Charting the Path to Net-Zero Emissions: A Call to Action for Food Manufacturers

In the pursuit of a cleaner and sustainable world for future generations, achieving net-zero emissions stands as a vital endeavor, especially for manufacturers and processors, including those in the food and beverage industry.

Net-zero emission commitments revolve around the idea of either eradicating greenhouse gas emissions entirely or compensating for them through actions such as reforestation and carbon capture before release into the atmosphere. With major retailers like Loblaws and Walmart recently making net-zero commitments, it becomes imperative for food manufacturers to follow suit.

Food manufacturing plays a pivotal role in the supply chain, acting as a crucial link between consumers and primary producers. “With a target timeline roughly around 2035, food manufacturers must contemplate its implications,” emphasizes Mike Mikulak, Executive Director of Food & Beverage Manitoba. “The truth is, the majority of environmental impact occurs at the production level.”

Hence, both large and small companies must broaden their perspective beyond their own operations. Mikulak explains, “Certainly, examining your energy and water consumption is important, but you must also consider other factors.” These include scrutinizing the origins of raw ingredients. “You should not only assess your suppliers but delve into your suppliers’ suppliers. Start asking questions about ingredient sources and composition. Persistence in inquiries will yield insights, even from primary suppliers like farmers.”

Mikulak underscores the primary motivation behind making efforts to enhance efficiency and sustainability. “Understanding emissions, ingredient sourcing, and composition enables better responsiveness to consumer demands. Food manufacturing is a critical juncture between consumers and producers.”

Consequently, investing in measures to make your operations more efficient and eco-friendly is not just logical; it’s imperative. Mikulak adds, “For instance, committing to suppliers dedicated to regenerative agriculture—a holistic land practice that harnesses photosynthesis in plants to close the carbon cycle, enhance soil and crop health, and boost nutrient density—can set your business apart in a competitive market.”

While embracing the challenge of becoming more environmentally friendly, which also involves streamlining supply chain logistics, may be demanding, the rewards are well worth it. “Food holds significant influence in addressing climate change,” notes Mikulak. “Now is the time to adopt best practices that will not only make your operation more eco-friendly but also more profitable and appealing to consumers.”

The Canadian Net-Zero Emissions Accountability Act, enacted on June 29, 2021, legally commits Canada to achieving net-zero emissions by 2050. This legislation ensures transparency and accountability in the government’s pursuit of its emissions reduction targets.

In tandem with the federal government’s increased efforts to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, consumers are growing more conscious of the origins of their food and manufacturers’ roles in limiting environmental impact. “Businesses will increasingly witness consumers demanding greater transparency in food sourcing,” predicts Mikulak.

To delve deeper into the race toward achieving net-zero, secure your ticket for Cultivate, Manitoba’s premiere sustainability conference for food and beverage processors, scheduled for February 6 at the Victoria Inn.