Food and drink suppliers do their bit to protect the planet

Consumers in Scotland and the rest of the UK have access to a wide variety of nutritious, affordable and high-'¨quality food. However, the impacts of climate change could put this all at risk in the future unless action is taken. Since most agriculture is climate dependent, this has wide-reaching implications for food and drink production. These are also increasing pressures on food security from limited resources and increasing demand.

Minimising the impact of food and drink production on our environment continues to be a top priority for the Food and Drink Federation (FDF) and our members. Our groundbreaking Five-Fold Environmental Ambition was launched in 2007 as one of the first UK sector-wide set of environmental commitments. Nearly a decade on, food and drink manufacturers have made significant progress; they have reduced CO2 emissions by more than a third, cut water use by 30 per cent and are on track to send zero food and packaging waste to landfill by the end of 2016. To name one example, Warburtons, which has a site in Bellshill, Glasgow, has carried out an award-winning project whereby they have reduced the fuel consumption of their distribution fleet by 11 per cent, giving a reduction of 4,028 tonnes of CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalent).

But FDF members have expressed a desire to go even further, and in October we launched “Ambition 2025: Shaping Sustainable Value Chains”. This is the next step on our sustainability journey and contains a new set of commitments to further reduce the food and drink manufacturing sector’s environmental impact, protect our natural capital, and contribute to the delivery of a sustainable food system for the future.

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The Ambition covers key areas in which we believe food and drink manufacturers can help deliver the biggest and most positive impact by working collaboratively across supply chains.

It includes a stretching target for reducing CO2 emissions, an industry-wide water reduction target, a focus on reducing food waste across the food chain from farm to fork, the use of more sustainable packaging and going even further on minimising the harmful environmental impacts from transport.

Food waste is a hot topic just now and an area where food and drink manufacturers have made significant progress.

For example PepsiCo UK, which has a Quaker Oats site in Cupar, has achieved zero waste to landfill across all its UK manufacturing and logistics sites since 2011, as well as reducing the amount of waste from UK factories by 33 per cent in the last four years.

Our members are now taking a whole food chain approach to this issue and focusing on preventing waste before it actually occurs from agriculture through to manufacturing, retail and even the end consumer. Where this waste cannot be avoided, FDF encourages manufacturers and retailers to consider donating any excess food to food banks. We have created guidance to make this easier with practical and straightforward answers to questions that businesses wanting to donate food may have.

We recognise that resource efficiency is an important part of achieving a sustainable food system. But the goal of sustainability in the food system is very complex and requires a much broader remit and so we want to go even further.

As the supply chain is an area where there are social, environmental and business risks, we believe FDF can play a positive role in promoting sustainable supply chains and the enhancement of our natural capital.

McCain Foods is the largest 
purchaser of British potatoes and recognises that ensuring extensive traceability across the supply chain is key. As such, all McCain main crop growers in the UK are supplied by the company’s dedicated seed business in Montrose, ensuring high quality raw material and increased product assurance.

In another example, Nestlé strive to understand and manage their dependencies and impacts on natural capital throughout both their operations and supply chains. So far, seven dairy farmers who supply their Girvan factory have planted wildflower meadows on their land.

Due to the complexity of the food chain, addressing global risks goes beyond individual businesses. It is essential that everyone, including companies and stakeholders from across the food supply chain and consumers, all work together to drive real, positive change.

Our members will continue to share best practice to help deliver a sustainable food system in 2017 and beyond.

David Thomson, CEO at Food and Drink Federation Scotland