Five ways food and drink firms are manufacturing a sustainable future

As a teaser for edie's latest Mission Possible sector insight report, edie rounds up five key trends within the food and drink manufacturing sector which prove the industry is striving to achieve as sustainable future, today.

This round-up highlights five key ways in which food & drink manufacturers are progressing across all areas of sustainable development

This round-up highlights five key ways in which food & drink manufacturers are progressing across all areas of sustainable development

Released last Wednesday (7 November), edie’s food & drink manufacturing sustainability report provides an end-to-end overview of the steps that organisations within Britain's food & drink manufacturing industry are taking to ramp up efforts across all areas of sustainable development.

--- READ THE FOOD & DRINK MANUFACTURING SUSTAINABILITY REPORT HERE ---

The report, produced in association with Centrica Business Solutions, explores exactly how businesses within this industry should be working, innovating and collaborating to provide nutrition to an ever-growing population in a sustainable way.

Here, edie has extracted from the report five ways in which the food and drink manufacturers are working to achieve ‘Mission Possible’ across the five key areas of energy, resources, mobility, built environment and business leadership. 

ENERGY: Businesses are sourcing renewables and investing in efficiency, more than ever before

As the largest manufacturing sector in the UK, it should come as no surprise that food and drink producers are also some of the nation’s largest energy users, with some companies setting aside up to 15% of their operational expenditure for energy bills. That’s not to mention that 75% of the world’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are accounted for by agriculture.

The good news is that the shift towards renewable energy and the growing interest to install energy efficiency technologies are both beginning to gather pace. Members of the Food and Drink Federation (FDF) - which represents the UK business of more than 300 companies - are bearing down on a target to slash emissions by 55% by 2025 against a 1990 baseline, for example.

RESOURCES: The industry is clamping down on plastic and food waste 

The food and drink sector is at the epicentre of the war on plastic, with manufacturers in the industry accounting for two-thirds of the EU’s waste packaging by weight.

As explored in detail in our report, a host of high-profile corporates have signed up to WRAP’s Plastic Pact, which will see members ensure that 100% of plastic packaging can be reusable, recyclable or compostable. Coca-Cola European Partners (CCEP), Nestlé and PepsiCo are among the pact’s signatories, with the latter having partnered with TerraCycle to launch a UK-wide recycling scheme for crisp packets.

MOBILITY: Brands are moving to electrify their delivery fleets 

Even though food and drink manufacturing is thought to account for 25% of all UK miles travelled by HGVs, edie’s sector insight report concluded that green mobility has historically been a low-priority area for the industry.

However, many within the industry are now actively seeking to reduce the environmental impact of transport through collaboration with transport and distribution providers – moves which have contributed to a 7% fall in emissions per vehicle between 2010 and 2015. Again, this is explored in more detail with real-life examples in the full report.

BUILT ENVIRONMENT: Climate-resilient, 'net-zero' buildings have become a priority

Amid calls for the global built environment sector to achieve carbon neutrality by 2030, an edie survey detailed in the report offers some reassurance that food and drink manufacturers are beginning to play their part in delivering a sustainable built environment.

‘Net-zero carbon building design’ and ‘onsite renewable energy generation’ were seen as a ‘significant’ or ‘business-critical’ opportunity by a combined 61% and 57% of manufacturing respondents respectively.

With the UK’s food and drink manufacturing facilities prone to the risks posed by climate challenges, several corporates are also pursuing a range of adaptive practices that are designed to enable them to identify and respond to disruptions caused by flooding, droughts, storms and heatwaves.

BUSINESS LEADERSHIP: Sustainable supply chains are now being seen as a must

As the global food system comes under increasing pressure from the impacts of climate change, population increase, a growing demand for limited resources and changing diets, there is a growing understanding among the food and drink manufacturing community of the importance of building and maintaining high levels of business leadership across all areas of sustainability.

Companies within the sector are beginning to understand that making their supply chains sustainable is now a business-critical step, rather than a desirable and optional choice. Cargill and Mondelez, for instance, have taken action to strengthen the socio-economic resilience of cocoa farmers, many of which have already seen significant increases in their income and cocoa yield.

Read the full food and drink manufacturing sustainability report, here.

Sarah George


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