Footprint Blog

Unilever embracing the principles of sustainability?

Posted in Comment,Economics,International by foodservicefootprint on January 31, 2010

Foodservice Footprint recently suggested that business leaders should be aware of the bigger picture and not succumb to ‘path dependency’. We were thus delighted to hear Paul Polman, the chief executive of Unilever, argue along similar lines, by making an impassioned plea at a session in Davos to ignore demands of short-term shareholders and lead from the front on sustainability and climate change.

Mr Polman joined Unilever a year ago and has had an eye on the long-term success of the business and not merely on shareholder value. According to The Times ‘this required him to take costly actions to ensure it had a sustainable business, for example in terms of palm oil supplies’. Mr. Polman commented ‘We want to be in business for the next 500 years’. Has Unilever grasped the principles of sustainability?


Pig Business!

Posted in Comment,News,Provenance,Sustainability,Sustainable Sourcing by foodservicefootprint on January 31, 2010

Marchioness ‘Tracy’ of Worcester invited MP’s at Westminster to see her hard-hitting film Pig Business, which challenges the pork industry and campaigns for pig welfare, with the support of Zac Goldsmith, Tom Parker Bowles and actress Miranda Richardson.

Worcester told the Evening Standard ‘Until there is a mandatory country of origin and welfare label on pork, I believe we must ban the import of animals that are produced to a lower standard’.

Foodservice Footprint awaits eagerly to hear whether Pig Business has a similar impact to The End of The Line and makes a true measurable difference.

Northern Ireland vs. Northern Italy

Posted in Comment,Food Miles,Government,International by foodservicefootprint on January 31, 2010

Whilst locked in emergency talks at the Stormont Assembly, I was surprised to see Gordon Brown, in a natural-resource rich region like Northern Ireland help himself to an Italian water brand in a cabinet office.

Another ‘Dodgy Dossier’?

Posted in Comment by foodservicefootprint on January 24, 2010

With the Sunday papers full of the news that the IPCC has begrudgingly withdrawn another of its wilder claims – that of the disappearance of the Himalayan glaciers by 2035 -the rumble of climate change ‘deniers’ grows louder by the minute.

The story here is that the 2035 claim was made originally in a paper by a Dr.Syed Hasnain who works for The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) of which IPCC chairman Rajendra Pachauri happens to be Director General. It now turns out, according to Dr Murari Lal, the co-ordinating lead author on the asian section of the IPCC 2007 report, that the authors were aware the statement was unsound, but kept it in because ‘We thought that if we can highlight it, it will impact policy makers and politicians and encourage them to take some concrete action’.

Does anyone see a parallel with the 45 minutes scenario currently under discussion in the Iraq enquiry?

That aside, this is yet another own goal by the IPCC following the manipulated data scenario in the autumn. What is worrying is that the more these stories emerge, the more they will enflame public cynicism towards the whole environmental issue and that, in many minds, includes the very real issues of sustainability facing the world at large and the food industry in particular.

Oh to be a forecaster…

Posted in Comment by foodservicefootprint on January 24, 2010

When I was young our summer seaside holiday was spent on the east Northumbrian coast. The weather was generally iffy to say the least and our method of forecasting was to hang seaweed outside the door which was remarkably accurate.

Today our weather forecasts are the result of rather more sophisticated, highly intricate and extremely expensive computer models, so we should perhaps expect even higher levels of accuracy.  

Not so.  ‘Barbeque summer’, the Met Office said, winter ‘milder and wetter than average’. Poor chaps – they just can’t get it right can they. Where do they get their data from? Surprise surprise … the same computer models as are used to predict climate change … the one’s recently discredited as being manipulated to suit certain vested interest. Funny that…


Posted in Diet,Sustainability by foodservicefootprint on January 18, 2010

This press release received today claims food industry impact to be greater than assumed…

The food we eat accounts for 30% of the UK’s carbon footprint, according to a new report published today by WWF-UK and the Food Climate Research Network. Previous estimates put the figure closer to 20%, but this study is the first to incorporate land use change overseas, increasing the estimate of emissions attributed to food consumption in this country from 152MtCO2 to 253MtCO2.

Land use change, mainly deforestation, is a major source of climate changing emissions. Each year world-wide, an area of forest equivalent to half of England is lost. The expansion of the food system is the biggest driver behind this as land is cleared to grow crops and rear animals.

 Given the extent of food consumption on the UK’s overall emissions, WWF-UK and the FCRN are calling for a radical change to the country’s food system to help stop deforestation and reduce the scale of emissions from the food chain.

 The new report – How Low Can We Go: an assessment of greenhouse gas emissions from the UK food system and the scope for reduction by 2050 – assessed various scenarios that explored what these changes might look like. Both technological and behavioural initiatives were tested, including decarbonisation of the energy used in the food chain, improved efficiencies and changes in consumption of meat and dairy products.

 If the food industry is to play its part in keeping temperature rises below two degrees, emissions need to be cut by at least 70% by 2050. The report concludes that no one solution alone can reduce emissions to this extent. WWF-UK and FCRN are urging Government and industry decision-makers to recognise that a focus on technology alone is not enough – food consumption patterns need to change too.

 Mark Driscoll, head of WWF-UK’s One Planet Food programme said: “The full impact of our diets on climate change is astonishingly high – this report shows that. This makes the target to cut emissions by at least 70% by 2050 a daunting task, but not an impossible one. We must stop chewing over some of the issues and start making change happen – both in terms of technology and behaviour.”

 Tara Garnett, head of the FCRN said: “We now know enough to conclude that the food system contributes very substantially to the problem of climate change. We also know enough about where and how the impacts arise to start doing something about them. Business as usual – and even business as usual ‘lite’ – is no longer an option.”

 In terms of the impacts of food consumption the report found:

•       The food chain’s contribution to overall UK consumption-related emissions is 20%. However, when land use change is included this increases to 30%.

•       All stages of the UK food chain give rise to emissions, with the breakdown as follows: production and initial processing (34%); manufacturing, distribution, retail and cooking (26%) and agriculturally-induced land use change (40%).

•       Livestock farming accounts for 57% of agricultural emissions and is also responsible for three quarters of land use change emissions.

 Solutions-wise, the report concluded that there is no silver bullet to achieve such reductions – a combination of activities and changes will be required. These include:

•       increasing production efficiency, including improved crop yields and changes to animal feeds to reduce methane emissions

•       a significant switch to non-carbon fuels and increased energy use efficiency

•       changes in the types of food we consume

 The idea of collaboration – between producers, processors, retailers, NGOs and Government – is highlighted in the Government’s recently published Food 2030 document, which sets out a vision for UK food. This should be applauded. The role of sustainable diets and a commitment to defining them will also be an important step.

Dietary changes will also ease land pressures, in terms of reducing the amount of land needed to produce the food we consume. While this study did not consider the impact of diet on land use change in detail, nor deal with the issue of land quality, and its potential to produce different types of food, these ideas will be dealt with in a follow-up study tackling the question of how changing consumption will affect land use.

 For more details and to receive a copy of the summary and report, contact David Burrows:

Initial thoughts on Food 2030

Posted in Comment by foodservicefootprint on January 5, 2010

A couple of points that need to be addressed regarding DEFRA’s campaign Food 2030 announced today:

One of the aims is to reduce greenhouse gas in the food chain and another is to cut food waste and use technologies that allow us to create energy from the waste we can’t avoid.

As far as I am aware most of the bigger businesses in foodservice have taken gigantic leaps in this direction already, with very little or no help from the current government. To that extent the smaller foodservice businesses cannot afford to do so. So I wonder what the government is proposing to assist smaller businesses?

Furthermore, Hilary Benn is still banging the 5 A Day drum, although it is common knowledge that if the entire population were to actually follow this directive, the environmental impact would be disastrous.