Over the past few years, many firms have announced key initiatives to limit environmental damage. However, sectors such as fish and beef continue to face serious issues.
While Unilever recently highlighted some of the positive work at play, after topping a list of FTSE 100 firms featured for their environmental work in a report by consultancy EcoAct, the Food Ethics Council has stressed that many firms need a complete mindset overhaul to reach sustainable targets.
“We expect all firms to produce safe, good-quality food,” executive director Dan Crossley told Food Manufacture.
“However, when it comes to the environment, farm animals and the people producing the food, for too long food and drink companies have taken a ‘let’s make our impacts a bit less damaging’ approach. That is simply not good enough.
“A 10% efficiency target here and a 20% waste reduction target there will not wash. Progressive food manufacturers should be making a positive contribution to society and the environment – and doing their utmost to eliminate harm.
Change in mindset
“Food manufacturers need a change in mindset and in ambition. Their CEOs and governments must step up to the plate.”
Crossley added that all companies in the sector must work collaboratively to ensure they play their fair part in meeting the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.
“That should start with taking unsustainable ingredients and products – like endangered fish species – off the menu,” he said. “Tell your customers you only want to source sustainably – then make that happen. You’ll reap the rewards in the long run.”
His comments followed the recent news that the Marine Standards Council (MSC) had suspended its certificate for North Sea cod after stocks dropped below the safe biological level.
Environmental group Sustain, which works closely with companies on sustainable fish, said the process was proving “very slow and painstaking”.
“Sustain is increasingly frustrated by some very large foodservice companies,” said chief executive Kath Dalmeny.
“[Companies] make endless excuses about why they are not able to commit to verifiably sustainable fish, or do not engage with the issue until we convince them by tactical means, such as persuading their clients and customers to make a fuss.”
Meanwhile, beef manufacturers in Wales have recently urged more communication with retailers in a bid to achieve greater sustainability, amid Brexit concerns.