Blog: Dean BestIs the UK the greenest of them all?

Dean Best | 25 October 2007

After attending three London conferences in three days that debated environmental and sustainability issues in the food industry, there is no doubt the UK is at the centre of the green debate.

In the last year or two, food manufacturers and retailers have opened their eyes to the role that they can play in the effort to tackle issues like climate change. From government-backed initiatives like WRAP and the Courtauld Commitment to moves from FMCG companies like Cadbury Schweppes, industry is taking the lead in the environmental debate.

Today, the UK food and drink industry, under the guise of the Food and Drink Federation, said it would go further and launched a five-point plan to tackle environmental issues.

Sure, more needs to be done, but as UK Environment Secretary Hilary Benn said, the food industry should be applauded. With food accounting for some 30% of greenhouse gases across Europe, the industry has to play a central role in combating climate change. Other problems, like cutting water use and reducing the amount of waste sent to landfall, are also issues that the industry should face – and it has outlined plans to do so.

Of course, this isn’t altruism. There is a business benefit for manufacturers. With consumers taking a growing interest in green issues and in how they can help the environment, it has become in the interest of business to hammer home their green credentials.

But business needs to be brave. Times are tight. This year, the food industry has suffered from myriad issues from rising commodity costs to floods to foot and mouth. Nevertheless, executives must remember that cutting waste means cutting costs. And being green will present lucrative, future opportunities for those that act now.

But is it just the UK that is acting on environmental issues? just-food’s reach stretches far and wide, from Baltimore to Bangalore. We’re keen to hear from your business if you’re acting to combat climate change and to drill a more sustainable ethos into your business. Send us your news to

Postcript: So – the Soil Association has decided not to ban air-freighted produce from having organic status in the UK. That decision comes as something of a relief. The ban would have threatened the livelihoods of farmers in the developing world who depend on Western markets.



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