Soft drinks

Defra is seeking support for its sustainable soft drinks ‘roadmap’

The soft drinks industry has been asked to get behind a voluntary agreement to slash the 4.5 million tonnes of greenhouse gases (GHG) it produces every year – set to be unveiled by food minister David Heath on Monday.

Defra’s Soft Drinks Sustainability Roadmap, which was produced in conjunction with the industry, trade bodies and WRAP, has already been signed by around 50% of the major soft drinks producers, including Coca Cola and Britvic.

Defra hopes momentum and visibility of the signatories will encourage a further 25% to back the roadmap within the next six months. 

Although it confirmed that no retailers had signed the agreement yet, the British Retail Consortium (BRC) has committed to be a supporter.

Heath told The Grocer he was hopeful the retail sector would participate. “What we want to do is to sign up as far as possible every part of the supply chain to the same objectives,” he said. Sainsbury’s was also involved in the discussion, he added.

The report, which is based on Defra research published in May, is wide-ranging and includes recommendations for water and waste reduction as well as ways to cut down the carbon footprint of fruit-based soft drinks by 20%, partly through the use of low-carbon fertilisers.

“The sustainability roadmap provides a great opportunity to extend best practice and deliver long-term cost savings”

Gavin Partington, British Soft Drinks Association

However the majority of fruit used by the soft drinks industry is produced outside the UK and Heath admitted it would not be possible to directly influence overseas sugar and fruit producers. He said the roadmap would find ways of helping supply chains identify sustainable sources and encourage producers to look at their buying decisions. “But it is not going to happen overnight,” he said.

Heath also admitted that more work needed to be done to identify the amount of gases emitted by chilling and freezing within the industry, after suppliers failed to provide enough information for Defra to estimate a figure. “Unless we get that right, we have an omission from the overall plan,” he said.

WRAP director Dr Richard Swannell said the roadmap would help the industry tackle areas where significant savings could be made along the entire supply chain, enhancing the sustainability of the sector and helping secure its future prosperity. “This type of collaborative sector working has real business benefits,” he said.

The director general of the British Soft Drinks Association, Gavin Partington, said companies in the sector had ambitious targets to reduce their environmental impact. “The sustainability roadmap provides a great opportunity to extend best practice and deliver long-term cost savings. We are pleased that companies have already signed up to support the Roadmap process, and we look forward to working together to minimise the environmental impact of the sector.”

Britvic said it was committed to reducing its carbon emissions by 30% by 2020 and that business success depended on the effective management of its environmental footprint. “We welcome the recommendations set out in the Soft Drinks Sustainability Roadmap and encourage other companies in our sector to sign up,” Britvic’s sustainability manager Alison Rothnie said.