Launched in 2012 by Bord Bia (The Irish Food Board), Origin Green is a voluntary sustainability programme for Irish food and drink producers proving their commitment to operating in a sustainable manner. Working across the entire supply chain – from farm to manufacturing – it is the only sustainability programme in the world which operates on a national scale.
Today, sustainability is a driving force for many businesses and increasingly it is a factor for trade customers in choosing the suppliers or companies with whom to do business. Origin Green assures customers that the farmers and food producers they are dealing with have a proven – and independently verified – commitment to sustainability.
The voluntary programme sees food manufacturers sign up to a sustainability charter which provides the framework to develop target driven and independently verified sustainability plans. Long-term and robust targets are established across three key areas: Raw Material Sourcing; Manufacturing Processes; and Social Sustainability, with companies reporting annually on their progress against these targets. Almost three years since the launch of Origin Green, over 450 Irish food and drinks companies have registered to participate in the programme, which accounts for over 90% of Ireland’s food and drink exports.
Thus far, over 271 food and drinks companies have submitted sustainability plans, and of these, 104 are verified members of the Origin Green programme, meaning that they have had their sustainability plans approved by an independent third party – the SGS group, one of the largest and most respected auditing bodies in the world.
Ireland’s Dairy Sustainability Journey
At present, Ireland’s 18,000 dairy farms are producing 5.5 billion litres of milk per annum, 90% of which is exported to over 140 countries worldwide and with a growing global demand for dairy produce, the Irish dairy industry has committed to delivering a further 50% increase in production by 2020.
With a mixed climate and abundant rainfall, Ireland is naturally suited to sustainable dairy farming. Rich soils provide the platform to produce lush green pastures on which Irish dairy cows can graze for up to 300 days a year. As a result of this extensive grass based production, Ireland has the most carbon efficient dairy production system within the EU along with a water footprint and water stress index that compares favourably to other countries. Furthermore, outdoor grazing for over 42 weeks of the year lends itself to a more animal friendly production system.
To date, 23 of Ireland’s top dairy companies have become verified members of Origin Green with sustainability plans already in place. Origin Green is building on the Irish dairy industry’s unrivalled experience in the international marketplace and reputation for rigorous food safety standards along with the enduring strengths of a long established farming tradition.
At farm level, the Sustainable Dairy Assurance Scheme (SDAS) – a programme which is independently verified and internationally accredited by the Carbon Trust – is currently being implemented on effectively all of Ireland’s 18,000 dairy farms. Launched in 2013, the SDAS is the first national dairy scheme of its kind in the world which sets out requirements for best practice on Irish dairy farms in animal health and welfare, land management, biosecurity, safe farming practices and the production of safe milk.
Every 18 months, each farm is re-assessed in a process of measurement, feedback and continuous improvement and using the Carbon Navigator tool, the greenhouse gas emissions of each dairy herd are calculated with detailed feedback provided of the environmental impact of each farms production system.
Now, Origin Green and the Sustainable Dairy Assurance Scheme (SDAS) are writing a new chapter in Ireland’s sustainability story. On our dairy farms and in our dairy businesses, we are measuring, learning and improving – giving international buyers access to a safe, secure dairy supply chain that meets and exceeds international sustainability criteria, with integrity and transparency.