The Food and Drink Federation is taking a global lead with the launch this week of the first industry blueprint to help businesses build strategies for sustainable development.
Timed to coincide with the World Summit on Sustainable Development, which runs from August 26 to September 4 in Johannesburg, the plan gives simple, practical steps that companies can adopt to improve sustainability.
Among these is a set of Key Performance Indicators to enable companies to measure and report their sustainability performance.
According to FDF deputy director-general Martin Paterson, sustainable development is one of the key challenges today.
"It is on the world agenda and we in the food and drink industry are absolutely at the heart of the issue. It is important we set the standard and get it right," he said.
To communicate the plan the FDF has released a report which looks at how the industry is tackling climate change; initiatives that go beyond legislative requirements; and challenges for the food chain.
It concludes that any strategy must involve farmers, manufacturers, retailers, consumers and waste disposal companies, and that raising consumer awareness is vital.
It also says that urgent reform of CAP is needed to enable businesses to meet sustainability challenges.
The report is the result of consultation involving the entire industry as well as consumer organisations, unions and government bodies.
Each member of the UK government's delegation will take a copy to the Summit and the document is available on the official Summit website.
According to Minister for Food and Farming Lord Whitty: "This document provides a useful contribution to the government's thinking about a sustainability strategy for the food industry. The key performance indicators that the industry is setting for itself are a big step in the right direction."
Sustainable development has moved up the global retailing agenda over the past 12 months.
Carrefour produced its first report last year while Groupe Danone is extending a system based on KPIs throughout its global operation this year.