Farmers and businesses in Bord Bia’s Origin Green sustainability scheme have significantly reduced their carbon footprint, according to a 2021 progress update report.
Sustainable beef and lamb assurance scheme members recorded a 6.3 per cent average reduction in CO2 per unit of beef. Sustainable dairy assurance scheme members recorded a 6 per cent average reduction in CO2 per unit of milk, while a subset of 400 members decreased their average carbon footprint over three consecutive cycles of audits by 18 per cent.
Manufacturing members of the programme have set 2,779 sustainability targets and established 13,600 sustainability initiatives since its launch nine years ago.
In retail and foodservice, 10 verified members, representing about 75 per cent of the Irish retail market, have set a total of 165 sustainability targets across areas of sourcing, operations, health and nutrition and social sustainability.
Bord Bia chief executive Tara McCarthy said this evidence of environmental improvements, verified by international auditors Mabbett, "highlights that the programme's vast scale across the Irish food and drink industry is what makes Origin Green unique and effective".
Launching the report on Friday, Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue stressed that sustainability was at the centre of Food Vision 2030, the new 10-year strategy for the agri-food sector.
“The requirement to deliver continuous improvement and proof of environmental sustainability comes from a powerful combination of changing societal and consumer demands; and the requirements of major trade customers for Irish food and drink,” he added.
Bord Bia made recent adaptations to the programme focused on reducing greenhouse gas emissions. With the introduction of the Origin Green credit system, larger companies are now required to establish emissions targets from the 2021 reporting year onwards.
Meanwhile Tesco announced on Friday a new group-wide net zero target of 2035 for its own operations, including Ireland. The retailer has also set out a commitment to cut emissions including those generated by the products it sells and across its supply chains to zero by 2050 in line with the UN's aspiration of keeping global warming below 1.5 degrees.
Referred to as Scope 3 emissions, Tesco’s 2050 commitment will cover all emissions generated across its entire value chain. This includes sourcing of raw materials and food production, where emissions are generated through agriculture and manufacturing; in the use of Tesco products, including food waste; and in peoples’ dietary choices, “where an increase to more plant-based food is required to cut emissions”.
Emissions from Tesco’s products and supply chain make up more than 90 per cent of its carbon footprint. To date, 100 of Tesco’s largest international suppliers have reduced manufacturing emissions by 20 per cent.
Tesco Ireland has reduced emissions in its own operations by reducing its electricity consumption by 25 per cent; sourcing all its electricity from renewable sources as well as substantial changes to lighting, heating, ventilation and refrigeration. Under a partnership with Green Generation, it has become the first Irish retailer to purchase renewable gas made from surplus food to power stores.
As the first retailer in Ireland to set the ambition to achieve net-zero emissions in its own operations by 2035 and in the value chain by 2050, Tesco was setting unprecedented ambitions in the sector, Tesco Ireland chief executive Kari Daniels said.
“Net zero is one step further in making real, tangible change when it comes to addressing climate change. Emissions from our supply chains and the use of our products account for most of our emissions. It’s vital we continue the good work in our own operations but also drive collective action and collaboration with our suppliers, and industry, to succeed in meeting these commitments,” she added.
The Minister for the Environment Eamon Ryan welcomed the announcement. "Consumers want to do the right thing for the planet, and they need businesses to step up to the mark and make that possible. Actions such as this will also support our long-term competitiveness and create new jobs in the green economy."