Ireland’s beef industry could become most carbon efficient in Europe, generating additional €300 million on-farm income per year. DOWNLOAD REPORT
A new report launched by the Irish Food Board (Bord Bia) in Dublin, Ireland today sets out the Irish food and farming industry’s ambition to be a world-leader in sustainable food and drink production. The report is a comprehensive summary of the first three years of the Irish Food Board’s groundbreaking Origin Green programme. Launched in June 2012, Origin Green is the world’s first sustainability programme for a country’s entire food and drink sector.
Although Ireland’s green image has been a key platform for the success of the Irish food and drink export industry – last year Ireland exported to 175 markets and generated in the region of €10.5 billion for the Irish economy – the Irish Food Board insists that it is no longer sufficent for Ireland to simply declare that the we are ‘green’. In a world facing challenges from climate change and resource scarcity, we must prove it as well.
Since Origin Green was established, more than 55,000 Irish farms and 122 food and drink companies have become fully-verified members of the programme. These farms account for 90% of Ireland’s beef production and half of its milk output, while the companies are responsible for 85% of the country’s food and drink exports.
As part of the programme, food and drink manufacturers have commited to over 800 sustainability targets around raw material sourcing, manufacturing processes and social sustainability. The targets provide for reductions of €12 million and €17 million in energy and water usage respectively by 2017, and seek to reduce general waste generation by 14,000 tonnes. According to the Irish Food Board, Origin Green has met with universal acclaim from the World Bank, the World Wildlife Fund, and from global leaders in the food and drink industry.
“Three and a half years following its launch, Origin Green has gained traction at home and won plaudits abroad, and on a scale few of us might have imagined,” said Irish Food Board Chief Executive, Aidan Cotter. “It is transforming our thinking about how we produce food and how we do business. It has presented our industry with a renewed sense of purpose; of how we can be different, and make a difference, in a challenging marketplace and a changing world.”
A unique feature of Origin Green is the practice that all participating farms be audited and carbon-footprinted once every 18 months. Since its launch, almost 90,000 carbon assessments have been carried out on Irish farms. This action alone, according to Aidan Cotter, makes Ireland a world-leader in sustainability.
“No other country anywhere is carbon foot-printing its farms on, what is, in effect, a national scale. And we are not just doing this once; we are doing it routinely over an 18-month cycle. This is a process of measurement, feedback and continuous improvement. Farms are also measured on their performance around water conservation and biodiversity, as well as on animal health and welfare and on food safety.”
The Irish Food Board report indicates total greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture could be reduced by 6%, or by 1 million tonnes if the lower-performing beef and dairy farms were brought back in line with the national average. Ireland’s dairy herd already enjoys the joint-lowest footprint in the European Union, while its beef herd ranks at number five. The report goes on to state that were the carbon footprint of the beef herd to be reduced by 10% – by achieving a range of specified performance measures – it could become the most carbon efficient in Europe and generate improved on-farm income of €300 million per year.
Under Origin Green, food and drink companies are required to create three to five year sustainability development plans in which targets are set in areas such as raw material sourcing, energy usage and emissions, water and waste management and social sustainability such as producing healthier foods and investing in their communities. While 122 companies to date have had their membership independently verified, a further 352 companies are preparing or have submitted plans for verification. The Irish Food Board’s ambition on launching the programme in 2012, and which it regards to be on track, was to have the entire industry signed up by 2016.
“The launch of Origin Green marked the beginning of a remarkable journey and our goal of Ireland becoming a world leader remains on track,” said Mr Cotter. “While we have made measurable progress, there is still much to be done and as the momentum for change intensifies, it also encourages us to look beyond the first milestones and plan for the future.”
The Irish Food Board’s focus will now turn to how Origin Green can help lower the industry’s environmental footprint, with a major focus on emissions, biodiversity and water quality, while enhancing its impact on society by prioritising health and wellbeing.
The Irish Food Board will also soon look to extend the programme to retail and foodservice to complete the food supply chain, and ultimately reach out to consumers.
Concluding Mr. Cotter added “Greater levels of demand from a growing population represent a significant opportunity for Irish food and drink producers. However, we must remain cognisant of our responsibility to expand in a manner which will not lead to the long-term degradation of our natural resources. To simultaneously mitigate the onset of climate change through the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, remains one of the great challenges of the modern era and one in which everyone must play their part.”
The Origin Green sustainability report was launched by the Irish Food Board on the opening day of its Global Sustainability Forum taking place in the Convention Centre, Dublin. Some 400 delegates, including 120 from overseas, attended the event coordinated by the Irish Food Board in partnership with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and Sustainable Agriculture Initiative (SAI). The Forum continues tomorrow (Tuesday) with a series of sustainability workshops.
Origin Green in Numbers (2012 – 2015)
Over 470 food and drink manufacturers, accounting for almost 95% of Ireland’s food and drink exports, have registered to take part in Origin Green To date, 122 of the companies accounting for 85% of our exports, have become fully verified members, compared to just 7 in year one, with the balance of 352 registered companies at various stages of the planning and verification process.
In terms of the 122 verified members, the combined sustainability targets include a reduction of €12 million in energy usage, sending 14,000 tonnes less waste to landfill, and a reduction of €17 million in water usage by 2017.
At farm level, since 2012, over 90,000 beef and dairy farms have been audited and carbon footprinted as part of Origin Green 800 Irish farms are being carbon footprinted every week through the Irish Food Board’s Quality Assurance Scheme