“The heritage of Birds Eye is all about families and children – looking after them and meeting their needs. And our mission is to ensure they have food for ever,” says Peter Hajipieris, chief technical, sustainability and external affairs officer at the company.

And so the Forever Food programme is born, mapping out how the company will operate up to 2015 to ensure its customers get responsibly-sourced food, for ever.

It’s an initiative that has been in the pipeline for some years and developed with a range of organisations and suppliers, including WWF, the Marine Stewardship Council, the Food and Drink Federation and The Prince’s Countryside Fund. And it’s very ambitious.

Covering all manufacturing sites, raw materials and third party suppliers, the company has pledged to reduce water consumption by 20% and carbon emissions by 30%, both by 2020.

The commitment also includes targets to send no waste to landfill from UK operations by 2015, reduce packaging by 15% by 2012, and source 100% of its wild and farmed fish from certified fisheries by 2012.

“The biggest challenge will be cutting our CO2, because you have to invest a great deal in this,” says Hajipieris. And the fish target has its own headaches (“fish is the most dysfunctional and politically-challenging food area”).

“We began working with Birds Eye Iglo more than ten years ago to drive sustainability in fisheries,” says David Nussbaum, CEO of WWF UK.

“The Forever Food programme is a welcome expansion of these aims and we very much support its ambition to become a leading initiative, driving change for sustainability in supply chains and in consumer behaviour.”

The Forever Food “journey”, as the company likes to describe it, is all about educating staff and consumers about the difference they can make, as well as stimulating family interest in sustainable development issues that affect their daily lives. It’s not just another CSR programme.

“We’re transforming the business,” says Hajipieris. “Before we launched Forever Food, I wanted to set up function to deliver it.. So, we’ve restructured internally; linking up our procurement and supply chain teams so that we are all on the same page.

“Forever Food marries up beautifully with the brand. It’s all right putting the logo on the products and on the website, but you’ve got to support that with a programme.

“And what we’ve discovered in doing all this work is what a brilliant story frozen food has when it comes to resource utilisation. We waste so little compared to chilled food.”

Forever Food will be supported by a marketing campaign that began with the release of new food packs in July. But Hajipieris doesn’t just want to speak to consumers.

“This is about communicating with suppliers and staff too,” he says, “helping them to understand that this isn’t an esoteric thing – because normally it is quite corporate.”

For Forever Food to resonate with its stakeholders, the language around the initiative has been simplified. “We don’t want to launch it and forget about it – it’s with us for ever.”

It’s an exciting and far-reaching programme that Hajipieris refuses to reveal how much is costing Birds Eye – “let’s just say it is a substantial amount of money”.


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