The Food Industry Sustainability Strategy was launched by Margaret Becket, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, on Wednesday, April 26.

The plan, drawn up in partnership with industry, aims to tackle some of the environmental bugbears that plague the sector such as food miles, packaging, waste and water use.

The strategy sets out ‘ambitions’ rather than statutory obligations, asking the food industry to reduce its carbon emissions by 20% by 2010 against a 1990 baseline, reduce water use nationally by 10-15% and in the drought-prone South East by 20-25% and cut food waste in manufacturing processes by 15-20% in the same period.

It also asks the industry to ‘significantly reduce the environmental and social cost of its domestic transportation by 2012’ though no concrete targets have been drawn up for this.

At the launch at a London microbrewery Mrs Beckett said: “As an industry the food sector has a significant role to play in achieving a sustainable future for this country.

“There are many ways this can be done – whether it is by minimising packaging, making food transportation more efficient or reducing the amount of water the industry uses in its processes.

“Rising energy and water prices, not to mention the increasingly self-evident consequences of climate change, are timely reminders of the need for action.

“Sustainability requires behavioural changes, in particular the widespread adoption of best practice. We all have a role to play in meeting the challenge of sustainability.

“The strategy will provide a framework for the food and drink sector to play its part by making sustainability its goal.

“It must be viewed as the beginning of a process – not the end.”

While the targets will not be enforced, Government hopes that closer working between industry and public best practice programmes, such as the Carbon Trust, Envirowise and the Waste Resources Action Programme, will underpin the strategy.

Each programme has previously been provided with increased funding, including through the Business Resource Efficiency Waste (BREW) programme, to enable them to support the growing demand for their services.

The strategy also has an ethical element, setting targets to double quantities of fair trade goods in supermarkets within the next two years, increase the number of women and ethnic minorities employed in the industry’s white male dominated upper echelons and improve safety standards for workers across the board.

A full copy of the strategy can be found on the Defra website.

Sam Bond

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