Bord Bia sustainability programme makes carbon emissions reporting mandatory

Origin Green, Bord Bia's national food and drink sustainability programme for Ireland, has published new procedures and guidelines that put carbon emission targets on a mandatory footing for food and drink manufacturers as the sector seeks to accelerate its contribution to the Programme for Government’s aim of carbon neutrality by 2050.

This marks a significant shift for the Origin Green programme and will see member companies go beyond reductions of energy-related emissions, to include a more comprehensive assessment of their entire carbon footprint, including value chain emissions which incorporates all indirect emissions (scope 3) associated with food manufacturing e.g. freight, travel.

In order to drive impact at a large scale, Bord Bia is initially introducing this mandatory carbon emission target to Origin Green members with a turnover greater than €50 million. Companies must conduct baseline assessments this year to determine emissions targets from 2022 onwards.

These plans will be reviewed, monitored annually, and independently verified by international specialists, Mabbett. According to Bord Bia, the interest among companies has been very high, with close to 300 food and drink companies attending the ‘Pathways to Net Zero’ launch webinar last month.

As part of this new development, Bord Bia has prepared comprehensive guidelines for companies on how to decarbonise their own operations and their supply chains. The advice on net zero target setting and implementation is based on the United Nation’s “Measure, Reduce, Compensate” model. This model encourages everyone in society to take action to help achieve a climate neutral world by mid-century, as enshrined in the Paris Agreement.

The ‘Pathway to Net Zero’ launch builds on a number of Origin Green initiatives already in place such as the Origin Green Sustainability Charter which members sign up to requiring them to set and deliver on clear sustainability targets as part of their 5-year sustainability plans with a specific focus on raw material sourcing, manufacturing process and social sustainability. These plans are also monitored annually and independently verified by Mabbett.

To date, companies have set over 2,400 sustainability targets, reaffirming the industry’s commitment to continuous improvement. Over a 5-year period - the duration of a firm’s sustainability plan - food and drink manufacturers in Ireland delivered an 11% reduction in energy use per unit of output and a 17% reduction in water use per unit of output.

Tara McCarthy, Bord Bia CEO, said, “Our €13 billion food and drink export industry has established a hard earned, global reputation as a leading producer of high quality sustainable food and drink.

'Maintaining this reputation, which must continue to be evidence-based, is more important than ever in the face of continued global trading volatility. But, not at any cost. We acknowledge that Ireland’s agri-food sector needs to do more, and faster.

'Origin Green has, and will, continue to deliver impact by providing a co-ordinated national approach to reducing emissions across the supply chain as a part of the Irish Government’s wider Climate Action response.”

Origin Green Director, Deirdre Ryan said, “Accelerating the transition to a zero-carbon economy by 2050 is required to avoid the catastrophic impacts of climate change.

'Business leaders are now shifting their focus from what is achievable to what needs to be done, and there has been increasing interest among Origin Green companies wishing to reduce emissions within their own operations, and also along their supply chain.

'In developing the ‘Pathways to Net Zero’ framework, which sits alongside other key independently audited initiatives, we are providing Irish food, drink and horticulture businesses with the practical know-how to not only set ambitious carbon reduction targets, but more importantly, to make the changes necessary to achieve them.”

Almost 300 food and drink companies across Ireland are verified members of Origin Green, including 10 of the largest foodservice companies and retailers, representing over 90% of food and drink exports.

There has been good progress since the pilot launch in 2016, and Bord Bia aims to increase membership. 4 of the 5 biggest retailers are on board to drive their sustainability agenda forward as part of the Origin Green Retail & Foodservice Charter.