Bühler networking event calls on industry to intensify sustainability efforts

Businesses from across the food sector, including confectionery and bakery enterprises, have been urged to deliver more  environmentally sustainable production processes at Bühler’s networking days forum.

Addressing 800 industry leaders gathered for the event in Switzerland,  Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland, former prime minister of Norway and former Director General of the World Health Organization, warned that urgent action was required on tackling climate change and responding to major population growth.

She said: “There is no turning back. The need for private sector engagement is stronger than ever. We cannot solve all the challenges without the resources, the expertise, the technology and brain power of business.”

The theme was continued by a number of other speakers including Sunny Verghese, CEO of Olam International, who called for a carbon tax to be introduced on businesses in order to bring the issues into the limelight and drive a faster pace of global behaviour in tackling climate change.

Also among the series of speakers was Kate Robertson, co-founder of the One Young World organisation, which has placed tackling issues such as addressing sustainability and driving social improvement programmes  as part of its core goals, through supporting young business leaders

Stefan Scheiber, CEO of Bühler Group, explained that the company has now increased its own sustainability targets, aiming to make 50% cuts in waste reduction, energy and water use, up from its previous figure of 30% cuts in a bid to accelerate its progress on sustainable production methods.

He said: “We are ready to accept the challenge and in fact we are convinced that this is a pathway to building sustainable businesses delivering sustainable solutions. But we are running out of time. That is why we have increased our sustainability goals: our aim is to reduce energy requirements, water consumption, and waste by 50% in our customers’ value chains. No business can do this alone. We need widescale collaboration from every sector and part of the world.”

Bühler’s second Networking Days in Uzwil took place under the motto “Creating tomorrow together” and provided a forum for manufacturers, industry partners, scientists and start-ups to share ideas and inspire each other, focusing on the key questions: How can we feed a global population of nearly 10 billion people and help fulfil their mobility needs in 2050 while respecting the limits of the planet?

“The challenges have accelerated dramatically. The world today is better, in many respects, than ever before. Yet the progress we have made comes at too high a price. We are using nature’s resources faster than our planet’s ecosystems can regenerate. We now have just 10 years to prevent irreversible damage from climate change,” added Scheiber. “But today we have the opportunity to make a real difference and shift course. Business has to be part of the solution.”

Involving industry in finding solutions

The earth’s population is predicted to grow to 9.8 billion by 2050, with 70 percent living in urban areas. These shifts will put a strain on food and transport systems unless we make fundamental changes. Speaking at the event, Sunny Verghese, Group CEO of Olam International Limited and chair of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, underlined the importance of the challenges: “You cannot produce the food, feed, and fibre that all of us need if we destroy the planet,” he said. “There has to be an alternative way to do this on a more sustainable basis. Business as usual will not get us there so do not accept the status quo.”

The combined potential for change embodied by the businesses present at the Bühler Networking Days is enormous. Together they feed four billion people and provide mobility for one billion every day – a powerful lever for change. The food of the future could well be grown in the fermentation tank, rather than in the field and ocean. Both disruptive new companies and incumbents are investing to address the consumer needs of today and the future. They are developing new technologies using biomanufacturing and digital advances to revolutionise agriculture and increase yields to meet the world’s nutritional needs within the environmental boundaries.

Actions taken by participants at Bühler Networking Days can have a significant impact. “In this room we have convened people that influence the three most important levers to make a change to carbon emissions,” said Ian Roberts, Chief Technology Officer of Bühler. A third of global CO2 emissions are created by buildings, a third by mobility and a third by agriculture – the major players from each of these sectors were present at Bühler’s Networking Days 2019.
A theme throughout the event was the power of digitalisation to help meet these challenges. “Digitalisation has changed the world. It allows completely new technical solutions, changes how we collaborate, communicate, and innovate. It is changing and disrupting our lives and, crucially, can help us to meet our sustainability targets,” said Ian Roberts. Bühler is already leveraging the power of IoT, Artificial Intelligence and big data to enable faster, smarter, better decisions. Bühler Insights, the first cloud platform dedicated to the food and feed industry, is helping to drive up yields, reduce waste, and improve food safety.

“Technology has a huge role to play,” said Ian Roberts. “But it cannot solve these challenges alone. We also need to think and work across value chains and systems. We cannot achieve our targets by working in isolation. Collaboration is no longer an option – it must be a core competence in all businesses.” Bühler is already creating networks with industry partners, research institutes, universities, startups and not-for-profit organisations to broaden and deepen the knowledge and expertise focused on solving these challenges. Through its 29 application and training centres it has created a worldwide network for innovation.

This view was echoed by Stefan Palzer, Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer of Nestlé Global, who said that his company had launched an accelerator this year and opened it labs and its expertise to startups, to help them advance more quickly to valid prototypes.

In addition, the event  provided the opportunity for much networking across and within industries, and was the impetus for new collaborations. After just one day it bore fruit: MassChallenge, the largest global startup accelerator and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, announced at the event that they had agreed to collaborate to identify climate change solutions.

Minutes later, One Young World, a not-for-profit that promotes young leaders, offered their support. John Harthorne, founder of MassChallenge, said: “We will each get more value and impact out of the collaboration than we could get as individual entities.”

No one could embody better the sense of purpose shared by participants at Bühler Networking Days than Isabel Wijsen. At the age of 10, she and her sister founded a campaign group in their home, Bali, to tackle the issue of plastic waste. Bye Bye Plastic Bags succeeded in getting single-use plastic bags banned on the island and has since gone global – a perfect demonstration of the power and determination of young people to make change.

Closing the event, Stefan Scheiber underscored the need to hand over a better world to future generations. “We recognise the urgency of the challenges and have dramatically increased our sustainability commitments. It is now our goal to reduce energy, waste and water by 50% in all our future solutions, and make a significant impact in the value chains of our customers,” he said. “As industries, companies and individuals, we all have to ask ourselves, today, how we can become part of the solution. We hope that Bühler Networking Days 2019 will be seen as a turning point. The challenges are demanding, but we can do it.”

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