While sustainability has to make business sense and the food and drink industry had demonstrated this through initiatives including its 'Five-fold environmental ambition', Leech voiced concern that government was not giving the sector practical support to do more.
"Our key concern is that while more and more businesses are planning to be more sustainable, the government's claims to be the greenest government ever seem to ring quite hollow," said Leech. Policy framework and government decisions needed to support decarbonising the nation's energy supply and improving the country's infrastructure in 20 or 30 years' time were "just not there", she said.
"Unless you understand those kinds of contexts and where the government is going, you don't know which horse to back in terms of where you put your investment and how you make your own long-term business decisions. And that is the key issue for us," she said.
Sion Roberts, senior partner with European Food and Farming Partnerships, pointed out that the historical situation of oversupply of raw materials was changing as pressure on resources increased. "The commercial agenda is going to come closer to sustainability. Historically both the market and food have grown through productivity growth and capital productivity growth, but in the future resource productivity growth will become really important doing more with less."
It was a view echoed by John Giles, agrifoods director with Promar International and high on the agenda for big players such as Coca-Cola Enterprises (CCE).
CCE's group operations director Roman Manthey said: "This is integral to everything we do for several reasons. First, it makes good business sense to reduce energy and water. It is the right thing to do and it is also saving costs."
Manthey added: "We are taking a view of our 2020 vision on sustainability and we are seeing the first signs of scarcity of resource."