The release today of the first-ever environmental scorecard of Australia's largest manufacturing industry—the $52 billion food and grocery sector—has revealed significant improvements in water management and in the increased use of environmentally friendly packaging systems.

The Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC) Environment Report 2001 is the first industry-wide snapshot of environmental performance in Australia, and one of the first of its kind in the world.  The Report has showed 86 per cent of Australian food and grocery companies have integrated sound environmental practices—such as the use of recycled packaging—into their operations.

Releasing the Report today, AFGC Chief Executive, Mitchell H Hooke, said it provided the first opportunity for government and the community to assess the food and grocery industry's environmental performance as an industry sector.

"We always had a good story to tell.  This Report confirms that our industry is part of the solution, not part of the problem, and demonstrates some of the increased effort by food and grocery companies to better manage environmental outcomes," Mr Hooke said.

"It also flags the sector's commitment to an environment strategy through which it can enhance its role in Australia's manufacturing future and deliver efficient, effective and responsible environmental outcomes.

"The Report represents the next step in the food and grocery sector establishing itself as a leader in environmental management and as a committed and proactive participant in the global shift toward sustainable development.

"This Report symbolises an emerging shift in the environment debate.  In our view, meaningful and long-term environmental change will be delivered by systemic and efficient improvements in industrial and commercial activity, built upon the considered and effective support of government."

The Report also showed significant environmental gains had been made in the areas of water management, with more than half the food and grocery companies surveyed indicating a significant reduction in wastewater with similar reductions expected over the next five years.

The Report is the product of the AFGC's Eco-Efficiency Agreement with the Commonwealth Government through Environment Australia.  It forms part of the AFGC's public reporting requirements and is the result of more than two years work, presenting the industry's first public environmental report card based on its performance over the past 10 years.

 "These opportunities were recognised when the AFGC adopted its Environment Policy and Management Strategy in September 1999.  The Strategy recognised that effective environmental management by the food and grocery industry involved the development of business systems that measured and integrated environmental performance into the overall performance of each company," Mr Hooke said.

AFGC represents the nation's food, drink and grocery companies.

A copy of the report is available on the AFGC website www.afgc.org.au