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European edition of Sustainable Foods Summit concludes in Amsterdam
Tuesday, 27 June, 2017, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
Amsterdam
The European edition of the Sustainable Foods Summit drew to a successful close in Amsterdam recently. Over 100 senior executives from the food industry debated sustainability issues over the two-day summit.

Initial discussions covered approaches to sustainability. In his keynote address, Michael Braungart of EPEA International Umweltforschung, urged food companies to go beyond traditional efficiency thinking.

Citing examples of deforestation for agriculture, plastic islands and diminishing air quality, he said traditional design structures were flawed. Braungart believed that the way forward was product design for effectiveness.

Tom Zoellner, founder, TZervice, called for investment in urban farming. With half of
the global population now living in urban areas, he said there were opportunities for
retailers and foodservice operators in this emerging field.

In another seminar, Ecofys showed how life-cycle assessment tools were used by companies like Alpro to measure the carbon footprint of its products.

Annemarie Kerkhof said, “Metrics enable environmental impacts to be measured and comparisons to be made between products.”

Adrian de Groot Ruiz of True Price and Tobias Bandel of Soil & More presented findings
on the true cost of food and beverage products.

Although awareness of the externalities of agricultural products was rising, more pressure was required on food companies.

The two speakers said higher adoption rates of sustainable foods were necessary to narrow the externality gap with conventional products.

Elfrieke van Galen from TheRockGroup looked at how the food industry could prepare for a circular economy.

Apart from finding new applications for food waste, she said there
were opportunities with aquaponics, plant-based packaging, and social fridges.

Jessica Sansom of Innocent Drinks said sustainable packaging remained a thorny area for the smoothies company. It was using recycled plastic in an attempt to close its packaging loops.

The session on food ingredients began with a paper on traceability in food supply chains.

Andy Green from Cert ID stated that the risks of food safety and fraud were increasing in global supply chains. Givaudan gave an update on natural flavourings, whilst Palsgaard showed how the company was making emulsifiers for sustainability.

Cees de Jong, chief executive officer, Chr Hansen, called for greater recognition of the role of bacteria.

In one of the liveliest presentations at the summit, he said bacteria were one
of the first microorganisms on our planet. Bacteria now play an important role in
sustainable agriculture, as well as improving gut health.

Jong said each of our bodies carried around 2kg of bacteria. But it was only recently that scientists realised the health problems caused by the loss of good bacteria. He believed that the future was with bacterial solutions for our general health and well-being.

Alistair Davis from Olam International gave an overview of sustainability certification
schemes for agricultural commodities.

He showed that the adoption rates of such schemes were increasing, however, the demand was lagging the supply.

For instance, almost half of all cocoa is now produced sustainably, yet demand remained significantly lower.

Questions were asked about this demand shortfall by speakers in the proceeding panel discussion.

Kanayo F Nwanze, former president, International Fund for Agricultural
Development (IFAD), opened the second day of the summit.

In his keynote address, he called for greater support to agricultural smallholdings if the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals are to be achieved.

Nwanze added that 90 per cent of the world’s farms covered an area of less than ten hectares, and it was these farms that played an important role in sustainable farming and maintaining rural communities.

The sustainability challenges faced by retailers were expressed by Delia Garcia Gomez
from El Corte Ingles, Europe’s largest department store chain.

It has introduced a sustainability manifesto to ensure suppliers meet its ethical and environmental criteria.

The Italian pasta company Barilla gave insights into how it was reducing its impacts by the use of sustainable durum wheat, cage-free eggs and developing palm-free products.

The final session explored the various ways in which food and ingredient firms can address their social impacts.

Veronica Rubio from the Foreign Trade Association gave an overview of the social risks faced by companies in their supply chains.

Asia Pulp & Paper said the company was taking a multi-stakeholder approach by setting up the Belantara Foundation in Indonesia.

Monique Marez from the Organic Trade Association highlighted the social and economic benefits organic farming was having on American communities.

Fair Trade Original gave details of some of its pioneering fair trade projects in Asia. The social enterprise was growing and processing its food products in Asia to create maximum value for growers.

During the Sustainable Foods Summit, there were several references to the news that
US president Donald Trump was taking the country out of the Paris Climate Accord.

In his closing keynote, Amarjit Sahota, founder of Ecovia Intelligence, urged the private sector to take the lead for climate change

“Over the last two days, we have seen several examples of sustainability pioneers in this respect - Super Unie with its climate-neutral coffee and tea, Palsgaard with CO2-neutral production facilities and Fairtrade Originals as a carbon-zero organisation,” he added.

Sahota said the food industry should follow their lead and not wait for the government to make green policies.

Sustainability discussions will continue in upcoming summits, such as Sustainable Foods Summit Latin America (slated to take place in Sao Paulo between September 18 and 20); Sustainable Cosmetics Summit Europe (slated to take place in Paris between November 6 and 8) and Sustainable Foods Summit Asia-Pacific (slated to take place in Singapore on November 28 and 29).
 
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