We are at a critical time in our history. We must avoid a damaging rise in global temperatures and loss of biodiversity, while continuing to provide safe, affordable, high quality and nutritious food to a growing population. Some good progress has been made, but we need to accelerate our efforts to improve the way we grow, manufacture and consume our food and drink products.
As the largest manufacturing sector in Europe, buying some 70 per cent of all EU farm produce, the food and drink industry has an important role to play in the transition towards more sustainable food systems.
Together we must become the global gold standard in food and drink sustainability.
Tackling climate change is front of mind for our sector. We support the Paris Agreement efforts to keep global temperature rises to less than 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels and will take a lead in supporting Europe’s ambitious target to become the first climate-neutral continent in the world by 2050.
As a major user of packaging, a circular economy approach on plastic is also a top priority. As part of the Circular Plastics Alliance, we are working together with the plastic value chain to achieve the EU target to ensure that 10 million tons of recycled plastic make their way into new products by 2025. Our members will also continue to limit the quantity of plastics and packaging we use and to find sustainable alternatives.
Biodiversity loss is another great challenge. The natural world is an important benchmark of planetary health and it is worrying to see the rapid loss of biodiversity both in Europe and globally. We must protect our forests and strengthen policy for sustainable land-use practices. As major buyers of raw materials, we also work closely with farmers to ensure that the supply of farm produce is sustainably sourced. At the EU level, we want a robust Common Agriculture Policy that can support the demand for safe, affordable food, while also protecting our environment.
Food and drink products are a necessity, but also a pleasure. Today in Europe, we have access to a variety and quality of safe food and drink.
The food and drink industry is determined to accelerate its actions to encourage balanced and more sustainable diets and an active lifestyle. Innovation is central to further optimise the nutritional content of products, to develop new nutritious food products and to respond to consumer demands.
Also, identifying ways to further enhance clear and correct food information to consumers, including through digital means, will continue to be an important area for the industry.
When food and drink businesses thrive, they also help provide the jobs and skills needed for the EU economy to grow and maintain a decent standard of living for all. The food and drink industry has a good story to tell, providing jobs to over 4.8 million people. The industry is also diverse, with almost 50% of sector turnover generated by more than 290,000 small and medium sized enterprises across the continent.
We are also a global industry. The EU is the world’s largest exporter of food and drink, with exports having almost doubled over the past decade. Given we also rely on ingredients from farmers around the world – cocoa from West Africa for example – we are working to carry out due diligence to ensure global supply chains are fair and sustainable.