Manufacturers recognise their responsibilities – and that’s why we’ve set more challenging targets, says Andrew Kuyk

When the FDF launched its Five-Fold Environmental Ambition back in 2007, we knew we were making a bold sector-wide set of commitments around carbon, water, waste, packaging and transport.

FDF has always believed that the manufacturers that embraced this agenda by focusing on those areas of their business over which they had most control would discover that what is good for the environment is nearly always good for their bottom line as well.

Our experience over the past three years has borne out that belief with member companies reporting significant reductions in their environmental impacts, typically achieved by driving greater operating efficiencies through their businesses.

When we published our latest progress report last week, we were able to report that member companies have cut their carbon emissions by 21% since 1990. In fact, FDF member companies have been so successful at working towards the commitments we set in 2007 that we have updated our targets to challenge the sector to go further. On carbon, FDF members are now committing to cut their emissions by 35% by 2020 compared with a 1990 baseline ahead of the government's current climate change targets.

These changes come on the back of a detailed FDF review this year of our sector's work that FDF undertook with input from industry, government, expert bodies and campaign groups. Our discussions threw up new challenges as to how we will respond to food security and climate change. In a more resource-constrained future, the industry will have to do more to encourage greater efficiency of resource use.

More will need to be produced with less and with less impact if we are to ensure that sustainable food and drink production can be at the heart of a strong, internationally competitive, low-carbon UK economy.

Answering these challenges will also require new and better skills, in areas such as engineering, process control, food technology and environmental sciences providing exciting career opportunities with the potential to make a real difference to people and the planet. It is also clear from our review that manufacturers need to look beyond their own businesses and examine impact across the supply chain. From the responsible sourcing of ingredients to the impact of agricultural production on biodiversity, we need to take more account of the bigger sustainability picture.

Many of these issues are hugely complex, and cannot be directly addressed in the manufacturing process itself which has been the primary focus of our efforts to date under the Ambition. But we recognise our responsibilities and have published a new set of sustainability principles that recognise the wider context; will guide our ongoing efforts to work collaboratively with a wide range of stakeholders to reduce our sector's overall impact on the environment; and we hope help us to galvanise industry to keep responding innovatively to the many challenges that lie ahead.

We believe that a combination of new targets and these principles will help us to take our Five-Fold Environmental Ambition to the next level. After all, business as usual is no longer an option something that the leading companies in our sector already understand.

Andrew Kuyk is sustainability director at the Food & Drink Federation.