Over 200 senior management from the food and drinks processing industry in Ireland will attend and listen to industry leaders discuss sustainability at the Future in Food Ireland event in the Aviva Stadium this coming November. Wattics will be there to join the discussion.
According to the UN, there will be nearly 2 billion more mouths to feed by the year 2050, with the global population set to reach nearly nine billion people. Food will need to be produced from increasingly limited resources in terms of water and land, and this is leading to concerns about the future of food supply in many parts of the world. For the food industry, this outlook represents both a massive challenge and opportunity for businesses, and the task of producing food is made all the more difficult with increasing energy costs.
The Irish government has also set out ambitious targets for the agri-food sector in Ireland towards 2020, with the overall goal to increase the value of primary output by 33%, the value-added by over 40% and exports by 42%. Statements by the Irish Minister for Agriculture in July 2014, confirm that the targets set out in the Harvest 2020 report are being successfully delivered.
Many organisations have expressed concerns that these targets act in direct conflict with Ireland’s climate change commitments under the Kyoto Protocol and according to An Taisce, greenhouse gas emissions are set to get worse, not better, as we approach 2020. These concerns were also echoed in a recent submission to government by a coalition of 26 national environmental groups, The Environment Pillar, who stress that ambitious targets for growth in the agri-food sector should not be achieved at “the cost of destroying the fundamental wealth that supports all human activity for this and future generations”.
Despite these environmental concerns, the government does recognize that as a global food producer and exporter, clear efforts need to be made to place Ireland high on the sustainability curve both at primary and processing level. In 2010, Bord Bia was mandated by Food Harvest 2020 to develop a clear, environmental message that could be easily marketed to the agri-food sector. The Origin Green programme was born, starting with 9 pilot companies and launched to industry and international trade partners. The programme enables farmers and producers to set and achieve measurable sustainability targets under the Origin Green Charter, which reduce the environmental impact of their products. The Green Business Scheme, is also available to all types of SME’s in Ireland to help them enhance their sustainability agenda.
A 2013 progress report by government on the Food Harvest 2020 targets, shows that sustainability efforts are starting to take root with companies in Ireland. According to the report, companies are aware of the importance of sustainability and recognise that sustainable operations can increase efficiency which can lead to reduced costs and afford competitive advantage. By embracing sustainability, companies can also improve market penetration by promoting a point of differentiation. Origin Green now has 64 verified members and over 350 companies have signed up to the programme. Food suppliers that sign up to programmes like Origin Green and demonstrate their environmental credentials are likely to be well placed to secure long-term business relationships with leading retailers and food manufacturers. By the end of this year, it is the aim of Origin Green to have 75% of Ireland’s exports supplied by companies who have demonstrated their environmental commitments under the Origin Green Programme.
Producers who wish to sign up to Origin Green must make commitments under the Origin Green Sustainability Charter and agree clear objectives under three key areas: Raw Material Sourcing, Manufacturing Processes and Social Sustainability. Working with Origin Green, companies create a comprehensive and challenging five year plan committing to sustainability improvements that are relevant to their individual business. Verified members have already put plans in place to address sustainability issues within their business and some of them have committed to ambitious targets across a range of areas such as reductions in energy use and GHG emissions, reduction of waste, implementation of rainwater harvesting, welfare programmes and improvements in products to make them healthier.