The Food and Drink Federation's five-fold plan reflects the industry's solid commitment to reducing its environmental and social impact
While the launch of Wrap's Love Food Hate Waste campaign demonstrates what consumers should be doing to reduce the 6.7 million tonnes of food waste needlessly sent to landfill every year, it also brought home the importance of us all working collectively to reduce our impact on the environment.
For their part, members of the FDF are determined to make a real difference in reducing their impact on the planet - which is why we recently launched a five-fold environmental ambition.
A key feature of this bold plan is the need to work with best-practice organisations such as Wrap to reduce the waste that is produced, either directly or indirectly, by our industry.
For instance: we are committed to working with Wrap to cut the amount of packaging that reaches households, as well as providing more advice to consumers on how best to recycle or otherwise recover used packaging.
And when it comes to the waste generated from our factories - both packaging and food - we have set an ambitious goal to send zero to landfill by 2015. This means FDF members will play a significant role in eliminating the three million tonnes of waste food and packaging that the industry as a whole generates from its factories. This is important not only because such waste can be turned into a useful resource, but also because landfilling of food waste can give rise to methane emissions that are 21 times more damaging to the climate than carbon dioxide.
The other pillars of our environmental ambition deal with CO2 emissions (we think FDF members can produce savings of 1.5 million tonnes a year by 2020); a plan to achieve fewer, friendlier food miles; and a desire to work with another best-practice body, Envirowise, to cut our collective water use (saving the equivalent of 56 Olympic-sized swimming pools of water a day).
In setting out our five-fold ambition, FDF is not for a moment suggesting that food and drink manufacturers have been doing nothing to date.
On the contrary, members have long embraced concerns about the environment and have been taking action that has produced many examples of best practice. These individual activities have added up to reveal surprisingly significant improvements in our sector's performance.
Despite such positive progress, we accept we have more work to do. FDF is now taking a collective, and more structured approach, to improving environmental performance. As well as working closely with government bodies such as the Carbon Trust, Wrap and Envirowise, we are committed to measuring and reporting annually on the collective progress we make against each of the pillars of our plan.
Making significant progress in some areas will require more fundamental changes. Nobody should under-estimate the challenge of sending zero food or packaging waste to landfill given the current state of the UK's waste recovery infrastructure. So FDF will press Defra, Wrap, the Environment Agency and others to encourage the development of new capacity in line with the priorities of the government's Waste Strategy.
Clearly, these goals are challenging. But that's a sign of our determination to show real leadership in this area - as well as genuinely playing our part in tackling environmental issues. n
Fiona Dawson, MD Mars Snackfood and UK chair, FDF sustainability and competitiveness steering group