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Sustainability at the centre of food production


Global food producers are putting sustainability at the centre of their business, says Food Industry Asia Executive Director Matt Kovac.

Crop and animal production, forestry and food production processes contribute an estimated quarter to a third of total global greenhouse gas emissions and were also major users of freshwater resources.

Food producers recognised the need for change, he said.

In 30 years’ time it’s estimated that the world’s population will reach more than 9 billion – in 2020 it was around 7.8 billion – which could mean “more food will need to be produced using less of everything, with the added challenge that sustainable food products still need to be nutrient dense to allow people to have that balanced, diverse diet.”

“We define it (sustainable food production) as a method that uses processes and systems that are non-polluting as much as we possibly can do, conserving non-renewable energy and natural resources. That has to be economically efficient and safe for workers and consumers, and all the while not compromising the needs of future generations.”

Forward-leaning companies were making progress, he said.

Danone had invested NZD$40 million in achieving 100% carbon neutrality in one of its New Zealand plants.

Unilever planned to cut food waste from factory to shelf in half by 2025, five years sooner than a previous commitment to its shareholders.

Nestle was working with Food industry Asia and other companies to establish a circular materials laboratory in Singapore, focusing on research into next generation environmentally sustainable packaging.

There was no one simple, set of principles as yet to determine whether one product was more environmentally sustainable than another, though a labelling scheme was being piloted in the European Union, he said.

Mr Kovac said collaboration between government and the private sector was the way forward: “These are the people we need to bring together to work collaboratively on solutions future generations will be eternally grateful for.”