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From a Carbon Neutral Dairy Farm to starch made from “wonky potatoes”, Origin Green members chart a course for change

Date: 09/11/2020


Over the past few months, pivot has become an oft used term to capture the scale of change we are seeing across busines and the economy.   

What has been encouraging to see on the sustainability front, is the real change now emerging from the seeds of sustainability plans that were sown by our Origin Green membership of 330 companies and 53,000 farmers in recent years. Even against the economic backdrop we face now, the resilience and steadfast commitment our food and drink sector is showing towards staying the course in driving positive environment action is to be commended.

The significant scope and scale of the Origin Green programme allows us to work with all of our members on developing sustainable practices in their businesses and consistently applying and measuring this impact over time. Whether big or small, it’s important that we support all Irish food and drink businesses to take meaningful steps in their journey towards sustainable food production. Sustainability action plans are central to the progress of Origin Green and our members, as they provide clear, measurable and time bound targets that will lead to tangible results and contribute to the shared efforts of the entire Origin Green programme.

At a challenging time for the food and drink sector, Origin Green members are continuing to develop their sustainability business plans and offering consumers more sustainable and locally produced food and drink products. All members of Origin Green sign up to a sustainability action plan to set goals for sustainable practices and improvements in their business, and it’s been great to see many of our members recently announce innovative and exciting sustainability initiatives. Companies like Nick’s Fish are finding new ways to continue business during COVID-19; like using their own transport rather than couriers, meaning less packaging is needed while the product is in transport, and Lee Strand Co-Operative have recently revealed their 100% renewable packaging. Members such as Meade Potato Company have developed eco-friendly packaging for their produce, and are using their “wonky potatoes” to launch Ireland’s only native food grade potato starch operation.  Another member, Carbery, is aiming to be carbon neural by 2035 and has revealed ambitious plans for a carbon-neutral dairy farm through their Farm Zero C initiative.  This builds on their Carbery Greener Dairy Farms (CGDF) programme launched in recent years which has seen participating farms achieve an average carbon footprint reduction of 15%.

To date, our verified member companies have set over 2,400 sustainability targets, demonstrating their commitment to improving the sustainability and environmental footprint of their businesses. The Origin Green Progress Report shows that in a five-year period, food manufacturers delivered an 11% reduction in energy use per unit of output and a 17% reduction in water use per unit of output. These sustainability targets, and subsequent results and reductions, are informed by businesses’ sustainability plans.

Origin Green’s food and drink manufacturing members commit to a mandatory mix of target areas specified by the Origin Green Charter. The mandatory areas, from which targets are set, form the basis of a business’s 3-5 year sustainability plan. The plan is independently verified by international verification specialists Mabbett, to ensure the targets are viable and robust. Each plan is reviewed annually and monitored for progress against the set targets.

Target areas include:

  • Raw material sourcing
  • Manufacturing processes
  • Social sustainability

Similar to manufacturers, retail and foodservice companies participate in Origin Green through the development and delivery of ambitious, measurable and time bound targets as part of a five year sustainability action plan, which is independently reviewed annually. As part of the Origin Green Retail & Foodservice Charter, participating members are asked to set targets in the following areas:

  • Sustainable sourcing
  • Operations
  • Social sustainability

In an effort to support our members in delivering on their plans, a variety of tools and resources are available from Bord Bia to participating companies as they work to achieve full Origin Green verification, as well as retain their verified member status year-on-year.

Available Supports:

  • Workshops: The Origin Green team has run over 60 introductory workshops which assist companies in understanding the programme and developing their plans.
  • Templates: Participating companies are provided with an Origin Green plan template which outlines everything that needs to be included in their sustainability plan.
  • Online Course: Following workshops, the Origin Green team runs a plan development course. The course has been designed to take companies from the introductory stage to the stage where they have developed a complete sustainability plan that is ready to become verified.
  • Feedback Reports: Individual feedback reports are provided to companies developing sustainability plans to assist with development.
  • Cross-Sectoral Knowledge Sharing: A number of visits to Origin Green verified member plants are organised with the aim of sharing knowledge about best-practice in sustainability with other companies.
  • One-to-One: Should any other queries from companies arise, the Origin Green team is on hand to offer support and guidance on a one-to-one basis.

Origin Green is committed to the long-term development of sustainable practices among all of our members. While some of our members may have farther to go than others, it’s crucial that we enable our members to take their first steps on their sustainability journey and contribute to the significant scale and scope of the Origin Green programme. Our destination remains the same; to maintain our reputation for Irish food and drink being the first choice globally, because it is trusted as sustainably produced by people who care.