Environmental Sustainability Executive, Food Drink Ireland, Ibec
The Irish food and drink industry seeks to be sustainable at every stage of the food system, from farm to fork.
The manufacture of food and drink products is Ireland’s most important indigenous industry with a turnover of €27.5 billion and exports of €13 billion. The industry recognises that there is a long and challenging road ahead on its sustainability journey.
There are many regulatory and non-regulatory barriers to overcome that will set Ireland on the path to become a world leader in sustainable food systems and achieve a carbon-neutral food system by 2050.
Irish food and drinks companies are committed to meeting the objectives of Food Vision 2030 and the Climate Action Plan. The initial focus is on carbon reduction and investing in changes within the factory gates. In addition, there is a growing emphasis on reducing emissions by all actors within the food supply chain.
Meeting the challenges
Between 2008-2018 the food and drink industry across the EU achieved a 21% reduction in carbon emissions per unit of value-added (Eurostat, 2021). This means we are getting more and more efficient at producing food and drink products thanks to increasing resource efficiency.
Ireland uses the extended producer responsibility model to deal with a number of waste streams including packaging, based on the ‘producer pays’ principle. This is where producers have an obligation to finance the collection and responsible disposal of their products at end of life. To date, these schemes have enabled Ireland to reach both domestic and EU recycling targets.
Between 2008-2018 the food and drink industry across the EU achieved a 21% reduction in carbon emissions per unit of value-added.
More support needed
Clearer guidance is needed from government on the sector’s pathway to achieve emission reductions, access to affordable financing, R&D and education to enable the adoption of new technology and sustainable practices and ongoing engagement with policymakers to understand and address challenges.
Achieving a carbon-neutral food system by 2050 is going to be challenging, but the food and drinks industry is a resilient sector and will continue to play its part. By collaborating with all stakeholders across the supply chain, the industry will continue to transition towards a more sustainable future.