Virtual Environmental and Humanitarian Adviser Tool – (VEHA Tool) is a tool
to easily integrate environmental considerations in humanitarian response. Field Implementation guidances are useful for the design and execution of humanitarian activities in the field.

back to activity

VEHA - Field Implementation Guidance

Food Security
Food Access
Targeting, distribution and delivery
Food transport

Food transport


Environmental factors causing/contributing to the needs and affecting the humanitarian activity

The condition of the local environment affects its ability to provide food of an appropriate quality and quantity. Remotely sourcing food has environmental impacts, and strengthening the local environment to produce appropriate food may take many years. Food transport is usually fueled with fossil fuels that reduce air quality, create air and noise pollution from combustion, and generate greenhouse gases mainly from carbon dioxide (CO2) and water vapor (H2O) products. Long-distance transport also increases the likelihood of food waste (if the supply chain is not optimal), which will negatively impact the environment.

As the frequency and intensity of severe weather increases, there is a growing risk of storm damage to transport and distribution infrastructure, with consequent disruption to food supply chains.

Gender, age, disability and HIV/AIDS implications

Efforts to reach the most marginalized could inadvertently exacerbate conflict, reinforcing people’s marginalized status within the community, with no power to control the assets targeted to them. This could lead to environmentally damaging practices.


Environmental impact categories

Air pollution
Soil pollution
Water pollution
Climate change
Natural Resource depletion

Summary of Impacts
Summary of potential environmental impacts

Air pollution and greenhouse gas release due to the environmental impacts associated with food transport instead of procuring items locally.

Water and soil pollution from food waste dumping, which can lead to disease spread.

Solid waste from food packaging.

Impact detail
Detailed potential environmental impact information

Food systems contribute up 30% of all greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, including 44% of methane, significantly contributing to climate change.

The further imported food travels, the greater the likelihood of food damage, spoiling and waste during transport, increasing the likelihood of water sources and soil being polluted and disease being spread.


Summary of suggested environmental activities

Consolidating and streamlining distribution can reduce transportation needs, improve warehousing efficiency, and ultimately reduce the quantity of packaging used.

Where possible, procure sustainably produced locally sourced items.

Consider the total ecological footprint (e.g. production, packaging, shipping) while promoting values of environmental sustainability.

Add clauses to contracts to reduce packaging and packaging weight where possible.

Detailed guidance for implementing suggested environmental activities
  • Set up a food distribution plan which ensures efficient delivery routes, seasonality, local market availability and quality, and the environmental footprint of imported goods.
  • Food procurement criteria for food rations can favour low-impact production methods with reduced carbon inputs and greenhouse gas emissions; organic production; agro-ecology and practices that promote biodiversity; and enhanced animal welfare.
  • The rising cost of energy and the need to reduce fossil fuel usage along the food chain has led to a new calculation – “food miles”, which should be kept as low as possible to reduce emissions.
Lessons Learnt
Lessons from past experiences

Significant amounts of food are lost globally during food transport. This is exacerbated where the food transported is fresh ingredients and where food is stuck in customs facilities for prolonged periods. This causes significant waste and environmental harm. Challenges can be overcome through prioritizing the use of cash instead of food where food can be sourced by populations locally. If this is not possible, then transport of dry ingredients that are less vulnerable to spoiling may be appropriate; processing and packaging of food prior to transport may be necessary for life-saving situations, but it often leads to the creation of significant packaging waste.

Activity Measurement
Environmental indicators/monitoring examples

Distribution logistic plan integrates and meets agreed environmental criteria

Percentage of food items procured locally (adhering to sustainability criteria)

Activity Status
Main Focus
Focus of suggested activities

Prevention of environmental damage

Resource implications (physical assets, time, effort)

Costs may vary. Time required to conduct a comprehensive food assessment.

to top
icon-menu icon-close icon-account icon-arrow icon-down icon-back icon-pointed-arrow icon-left icon-up icon-bookmark icon-share twitter facebook2 printer envelope icon-close-alt icon-top icon-loading icons / login