Food manufacturers have been warned to get sustainably certified or lose business, as the deadline approaches to meet retailers’ 2015 commitments to source sustainable produce.
The warning was issued by independent certification body BM Trada at its ‘Responsibly sourced?’ event in London last week (September 19).
“We are seeing more and more suppliers coming to us to get certified,” said BM Trada’s sustainability sales manager, Andy Green. “Sainsbury, Morrison, Aldi and M&S [Marks & Spencer] – all the retailers – are now pushing hard. If you’re not certified next year  you won’t be able to supply them.”
It’s not just retailers’ commitments that manufacturers will have to satisfy to secure business. Foodservice suppliers to the government will also have to comply with new sustainability standards.
Running out of time
Senior sustainability consultant Annie Adams of Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs-funded body Efeca said: “Contract caterers need to be aware of this if they supply government. It’s only 14 weeks to 2014 and we’re running out of time. Investment in supply chain certification is a must.”
Many blue-chip food manufacturers in the private sector have already taken the lead on sustainable sourcing but small- and medium-sized businesses needed support – particularly those in the foodservice business, according to Adams.
She said: “In the food and catering sector there are pockets where awareness is incredibly low and people don’t even know what sustainable palm oil is. Uptake is low and it’s not long until 2015.”
Complexity of certification
Green believed multiple certifications at farm level to be a barrier for many manufacturers, which were already overloaded with time-consuming and costly auditing schemes.
This was halting the uptake of responsibly sourced ingredients such as soya.
Green said: “If you make certification easy and cost-effective then manufacturers will do it and the growers will respond. We all have to play a part – including the certification industry.
“Trading ethically gives you access to more markets, attracts better staff and is a boost to your brand.”
Sustainable certification of soy
Green also announced the launch of BM Trada’s Responsibly Sourced Soy Certification Scheme, which has been designed to simplify the process of sustainable certification of soy.
BM Trada worked with bakery ingredients supplier AB Mauri – part of Associated British Foods (ABF) – on the pilot of the scheme and presented the company with the ‘world’s first BM Trada Responsibly Sourced Soy Certificate’ at the event, marking the launch of the scheme.
AB Mauri’s quality assurance manager Liz Moore said: “ABF will now be able to offer Certified Sustainable non-GM [non-genetically modified] soya flours to the food industry worldwide. We’re the first company in Europe to offer this.”