Achieving net-zero emissions in the food and beverage manufacturing industry

Among the many commitments to keeping the world clean and sustainable for future generations, acheiving net-zero emissions is a significant process that manufacturers and processors, including those in the food and beverage industry, need to prepare for. 

Net-zero emission pledges revolve around the concept of either eliminating greenhouse gas emissions or offsetting its emissions through actions such as tree planting or capturing carbon before it is released into the air.

With huge retailers like Loblaws and Walmart now making net-zero pledges, it’s incumbent upon food manufacturers to follow suit.

As purchasers of raw ingredients and heavy users of water and energy, food manufacturing is a crucial step between consumer and primary producer.

“With a timeframe of somewhere around 2035, food manufacturers need to think about what this means to them,” says Mike Mikulak, Food & Beverage Manitoba’s executive director. “The reality is that the vast majority of environmental impact is on the production level.”

Consequently, companies both large and small have to take a long look at more than just their own operation.

“Of course, you have to look at how much energy and water you use, but you also have to look at other things,” he says.

Those other things include raw ingredients, and where those ingredients come from.

“You not only have to look at your suppliers, but your suppliers’ suppliers. It’s important to start asking them questions about where the ingredients come from, and what’s in them. If you keep asking and demanding, you will get answers from suppliers like farmers.”

Mikulak says there’s a central reason behind making the effort to make your operation more efficient and sustainable.

“Understanding emissions, where your ingredients come from and what’s in them allows you to respond better to consumer pressure. Food manufacturing is a critical step between consumer and producer.”

It only makes sense to put in the effort required to make your operation more efficient, and eco-friendly, he adds.

“For example, committing to using suppliers that are committed to regenerative agriculture – a holistic land practice that leverages the power of photosynthesis in plants to close the carbon cycle, build soil health, crop health and nutrient density – will help you differentiate your business in a competitive marketplace.”

As challenging as committing to becoming more eco-friendly is – and that also entails becoming more efficient with supply chain logistics – it’s worth it.

“Food is a powerful lever for promoting climate change,” says Mikulak. “Now is the time to start adapting the best practices that will make you not only more eco-friendly, but profitable, and more appealing to consumers.”

The Canadian Net-Zero Emissions Accountability Act, which became law on June 29, 2021, enshrines in legislation Canada’s commitment to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. The Act ensures transparency and accountability as the government works to deliver on its targets. 

In addition to increased efforts by the federal government to curb greenhouse gas emmissions, consumers are increasingly looking to where their food comes from, and manufacturer’s roles in limiting their environmental impact. 

“More and more businesses will see that consumers will start demanding greater accountability in where their food comes from,” says Mikulak.

“Net Zero Pledges and Your Supply Chain” will be a featured workshop at the CULTIVATE Sustainability Conference and Trade Show, being held on September 7, 2022 at the RBC Convention Centre.

This workshop will focus on how understanding Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions is vital to your ability to respond to retail and consumer pressure, and how the opportunities of regenerative agriculture and plant based formulations can help your business differentiate in the market place.

The CULTIVATE Sustainability Conference and Trade Show is the premiere sustainability conference focusing on food and beverage manufacturing and processing.