Food and Drink Federation reports key sector sustainability gains amid major market challenges

The UK’s Food and Drink Federation (FDF) has unveiled a sustainability-focused Ambition 2025 Progress Report, with its membership, including a wide range of confectionery and bakery businesses, making key gains amid challenging conditions reports, Neill Barston.

According to the industry organisation, its latest study has shown there has been ‘exceptional progress’ in some areas, including a 55 per cent reduction in CO2 emissions already, five years before the target was due to be reached.

Since launching in 2016, the Ambition 2025 project aims to set achievable but hard-hitting sustainability targets for companies to reach in order to work towards a thriving and sustainable UK food and drink industry.

The report’s emergence comes at a challenging point for the sector, as the FDF called this week for additional support from the government amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, which has impacted severely on segments including hospitality, retail, as well as affecting manufacturing operations in their respective response to the crisis. This was underlined by official figures released last month that placed the UK’s economic performance in 2020 for 300 years, with 9.9% fewer goods and services being delivered. There was a marginal 1% recovery in the latter half of the year, following multi-billion borrowing from the government to sustain furlough schemes in a bid to stave off major job losses.

Ian Wright, FDF Chief Executive spoke on the situation following the government’s outlining of a plan to open up the economy again after months of lockdown conditions.

He said: “It is disappointing but wholly expected that the Prime Minister’s roadmap shows no signs of taking account of any input from business. For a great many of the food and drink manufacturers supplying the hospitality and food service sectors, a return to ‘business as usual’ seems an awful long way off. As such, it is only correct that the Chancellor outlines significant extensions to the furlough and credit insurance schemes as part of his Budget announcement next week.

“The food and drink industry is the UK’s largest manufacturing sector. It will therefore be key to the country’s economic recovery, with a footprint in every region. Now is the time for government to provide additional support to ensure those businesses most at risk can play their part in putting the country back on its feet.”

Sustainability progress

On the work of its members, the FDF said there had been some notable successes, the FDF undertook a review of the former targets and revised these, creating the Ambition 2025 Mid-Term Report. As a result, the FDF has updated its ambitions on carbon, food waste and packaging to better reflect the current UK and international targets, as well as other policy goals in the space.

Other notable achievements include the FDF’s work on water, where between 2007 and 2019 FDF members reduced their absolute water consumption by more than one third (41.5%) and the amount of water consumed per tonne of product was also reduced by 44.5 per cent in the same period.

The report also highlights the contribution FDF members have made to reducing food waste, including the progress made under the UK Food Waste Reduction Roadmap. In addition, there has been substantial engagement with UK Governments on the packaging policy reforms alongside our ongoing support for the work of the UK Plastics Pact.

Commenting on the progress report and renewed targets set out in the Ambition 2025 Mid-Term report, the FDF’s Chief Scientific Officer, Helen Munday, said: “I am delighted to share these two reports more widely and highlight the excellent progress FDF members have already against the targets set. It’s incredible that we are half way to reaching the end of this project in 2025 and we are seeing our members fully achieve some of the targets we set out in 2016.

“Despite the difficult year the industry has faced, sustainability and environmental initiatives have remained at the forefront of our agenda and this is clearly seen in the progress being made. We of course know there is more to achieve which is why we undertook the Mid-Term Review work, and can now present fresh, forward-thinking targets which we know our members our keen to embrace.”

Environment Minister, Rebecca Pow MP, said: “We all need to play our part to protect and improve our environment. The Food and Drink sector’s commitment shows it is leading British business to greater levels of sustainability.” The full report can be viewed here.



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