According to the Food and Drink Federation, the UK food supply chain is responsible for around 20% of UK greenhouse gas emissions. A 1% improvement in net emissions in 2018, as reported by the Committee on Climate Change, represented disappointing progress. A rate of around 3% annual reductions by the manufacturing sector is needed to meet the ambitious 2050 Net-zero target. The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy reports an 8.1% increase in energy usage in the food and beverage sector from 2017 to 2018—the largest increase of any industry. As the UK’s largest manufacturing sector—which accounts for 15.6% of total manufacturing GVA—looks to deliver economic as well as environmental value, food and drinks processors will have to take an innovative look at processes and operations.
The UK food and drink sector has demonstrated significant growth in the decades, with a 3% increase in its share of total manufacturing GVA since 1990. MAKE UK points to the sector’s “inherent resilience” as one of the reasons for its consistent growth, which it emphasizes is the most consistent growth trajectory within manufacturing. With the rising cost of raw materials, economic uncertainty and a changing compliance landscape, no sector is immune to risk. But to the growing food and drinks industry, mounting pressure to improve sustainability and reduce emissions can provide a catalyst for innovation and continued productivity.
As we’ve seen, the most effective approach to sustainability requires organisations to develop a clear understanding of the link between their carbon reduction goals, and the core goals of the business. This enables sustainability to become embedded within existing business decision-making, informing strategy across the supply chain.
When lowering energy consumption and decreasing environmental impact become business imperatives, the organisations taking the most strategic approach demonstrate a willingness to examine existing processes, looking for opportunities to reduce costs and improve efficiency in their operations.
The demand for technologies ready to meet the challenges of a changing world has sparked a wave of innovation, including energy-efficient equipment (such as machinery, appliances and vehicles) to the market.
The food and drinks sector are actively involved in the shift towards sustainability, aiming to maintain competitiveness while delivering decarbonisation. A recent survey by the Food and Drink Federation found that 89% of respondents were involved in product and process development. From energy-productive robots to alternative energies, and the power of more climate-aware employees to implement significant behavioural change, the sector has the potential to lead on sustainability while maintaining growth.
In seeking to innovate, a survey conducted by the FDF found that nearly half (46%) of the respondents have an on-going collaboration with higher education or research initiatives. The sector itself has also demonstrated a willingness to come together to share experiences, data and best practices to help businesses of all kinds find pragmatic ways to reduce emissions. This is encouraging and further work should be done to ensure that barriers to knowledge transfer (such as academic language, the capacity to absorb the knowledge within the business and the management of IP) are addressed.
In 2019, many businesses were legally obliged to carry out energy audits as part of the Energy Savings Opportunity Scheme (ESOS). This is a high-level review of opportunities and, for many sites will have made recommendations on how to save energy, and/or measures that are needed to improve energy monitoring and targeting. Even if your business wasn’t eligible for ESOS reporting, an energy audit should still be considered to identify savings.
As one of your New Year’s Resolutions, we suggest that you take another look at your ESOS report and then talk to our experts at Inenco about turning the report into real savings.
To explore the options available to you or for support drawing up a sustainability plan that is tailored to the needs of your business, contact our expert team on 08451 46 36 26.