What is Origin Green?
Origin Green is Ireland’s pioneering food and drink sustainability programme, operating on a national scale, uniting government, the private sector, farmers and food producers.
It is a voluntary programme, led by Bord Bia (the Irish Food Board), that brings together our food industry – from farmers to food producers, retailers to foodservice operators – with the common goal of sustainable food production.
This programme enables Ireland’s food industry to set and achieve measurable sustainability targets that respect the environment and serve local communities more effectively. Crucially, Origin Green is about measuring and improving how we do this on an ongoing basis. Independent accreditation and verification are built into every stage of the supply chain. Accreditation at farm-level is provided to ISO: 17065 and Carbon Trust (PAS 2050), while food and drink manufacturers are independently verified by international auditors, Mabbett.
The overall ambition of the Origin Green programme is that farms and food manufacturing businesses throughout Ireland sign up to the sustainability agenda, making measurable commitments to producing in a sustainable manner, with progress independently assessed and verified.
Realising that no one country, sector or individual business can solely lead the move towards global sustainable production, we are committed to working with both domestic and international partners to improve performance through collaboration.
How does Origin Green work?
Origin Green for farmers - Encouraging Sustainable Farming
On-farm assessments constitute a key component of the Origin Green programme. The rollout of sustainability assessments at farm level has been made possible by Bord Bia’s pre-existing Quality Assurance infrastructure, which has been in place for over twenty years. This infrastructure sees more than 100 farm auditors undertake almost 800 independent farm audits each week. Traditionally, these assessments have focused on traceability, animal health & welfare, and general environmental issues, with an overarching focus on food safety. All of these elements are still relevant from a sustainability perspective.
In 2012, these well-established schemes were expanded into Sustainable Assurance Schemes, marking the beginning of Origin Green.
Origin Green encourages sustainable farming and expands the scope and depth of sustainability measures tracked, in order to ensure that the programme delivers an assessment system which measures what matters. The additional sustainability criteria being measured to date, as part of Origin Green include greenhouse gas; biodiversity; water measures; energy efficiency; soil management and socio-economic factors. The information gathered by each auditor is combined with data from two other national livestock databases; the Animal Identification & Movement (AIM) and the Irish Cattle Breeders Federation (ICBF).
Following each audit, the farmer receives notification of the results in a feedback report on the farm’s performance, with reassessments every 18 months. This allows them to make informed decisions on improving the sustainability of their farms while also improving their efficiency and farm viability.
Farmers who fail to adhere to the core requirements within Bord Bia’s Sustainability and Quality Assurance Schemes can have certification removed if suitable mitigation procedures have not been introduced. For non-critical non-conformances, a closeout model is in place giving farmers one month following the audit to close outstanding issues.
To date, there are over 50,000 farmers in the newly launched Sustainable Beef and Lamb Assurance Scheme and the Sustainable Dairy Assurance Scheme. Launched in November 2017, Sustainable Egg Quality Assurance Scheme (SEAS) already covers 97% of Irish egg production. Sustainability assurance schemes are also being developed for poultry and pigs.
Find out more about the Bord Bia sustainable assurance schemes
Origin Green for food businesses
Ireland’s food business members commit to a mandatory mix of target areas specified by the Origin Green Charters; Manufacturing, and Retail and Foodservice. 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 inspection, testing and verification specialists, Mabbett, to ensure the targets are viable and robust. Each plan is reviewed annually and monitored for progress against the set targets. Membership of the programme is confined to those setting and achieving targets.
The mandatory mix of areas include:
- Raw material sourcing (minimum 1 target in this area)
- Manufacturing processes and operations (such as energy, water, waste, emissions and biodiversity (minimum 3 targets in this area)
- Social sustainability, including health and nutrition; community initiatives; and employee wellbeing (minimum 2 targets in this area)
Each member must also submit a progress report annually outlining the performance against the targets established within their respective sustainability plans. This annual review is also audited by Mabbett to ensure progress is being achieved against targets set. This is carried out through a mixture of both on-site and desktop based audits.
Food and drink manufacturers, retailers and foodservice operators can be removed from the Origin Green programme for:
- Failing to submit a progress report annually
- Failing to use reasonable endeavours to adhere to the commitments set out in the company’s Origin Green Sustainability Plan
- Breaching legislative compliance which is a core requirement of the Origin Green charter
At present, Origin Green has over 350 companies with independently verified and annually monitored sustainability plans. These members represent 90% of total Irish food and drink exports.