sustainability farm eco wind power

Should consumers worry about climate change when enjoying food and drink? The simple answer is no, they shouldn’t have to. But you probably should – because the Food & Drink Federation estimates the global food system contributes 25%-30% of global greenhouse gas emissions.

So if you believe (as I do) that climate change poses an existential threat to the planet, then we all have a role to play, whether you’re a consumer, small business or a multinational. But businesses are often asked ‘will people actually pay for it?’

If you look at the current focus multinational food producers and our own UK grocers are placing on sustainability, it’s clear where most people think the market is going.

Just two weeks ago, the EU’s climate service confirmed global warming has exceeded 1.5C across an entire year for the first time. World leaders pledged in 2015 to limit the long-term temperature rise to 1.5C, which is seen as crucial to help avoid the most damaging impacts.

Meanwhile, the monthly Ipsos ‘What Worries the World’ survey most recently showed 23% of people surveyed in the UK cite climate change as a top worry, compared to 16% globally.

I believe we are at a tipping point for consumer sentiment. The early adopters are already seriously factoring sustainability decisions into their food and drink purchases. The next stages of adoption will account for nearly 70% of people, according to the popular diffusion of innovations theory.

However, there is another way to think about the climate challenge: not whether people will pay for sustainability, but simply what is the right thing to do.

For my distillery business, it was not a choice – I wanted to make the best vodka in the world while being the best vodka for the world. So much so that the principle of balancing people, planet, and profit is written into the company’s constitution.

This means more than confusing claims or simply planting trees (not that there’s anything wrong with planting trees). It means being transparent about your impact, moving away from relying on offsetting, and doing the real hard yards.

Inevitably that means making the effort and spending the money to take carbon emissions out of the system in the first place. For us, like many others, this means achieving net zero by 2040.

As a startup we have sought to minimise emissions and take positive sustainable measures from day one. Emissions have been calculated and offset, and the next phase is developing accelerated plans to get to true net zero operations as soon as possible.

It’s not about guilt-free food and drink. It’s about doing the right thing. If we don’t, we might find the option isn’t there for our children.