6%, while the overwhelming majority said their businesses would at least match their spending in 2016.

The results of our poll on the factors that will drive innovation highlighted the growing importance of sustainability in a company’s considerations.

Sustainability was chosen by 40% of respondents, up sharply from 29% in last year’s survey.