Sharon Colgan, Marketing Manager, Origin Green, Bord Bia – Irish Food Board
With the uneasy backdrop of the ongoing Brexit discussions and the ongoing talk of separation and ‘going it alone’, it is important to remind ourselves of the power of partnership and what true collaboration can and is helping us to achieve.
Take our agri-food industry, fortunately partnership has always been fundamental to our agricultural tradition in Ireland which runs deep through generations. We called it ‘meitheal’ back in the day when neighbours would gather together to support one another and work collectively to bring in crops.
Utilising that partnership, in 2012, Bord Bia launched Origin Green, our national food and drink sustainability programme operating on a national scale, made only possible through uniting farmers, fisherman, food and drink producers towards the common goal of sustainable food production. Since launch, Origin Green has become a core pillar of Bord Bia’s current strategy and underpins everything we do.
Bord Bia does not manage Origin Green alone, nor can we. Within Ireland we collaborate with state agencies, research bodies and advocacy organisations to co-develop tailored solutions for specific sustainability topics whether it is working with the National Biodiversity Data Center on developing biodiversity advice for farmers or with Teagasc, the national agricultural and research innovation body, to devise approaches to track farm sustainability criteria.
Importantly, because we export a large proportion of the food we produce to export markets, we engage with international partners such as the SAI Platform, the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef and others to collaboratively develop solutions to globally important sustainability issues. Such issues include packaging, greenhouse gas emissions, or social inequalities throughout food supply chains.
Through these domestic and international partnerships, we are then able to develop robust sustainability interventions through the Irish supply chain in cooperation with farmers and food businesses.
Globally, our trade customers are reliant on developing strong partnerships throughout the food chain so they can secure supply into the future. They are keenly aware of the challenges facing their businesses due to climate change and changing consumer demands. Pressure from the public to reduce plastic waste has resulted in many customers making promises that the supplier will ultimately have to deliver upon.
Just last month, Tesco announced a new partnership with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) which aims to make food more sustainable. The partnership comes as new joint research between the retailer and the NGO revealed that demand for sustainable food is high: nearly 80% of shoppers want supermarkets to do more to offer food that is sourced in a responsible, sustainable way. Consumers want supermarkets to offer them choices that reduce the impact their food purchases have on the planet. Tesco’s ambition is to reduce the environmental impact of the average UK shopping basket by 50%, improving the sustainability of food while ensuring it remains affordable. This partnership promise will not be achieved without supplier collaboration.
With third party proof of their sustainability achievements and commitments, Origin Green companies, are ideally positioned to become sustainable supply partners.
From the outset, collaboration has played a vital role in assisting and enhancing the development and roll out of Origin Green across the entire food and drink supply chain in Ireland. The Origin Green team in Bord Bia looks forward to continuing to work closely with the industry in Ireland as we place significant emphasis on developing and maintaining collaborative relationships with a wide range of stakeholders both in Ireland and abroad in 2019.