A new Bord Bia, Irish Food Board, report has revealed that 220 major players in the Irish food, drink and horticulture sector, representing 90% of total exports, committed to more than 1,600 sustainability targets during 2016, a 100% increase on 2015 figures.
Set in areas such as raw material sourcing, energy usage and emissions, water and waste management, and social sustainability, the ambitious targets have been established as part of the industry’s participation in the Irish Food Board’s Origin Green sustainability programme. Launched some four and a half years ago, Origin Green is a national sustainability plan for the entire food and drink sector and a key delivery of the industry and government’s FoodWise 2025 plan.
Since the inception of Origin Green, over 137,000 carbon assessments have been completed on Irish beef and dairy farms, or an average of 800 assessments per week. These audits have provided Bord Bia with some 24.7 million pieces of information on the performance of Irish farms with regard to sustainable practices.
According to the Irish Food Board, over 37,000 individual improvement targets have been established for Irish beef farmers, and another 28,000 for dairy farmers. When completed, these targets could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 7% and 14% respectively.
At manufacturing level, food and drink companies are required to create three to five year sustainability plans to become fully verified members of Origin Green. Last year saw 98 Irish companies become fully verified members, more than doubling the performance of any other year. This brings the total number of fully verified Origin Green members to 220.
Meanwhile, a further 310 companies are currently preparing, or have submitted, plans for verification. The Irish Food Board offers significant support and resources to companies throughout the plan development process, with each company on average receiving 15 hours of one-to-one support and guidance. Last year also saw the introduction of retail and foodservice companies to the programme, thus ensuring all levels of the supply chain are participating in Origin Green for the first time.
Welcoming the report the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed TD said “Ireland is world renowned as a producer of safe, quality and sustainable food. The Origin Green brand and the assurances it provides our international customers will assist us we strive to open new markets. This unique selling point is all the more important in a post Brexit scenario. I would like to thank both our farming community and our agri-food sector for their work in this regard”.
The Irish Food Board’s Director of Sustainable Development, Jim O’Toole, also complimented the farming and agri-food industry on its significant progress to date and highlighted the importance of knowledge sharing. “While no one country, sector or individual business can solely lead the move towards sustainable production, the Irish Food Board is committed to working with both domestic and international partners to improve performance through collaboration. Our Statement of Strategy for 2016-2018, ‘Making a World of Difference’, further reinforces this ambition by setting out our commitment to underpin each and every aspect of our work with Origin Green.”