How acting responsibly is good for business, citizens and the planet

How acting responsibly is good for business, citizens and the planet

We are delighted to present this next post in our newly launched UNESDA Blog.  Food for thought today comes from our colleague Dirk Jacobs, Deputy Director General of FoodDrinkEurope.  The European soft drinks industry is an active sector within FoodDrinkEurope and is proud to work alongside its food industry peers in driving responsibility and sustainability throughout Europe’s food chain.

How acting responsibly is good for business, citizens and the planet

By Dirk Jacobs, Deputy Director General of FoodDrinkEurope

Europe’s food and drink sector is in a period of transition. Mindful of the impact we can make on society, and being part of a food value chain that upholds safety, quality and choice in the 1.5 billion meals eaten in Europe every day, we are in the midst of supporting food systems change and driving responsible behaviour in areas ranging from calorie reduction, portion control and waste prevention to sustainable sourcing and the reduction, recycling and reuse of packaging.

Today’s consumers are demanding healthier products and expect them to be produced in a more environmentally friendly way. They are looking to policymakers, food producers and others to drive action and deliver change. As an industry we want to be a part of the solution and have done much work already in putting our words into concrete actions.

This also makes good business sense: if we want to secure the long-term future of our sector, we have a duty to serve society sustainably, meeting an increasing global demand for food whilst using less resources AND providing even better value to citizens. This is why FoodDrinkEurope is spearheading initiatives such as “Eat and Live Well” and aligning the European food and drink industry agenda to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Society has a shared responsibility to work together; it is only by taking a joined-up approach that we can start to move the needle. As individuals, we also bear an important degree of responsibility for the choices we make through what we feed our families, how we dispose of our products and packaging, and the way we look after our health.

At the same time, eating a healthy and sustainable diet is becoming increasingly complex. In addition to factors such as availability, choice, diversity, safety, pleasure and affordability, people must now also consider broader issues, from nutritional content and environmental footprint to animal welfare and the role of organic products. If we really want to help people to embrace and effect change, then we need to make sure that the healthy and sustainable choice becomes the easy, affordable and tasty – and, therefore, the preferred – choice.

This is not as simple as it might sound. Consumers have different demands and they are evolving quickly. They want to enjoy their food and drinks in different settings and at different occasions. Diets, cultural traditions and preferences also differ across Europe. A further challenge is that we, as consumers, do not want to be told what – or what not – to eat.  We need to find a balance between giving people the freedom to choose the foods and drinks that they like, with policies that will serve to nudge them in the right direction.

Equally, we need incentives to allow the food and drink industry to transition, to innovate and contribute to a better food environment. The way to do this is by collaboration and partnership – and ensuring that there are a lot of carrots alongside the sticks. Every sector of the food industry has an important role to play here. International data shows that the soft drinks industry continues to be a leading innovative sector in Europe – and indeed globally. It is constantly working to meet consumer needs and expectations – from smaller pack sizes, to increased recycled content in packaging, through to new products with no or fewer calories.

While full details of the EU Farm to Fork and Green Deal policies are not yet known, we at FoodDrinkEurope are hopeful and fully engaged. Working together, I am convinced that the public and private sectors can embrace innovation, demonstrate return on investment and realise our common goal of achieving more sustainable food systems.

For FoodDrinkEurope and the European food and drink industry, taking responsibility goes beyond mere compliance. Our contributions to achieving more sustainable food systems are becoming defining features of our sector. Our members recognise that only this will ensure that they can continue to offer products that can serve society, citizens and our planet – today and in the future.


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