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Irish Farmer

Driving the Sustainability Agenda across Ireland’s Food and Drink Sector

As we emerge from an extremely challenging year, I am so proud to see how our Origin Green members have continued to innovate and develop their sustainability business plans, offering consumers more sustainable and locally produced food and drink products.


Origin Green is Ireland’s food and drink sustainability programme, and drives sustainability improvements across the entire supply chain from farmers to manufacturers, to foodservice and retailers. Collaboration and partnership is at the heart of what we do in Ireland, and it is critical to acting and developing sustainably – recognized in #17 of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. As of now, Origin Green aligns with 15 of the 17 SDGs, and to further support this, Bord Bia became a United Nations Global Compact (UNGC) member in June of 2018.


Presently, we are almost six years on from the agreement of SDGs by UN Member States in 2015 and now have nine years remaining to achieve our ambitious targets and end issues such as hunger and inequality, while protecting our planet from climate change. SDG #17, Partnership for the Goal, reiterates the importance of coming together to implement sustainable development. Partnership has always been part of the Irish story of food production, small family farms meant and still mean that neighbours help one another – we even have a name in the Irish language for this ‘meitheal’ and although there is no direct translation, the meaning is a co-operative or a team of mutually supporting workers.


Origin Green puts a framework behind our farming systems: As a country with family farming traditions and lush green pastures, Ireland has a history of being recognised as sustainable, however, Origin Green is striving to create proof-points behind that, to put a systematic framework in place to prove that food is produced sustainably here. The programme does just that, Origin Green connects all parts of the supply chain; 53,000 farms, 324 Irish food producers (representing over 90% of our exports) the government and international NGOs, to prove and improve the sustainability of the food they produce to meet the evolving needs of global customers and consumers. Origin Green shows that Irish food and drink producers have a sustainability plan, that they are driving change, that they are making improvements, and that it is independently verified. Our member companies have set over 2,400 sustainability targets. Throughout the country, over 100 independent auditors undertake 650 weekly assessments on farm as part of our Sustainable Assurance Schemes. In addition to quality measures, the sustainability criteria being measured and monitored are greenhouse gas emissions, biodiversity, water use, energy efficiency, soil management and socio-economic factors.


The commitment of our members to Origin Green shows that there is a national movement. The challenge for us and for our members is to continue to focus on driving those proof-points and maintaining our reputation as a leader of sustainability. The programme continues to play a pivotal role in evolving the advancement of the Sustainable Development Goals within the Irish food and drink industry.


We share our Origin Green story with the world: We can demonstrate the alignment of the Origin Green Charter now with 15 of the 17 SDGs. We are going further by creating a cohort of future leaders in sustainability – this year will see the 50th Origin Green Ambassador appointed as part of our Talent Academy. Collectively these future leaders have undertaken over 100 projects with companies in 14 countries including the US, China, UAE and Europe. Origin Green and what we are doing in Ireland continues to evolve, most recently establishing the world’s first national grass-fed standard independently verifying the proportion of grass in our dairy and beef herds’ diet.


As we emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic and realise the realities of climate and biodiversity crises, it is critical that we all come together as a planet to drive the sustainability agenda forward. With the UN Food Systems Summit taking place this July, it is vital that food producers recognise the role we play in ensuring our food systems develop better production systems, employment conditions, and drive change for sustainability. Bord Bia’s ongoing development and evolution of the Origin Green programme showcases our steadfast commitment to promoting the delivery of the SDGs within the Irish food and drink industry.


For more information visit: www.origingreen.ie


Author: Deirdre Ryan

Deirdre Ryan holds an MSc in Business Sustainability, an MBS in International Business from UCD Smurfit Graduate School, and a degree in International Commerce with Italian from University College Dublin. She is also an Irish Olympian; she competed in the high jump at the London 2012 Olympics.

Prior to her appointment in Bord Bia, Deirdre was Head of Corporate Social Responsibility for Lidl Ireland & Northern Ireland, where she led the development and implementation of their sustainability strategy. From 2013 to 2015, as part of Bord Bia’s Origin Green Ambassador programme, Deirdre was responsible for building trade awareness globally for the sustainability credentials of Irish food and drink producers.