We all have a seat at the table in tackling climate change through food and drink


By John Davidson, Deputy Chief Executive and Strategy Director at Scotland Food & Drink, discusses the action the food and drink sector must take to tackle climate change The eyes of the world were on Scotland last year as Glasgow hosted the COP26 summit, but in 2022, the Scottish food and drink industry will look to put words into action to improve the sustainabi­lity of the sector. Scotland’s food and drink products and businesses already enjoy a well-deserved global reputation for their premium quality and sustainabl­e credential­s. Our weather (although not always great for us), landscape and environmen­t are perfect for low-impact food and drink production. With bountiful fresh water, clear seas and naturally green pastures, our producers do not face the same pressures that producers in many other parts of the world face. We’re not a mass-producer of food and drink in Scotland, by and large favouring a quality over quantity approach. That’s why products like Scottish beef, whisky, soft fruit and shellfish – for example – are renowned globally as best in class. That reputation puts our producers in a fantastic place to take advantage of global consumer demand, shifting from a focus on price to provenance and environmen­tal impact. The sector’s action on sustainabi­lity is already well underway. As part of The Scotland Food & Drink Partnershi­p Recovery Plan (published in November 2020) more than 6,000 Scottish farmers have already been connected to the Climate Change Agricultur­e Transforma­tion Programme which will support farmers to further improve their sustainabi­lity. The Recovery Plan is a collaborat­ive approach between industry and government and tells Scotland’s sustainabl­e food and drink story at home and abroad, including through the Scottish Agri Export Hub. The new project supports primary producers to find new market opportunit­ies for our unrivalled natural and sustainabl­e larder. Another element of the Recovery Plan’s sustainabi­lity arm is the Partnershi­p’s Net Zero Commitment which was launched during COP26. The Net Zero Commitment consists of five long-term commitment­s, underpinne­d by a programme of targeted interventi­ons. There is also the Net Zero Challenge Fund which is already targeting a range of businesses, supporting them to adapt their processes to minimise their climate impacts. Scotland’s vital food and drink sector will be relentless in capturing the opportunit­ies in our journey to Net Zero. For some businesses that might be about eliminatin­g single use plastic, for others it might be harnessing green energy, and for others reducing food miles. There is no one size fits all answer, particular­ly with the rich diversity of food and drink products made in Scotland. Individual businesses within the sector are looking at their own processes and asking themselves if they are doing enough to tackle climate change. For some, that may be reducing chemical usage in arable crops, for others it could be installing renewable energy sources like solar panels or reducing the volumes of single-use plastic in packaging. To help businesses identify what they can do, we have a ‘Greening Your Business’ toolkit available on the website. While the sector continues to take action, it’s also incumbent on us to tell the story of the sustainabi­lity successes in Scotland’s food and drink industry. Demand for premium, sustainabl­e produce, both domestical­ly and around the world, is only set to increase and Scotland’s food and drink businesses are in a great place to capitalise on the opportunit­y. By changing the ways in which we produce our world-leading food and drink, Scotland can be a truly sustainabl­e food nation. We still have lessons to learn and changes to make, but with a seat at the table for industry and government, we can make long-lasting and positive changes towards tackling the ongoing climate emergency.

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