'Sustainable development' are buzz words on the lips of politicians and industry leaders across the world. A new report from the Confederation of the Food and Drink Industries (CIAA) suggests that the food industry is no exception.
Since the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, the food and drink industry has made sustainable development one of its key priorities and will continue to do so in the future, concludes the CIAA analysis.
The report, "Continuous progress towards Sustainability", is part of a series of 22 reports facilitated by UNEP (the United Nations Environment Programme) for the World Summit for Sustainable Development (WSSD) on the contribution of the various industry sectors towards sustainability.
The report writes that for the food and drink industry, sustainable development means achieving three long-term goals: to protect the environment where agricultural raw materials are grown and in which the industry operates; to improve the access to quality and healthy food for consumers; and to enhance economic growth.
This report presents an overview of the progress made within the food and drink industry since the Rio Summit in 1992 on the implementation of sustainable development and attempts to identify remaining challenges.
The CIAA report provides evidence to suggest the fact that the food and drink industry appears to be committed to the improvement of eco-efficiency in manufacturing. Environmental Performance Indicators, established in many companies, show a reduction in the consumption of energy by up to 58 per cent and of water by up to 28 per cent since 1990. The report adds that food and drink companies have developed environmental and quality management systems based on ISO standards 14001 and 9000 and are increasingly communicating their efforts and achievements through sustainability reports and/or environmental and social reports.
The report warned that the food industry does, however, face future challenges. For example, the availability, quality and safety of the food supply remain a high priority, while the food and drink industry is committed to ensuring further progress in resource management, particularly for water and energy. There must also be increased dialogue with all partners in the food supply chain.
In addition, the food and drink industry must play an active role in identifying, developing and facilitating acceptance of emerging technologies that will benefit consumers and the environment, according to the CIAA report. With a nod to agriculture, the CIAA wrote that sustainable agricultural practices need to be fully supported so that they become increasingly systematic and globally widespread.
In a statement, the CIAA wrote that it is encouraging its members to adhere to the principles of sustainability and to report in a transparent manner on their economic, social and environmental performance. To this end, the CIAA has launched a long-term initiative which, it claims, goes way beyond the World Summit on Sustainable Development to be held in Johannesburg, South Africa, from 26 August to 4 September 2002.