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33% of consumers prefer ‘good’ environmental brands

The energy measures food and drink manufacturers can take to enhance environmental performance and business agility

Tighter regulations, increased awareness among employees, shareholders and investors, and above all increasingly uncompromising consumer attitudes, have all helped shift environmental and sustainability performance from marginal concerns to core issues in today’s commercial landscape. Environmental and sustainability credibility, in short, is no longer a nice-to-have: it’s a must.

For food and drink manufacturers, you can add the threat from a new breed of agile, responsive, innovative competitors1, unhampered by historical baggage, and free to flaunt the very values customers are seeking. For the established players, the pressure is on.

Tough regulation, demanding customers

Tough regulation defines the new landscape. In the UK, for example, any organisation with more than 250 employees must carry out regular energy audits – covering buildings, processes and transport – as part of the government’s Energy Savings Opportunity Scheme (ESOS).

More challenging still, are consumer preferences, with customers demanding ethical products from irreproachable suppliers. Rapidly growing demand for ‘natural’, ‘free from’ and healthier options are putting food and drink manufacturers on the spot. In the US, 37% of shoppers said they sought ‘natural’ foods and beverages in 2018 – up from 31% in 20172.

Companies increasingly recognise the importance of sending out the right signals. In research by Centrica Business Solutions, 52% of respondents said the link between their sustainable energy use and their brand image was ‘very important’3. And they’ve been acting on that awareness. Kellogg’s, for example, adopting 2015 as a base year, have committed to reduce emissions 15% by 2020, 65% by 20504.

Taking advantage of low-carbon technologies

Refrigeration, heating, air compressors and other energy-intensive production equipment make food and drink manufacturing a high energy business. In the UK, it’s the fourth highest industrial energy user5, with a carbon footprint to match.

Flexible, low-carbon technologies can help. When a UK pet food manufacturer wanted to become a sustainable energy producer, we installed a Combined Heat and Power (CHP) plant. The company now sends zero waste to landfill, with non-recyclable waste going to waste transfer stations, and within a year, CO2 output was down 1,726 tonnes a year - equivalent to taking 575 cars off the road.

Solar power turns unused roofs into reduced energy costs and carbon footprint; on-site co-generation technologies like CHP and trigeneration (CHP integrated with absorption chillers) offer massive potential to manufacturers with mixed energy load profiles.

Flexible funding, innovative relationships

Manufacturers facing financial or skills constraints can take advantage of innovative arrangements with the right energy partners to deploy new low-carbon technologies with zero capital investment.

The final link in the chain is environmental reporting, with carbon footprint reductions broadcast to customers, regulators, employees and shareholders. Of the world’s 250 largest corporations, 92% now report on their sustainability performance6. Successful companies, increasingly, not only are green; they make sure they’re seen to be green.

Download our Perspectives Series article to find out more about how we can help you implement process changes and exploit the full potential of new technology to maximise your business agility and enhance – and broadcast – your environmental performance.  

Sources:

  • 1 Unilever 2017
  • 2 Food & Health Survey, International Food Information Council Foundation, 2018
  • 3 Energy Advantage Research, Centrica Business Solutions. Statistics based on a six country survey of more than 1,000 energy decisionmakers in large organisations
  • 4 Economic Contribution of the Food and Beverage Industry, CED, 2017
  • 5 Food and Drink Processing Report, Carbon Trust, 2012
  • 6 GRI and Sustainability Reporting, GRI12