In 2012 Bord Bia, the Irish Food Board, launched its sustainability development programme, Origin Green. The aim of the plan was to become world leaders in the delivery of sustainable, high-quality food and drinks products.
Origin Green is the first scheme of its kind to be rolled out on a national scale, and there are now more than 250 registered companies and over 20 fully verified members. It is hoped that by the end of 2014, some 75% of Ireland's food and drinks exports will be from Origin Green-verified members.
"From 1845 to 1847 four million Irish people starved to death during the potato famine, and a further two million subsequently emigrated. Unsurprisingly, plans to rebuild a sustainable Ireland became a priority, and Origin Green is our visionary plan to re-aggregate our food industry and rebuild our economy."
Jason Clay, senior vice president of market transformation at the World Wildlife Fund, said: "By 2050 we will need to feed nine billion people, which requires 50% more food than we are producing right now. This equates to producing the same amount of food we have consumed in the past 8,000 years in the next 40."
Clay talked of food security in terms of "national security" and advised that the best way to reduce new food required for the future was waste management.
JC Gonzalez-Mendez, senior vice president, global CSR, sustainability and philanthropy at McDonald's Corporation, said: "As a business you are only as good as your weakest link in your supply chain," which seemed to resonate with the other supplier speakers on the day, which included Inder Poonaji, head of sustainability, Nestlé UK & Ireland; Daniel Vennard, global sustainability director for brands, Mars; Stan McCarthy, chief executive, Kerry Group; and Dan Bena, head of sustainable development at PepsiCo.
Poonaji descibed Nestlé's commitment to re-planting trees and using spent coffee grounds as fuel alongside zero production waste to landfill at some factories. Vennard explained how Mars was part of a research programme looking at orphan African crops and developing genome technology to share with a global audience.
Lloyd Burdett, head of global clients and strategy at the Futures Company, advised delegates to talk to end-users in terms of 'my world', with tangible reasons as to why sustainability should matter to them, how it would keep their family safe and how it makes their family feel good.
The penultimate speaker of the day was Aidan Cotter, chief executive of Bord Bia. "We now have more cattle in Ireland than people, and our seawaters are 10 times our land mass, so Ireland has a very favourable water stress index and our infrastructure is in place.
"With verified members' case studies coming through, it's now time to spread the word and we will do this with eight Origin Green ambassadors, who will go through some rigorous training, living and breathing the Origin Green process. They will then go out into industry to learn more about other corporate sustainability policies and share our story."
Simon Coveney, minister for agriculture, food and the marine in Enda Kenny's coalition government, concluded: "Let's be clear, sustainability is a deadly serious challenge. It's a partnership of mature politics and businesses that want to be around in the future.
With milk quotas being removed in 2015 and a new common fisheries agreement to rebuild depleted fish stocks by 2020, Bord Bia is well-placed to significantly increase export industry with a process built around transparency and quality ingredients.