INTERREG mediterranean green growth

The posture of Italian agrofood companies to sustainability

“The Italian food and drink Industry has a strong interest in the affirmation of global scale models of sustainable production and consumption to ensure the competitiveness of agrofood systems while respecting the environment and local communities”

The food and drink industry is Europe’s largest manufacturing industry, its largest employer and a major player in our economy. Yet, in the current difficult economic climate, there is no time for business as usual; the sector must therefore collectively step up its efforts, particularly in terms of trade and innovation.

One key specificity of the agri-food chain is that it provides economical activities and jobs in many EU rural areas as well as overall food and nutrition security, while ensuring environmental benefits provided by the agricultural sector in the form of carbon sequestration and opportunities to use renewable raw materials to supply sustainably and efficiently biomass and fuels. Therefore, the Agri-food chain is concerned that in an increasingly globalised trade environment, market failure and distortions prevent the agricultural and forestry sectors’ adaptation and mitigation potential from being fulfilled.

The European agri-food chain faces many global challenges in addition to climate change: food production for a growing population; an emerging bio-economy; increasing expectations regarding environmental protection; and last but not least the critical situation in the European market that is affecting present and future viability of a number of agri-food sectors. In order to fulfil the potential of agri-food operators to address equally those challenges, we need strong farming communities in rural areas, secure markets for agricultural commodities and therefore engaged processing facilities, in particular in (remote) rural areas.

Climate change affects the food and drink sector, both in terms of production and price stability, of the agricultural raw materials it transforms. Food production will come under increased pressure in the future. Europe’s agri-food sector is actively working to try to mitigate and adapt to climate change through actions such as investing in low-carbon technologies and proactively engaging with our consumers and partners along the supply chain.

Sustainable development is a form of economic development that does not compromise the possibility of future generations to go on, preserving the quality and quantity of natural heritage under a regime of social equity and environmental balance.  The Italian food and drink Industry has a strong interest in the affirmation of global scale models of sustainable production and consumption, able to meet the growing demand of the world population and to ensure the competitiveness of agrofood systems while respecting the environment and local communities. The food and drink Industry – in collaboration with the primary production – is engaged in a series of concrete actions and initiatives aimed at promoting environmental sustainability in agriculture. The aim is to ensure supply of raw materials, in sufficient quality and quantity, respecting the environment and enhancing the competitiveness of agricultural systems.

Actually, there are 4 strategic areas of intervention:

  • Sustainable supply and exploitation of agricultural raw materials;
  • Efficient use of basic resources (energy and water);
  • Optimization of packaging and proper management of after – use packaging;
  • Promote sustainable consumption.

Food products are sometimes labelled with different kinds of indicators, many of which are related to specific aspects of sustainability, e.g. fair trade, food authenticity, animal welfare, food miles, CO and water footprint.

The lack of a clear definition and proof of impact in combination with the use of own indicators been started by many retailers and manufacturers, which are considered to be subjective, has led to much consumer confusion and, in the end, to disbelief and distrust. It does not make sense to create yet more indicators, however it is important to engage the consumers themselves. For optimal engagement they should decide which information should be aggregated into personalized reports on food products, which would allow the individualization of sustainability data without causing information overflow.

Maurizio Notarfonso

Maurizio Notarfonso works at Federalimentare, the Italian National Association of Agrofood Industries.

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