The food and beverage sector is a major contributor to the European economy in terms of turnover and value added and is a big employment driver in the EU. In addition to that, it has the highest capital spending. At the same time, the sector faces many challenges and is particularly vulnerable to fluctuations in food production, food availability and pricing caused by climate change. However, its market characteristics and important linkages to other relevant sectors in the supply chain, also open up room for manoeuvre, making the sector an important site for innovation and change.
The food and beverage sector causes various impacts on the environment, notably the generation of food waste, which is an important source of carbon dioxide. In addition, the consumption of water and energy for food production, the use of refrigerants and chemicals, wastewater, odours and other emissions from the sector are closely linked to environmental concerns. Accounting for environmental aspects is thus crucial for companies and businesses operating in the food and beverage sector aiming to increase the sustainability of their output. It is also linked to the achievement of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Operating in a highly regulated sector in terms of food safety, human health and environmental laws, organisations can benefit from adopting the systematic approach provided by environmental management systems such as EMAS for the identification, analysis and implementation of legal requirements, as this leads to better levels of legal compliance. EMAS provides the necessary structure for accounting for the several environmentally related activities of the food and beverage sector. For companies wishing to address sustainability at its source, EMAS additionally facilitates the implementation of other voluntary standards in the sector, such as organic production.
A new case study has been published which presents best practice examples from three organisations with a generation-long tradition in operating in the food and beverage sector and now in the EMAS scheme – HIPP Croatia in the baby food production sector, Mahou San Miguel, a company in the beer sector and illycaffè, a coffee company operating in five continents.
They are exemplary in striving for environmental excellence in innovating new ways to increase the eco-friendliness of their sites, and in implementing sustainability as a way of thinking in the social and operational mode of their companies. Entering the EMAS scheme has paid off for their commitment and improved the environmental performance and efficiency of their products and organisations. They also found that the EMAS registry accounts for an important differentiation factor in the market, helping their products and their businesses gain greater visibility and credibility. You can read about their experiences with EMAS here.
Based on these examples, the case study provides interesting insights into how the operation of an environmental management system can contribute to the environmental sustainability of a business in the food and beverage sector.
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