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Sustainability Development Programme for Irish Food

26 June 2012

IRELAND - Bord Bia announced plans for a comprehensive national sustainability development programme to more than 120 food and drink industry leaders during its Pathways for Growth Food and Drink Leadership Summit, taking place in UCD Michael Smurfit School of Business last week.

Bord Bia said the programme, entitled 'Origin Green', will help Ireland become a world leader in sustainably produced food and drink.

The programme will build on existing work being undertaken at primary production level and it is intended that a target of 75 per cent of Irish food and drink exports will be sourced from signed up members to the programme before the end of 2014, and 100 per cent by the end of 2016.

Bord Bia's event was opened by the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney, who said: "Environmental sustainability is an increasingly important issue for many international food and drinks companies, and equally can underpin a national image for Ireland based on our mild maritime climate, plentiful supplies of water and grass based production.

"There is a strong correlation between the measures needed to improve environmental sustainability, and those needed to reduce production costs and improve profitability at farm and company level.

"It is not enough to say that you have a clean, green product, you must be in a position to prove this through a credible means of measurement. I believe that the development of such sustainability programmes is an essential element in the growth strategy for the food sector and I encourage producers and companies alike to sign up."

Michael Carey, Chairman, Bord Bia added: "The development of a sustainability programme to build Ireland's brand reputation around green credentials is one of the four key strategic priorities for Bord Bia over the next three years. In addition we will be focusing on enhancing competitiveness; promoting exports and building a vibrant domestic market for the agri-food sector."

To support the development of 'Origin Green', Bord Bia commissioned extensive trade research with leading retailers, food manufacturers and foodservice organisations including M&S, Sainburys, Unilever, McDonalds and Subway.

The research, currently being undertaken by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), has shown that sustainability is now more deeply engrained in retailers' commercial strategies than ever before and increasingly they see sustainability criteria as becoming a critical requirement of suppliers looking to do business.

They view sustainability as helping them boost the efficiency of their supply chain while also driving brand reputation and securing supplies over the longer term.

'Origin Green' was unveiled at the event by Aidan Cotter, Chief Executive of Bord Bia.

He said: "Retailers are looking for suppliers that can align with their commercial strategies and offer them a point of difference.

"Our research has highlighted the significant opportunities that exist if the Irish food and drink sector can demonstrate its commitment to delivering continuous improvement.

"With Origin Green, we can effectively begin to add proof and assurance to our sustainability claims, and provide the evidence that our export customers are looking for."

The vision behind 'Origin Green' was introduced to the delegates in an audio visual presentation setting sustainability in an Irish context and fronted by Irish actress Saoirse Ronan.

Origin Green is a voluntary programme built upon a commitment from participating food manufacturers to develop a sustainability plan, in conjunction with Bord Bia.

Interested parties will sign up to a new 'Sustainability Charter' setting out clear targets in key areas such as emissions, energy, waste, water, biodiversity and CSR activities. Once approved, successful members will be entitled to use the 'Origin Green' logo as part of their trade marketing, communications and customer relations. Each year, participants will be required to submit independently verified progress reports. In turn, Bord Bia will promote, communicate and develop trade awareness of the 'Origin Green' programme among buyers, international media and relevant stakeholders in key export markets. Registration is now open on www.origingreen.ie.

As part of a pilot programme, Bord Bia is currently working with nine Irish food and drink companies – Kerry Group, Glanbia (Dairy Ingredients Ireland), Marine Harvest, Country Crest, Dawn Farms, Flahavans, Irish Distillers, ABP and Errigal Seafood.

In 2011, Bord Bia, in conjunction with Teagasc, introduced carbon footprint monitoring for all Bord Bia Quality Assured beef farms. To date, this is the only such programme in the world that operates on a national basis and that commits to actively measuring and reducing the carbon footprint of each producer.

Similar farm level programmes are planned across the entire range of primary production sectors. A pilot programme for the dairy industry was initiated in 2011 and a national scheme, equivalent to that operational in the beef sector, will be implemented in 2012/2013. Measurement and performance criteria will also be introduced around water and biodiversity.

The Pathways for Growth Food and Drink Leadership Summit brought together Ireland's leading food and drink industry representatives for the third time since 2010 when the inaugural event was hosted in Farmleigh.

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