Victoria signs food sustainability covenant

Posted by Nicole Eckersley on 28th October 2010

A landmark new partnership to improve the sustainability of Australia’s $102 billion food and grocery manufacturing industry in Victoria has been signed today between the Victorian Government and the Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC).

Under the innovative Sustainability Covenant, Environment Protection Authority (EPA) Victoria, Sustainability Victoria and AFGC will commit up to $500,000 over three years to support food and grocery manufacturers in Victoria to produce food and grocery products more sustainably by reducing water use, energy use and waste production.

Victoria is widely considered Australia’s “food bowl”, with about one third of Australia’s food coming from the state.

AFGC Chief Executive Kate Carnell said while many AFGC members were reducing their carbon and water footprints, the new Covenant – a tri-partisan agreement between AFGC, Sustainability Victoria and the Environment Protection Authority Victoria – will enable industry to continue to produce clean, affordable, nutritious and sustainable food.

“By working together with government, industry will be better placed to reduce water use, improve energy efficiency and reduce food waste,” Carnell said. “As the Federal Government investigates reducing water allocations in the food bowl, industry must be committed to becoming more efficient – producing more with less.”

EPA Victoria Chief Executive Officer John Merritt said the Sustainability Covenant will enable industry to work collaboratively with the Environment Protection Authority Victoria on initiatives that will directly benefit businesses.

The first project under the Covenant is training AFGC members in the new Food Processing Sector Supplement from the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), the gold standard for sustainability reporting.

“Helping companies to improve their reporting is an important first step – if they are not measuring, they are unlikely to make improvements,” Mr Merritt said.

Sustainability Victoria Chief Executive Officer Anita Roper said that the Covenant will enable the AFGC to support businesses. “We are looking forward to seeing the implementation of tangible behavioural change activities, which will increase resource efficiency and strengthen this important industry sector.”

A range of projects are planned, including a feasibility study into food waste composting in regional areas like Albury Wodonga and Ballarat. While focused on Victoria, the Covenant is expected to generate flow-on benefits to companies that have manufacturing sites in other states.