Article appeared in issue 2, 2022
Glanbia Ireland shares its path to Net Zero Carbon by 2050
Glanbia Ireland has a strong focus on sustainability across every element of its world-class food supply chain, from its farms to its facilities. Last year was a landmark year for the organisation with the launch of its sustainability strategy, ‘Living Proof’, which escalates the rate and pace of sustainability action right across the business. “As part of Living Proof, Glanbia Ireland signed up to the global Science-Based Targets initiative (SBTi) to show its clear and unambiguous commitment to reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by implementing the best of science and technology,” says Glanbia Ireland’s chief innovation and sustainability officer, François Morgan.
The company’s ambition is to reach Net Zero Carbon by no later than 2050, in line with the Irish Government’s commitment in the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Bill. “This shows the commitment of the farming community and the company to make a real difference by achieving the ambitious targets set out in its plans,” he says. “To help deliver on its ambitious aims we’ve targeted areas such as carbon reduction, regenerative agriculture, natural nutrition, the circular economy and growing together.” The company and its 2,100 employees, alongside over 5,500 family farms, are all working to prioritise practical actions to continue to improve key areas such as air and water quality, animal health and welfare, biodiversity, packaging and production.
As part of Living Proof, Glanbia Ireland pledged to achieve a 30% absolute reduction in carbon emissions from its processing sites by 2030. In addition, it’s working with dairy farmers towards a similar cut in carbon intensity from milk production. “Irish farmers operate small-scale grass-based farming to world class standards,” says Francois. “Farm families are proud of their farms and consider themselves custodians of the rural environment. We’re determined therefore to continue to work closely with family farms to continue to build on Ireland’s great natural credentials.”
Obstacles and opportunities
Sustainability is incorporated into every element of the day-to-day work practices at Glanbia. “We work to ensure that sustainability is not simply a set of targets to be met but a living, breathing programme,” says François.
As a farmer-owned co-operative, the company has a strong involvement with the value chain, from its farm inputs to its farmer suppliers to its end-consumers. “This has helped to give us a deep understanding of both the challenges and opportunities to embed sustainability all along our supply chain,” says François.
He gives the example of Glanbia’s ‘Truly Grass Fed’ premium brand of sustainably produced Irish cheese and butter in the US marketplace, which recently joined the 1% for the Planet initiative, with 1% of its annual revenue going to the non-profit organisation, Slow Food USA. “The aim is to achieve good, clean and fair food for all and it fits in well with TGF’s aim of delivering products with integrity for our people, animals and the planet,” says François.
Sustainability and community are also top of the agenda for Glanbia’s award-winning Avonmore dairy brand. The company has switched to paper straws on its recyclable Tetra Pak milk cartons which are supplied to hundreds of schools throughout Ireland. It saves 2.7 tonnes of plastic per annum or the equivalent weight of two average-sized cars in the process. The new paper straws are certified fully recyclable and made with Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified paper, indicating that the paper is from a well-managed responsible source.
“This is in line with our commitment to ensure that 100% of our packaging will be compatible with the circular economy by 2025,” says François.
Sustainability on farms
Glanbia has a number of programmes that it operates on farms, along with a team of farm advisers that are well-equipped to encourage sustainable best practice. “For instance, on our farms we recently launched an €18m annual Sustainability Action Payment as part of a three-year programme to assist our 5,000 milk suppliers as they continue to enhance the environmental and economic sustainability of their family farms,” says François. “As part of this initiative, dairy suppliers will receive a payment per litre of milk supplied to deliver specific sustainability actions. It will equate to almost €3,000 in 2022 for the average supplier.”
Glanbia Ireland is also a partner in the Teagasc Signpost Farms initiative, through its Future Farms knowledge transfer programme, which is designed to harness advancements in technology and farm practices to continue to improve sustainability on farms. “I’m also proud to say that we recently hit our target 12 months ahead of plan of working with our farmers to deliver 100,000 new native trees and hedgerow on our farms as part of our Operation Biodiversity programme,” adds François.
Promoting sustainability amongst customers
Glanbia was one of the first companies in Ireland to achieve the Bord Bia-approved Origin Green Gold status and it’s proud of the fact. “Bord Bia and its Origin Green Standard is recognised by our customers near and far as being a hallmark programme operating to a high level,” says François. “All of our suppliers are participants in on-farm audits and 100% of dairy suppliers are certified sustainable under the Bord Bia Sustainable Dairy Assurance Scheme (SDAS).”
Glanbia hits Tree planting target and launches
Ireland's first Sustainable Farming Academy
Glanbia Ireland and its farm family suppliers have achieved their Operation Biodiversity target of planting 100,000 native trees and hedgerow plants one year ahead of schedule.
“Our farm family suppliers have demonstrated strong commitment to sustainability action by embracing the Operation Biodiversity initiative with great gusto,” John Murphy, chairman of Glanbia Ireland and Glanbia Co-op.
“We pledged to plant 100,000 native trees and hedgerows in two years. It was one of several on-farm commitments also included in our ‘Living Proof’ sustainability strategy. We were delighted to reach this target a full year ahead of schedule.” Another sustainability initiative by Glanbia Ireland will see a collaboration with its customer Bailey's Irish Creme Liquer, with the launch of Ireland's first sustainable farming academy.
The Sustainable Farming Academy is an education initiative that will empower Glanbia Ireland’s suppliers of quality milk and grain with the most relevant and up-to-date knowledge to continue to address sustainability challenges. It’s also aligned with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, specifically focusing on Goal number four – Quality Education.
The Sustainable Farming Academy’s academic partner University College Cork will deliver an accredited and fully-funded diploma in environment, sustainability and climate to 20 farmer suppliers each year. The diploma is designed to fit in with each farmer’s full-time, on-farm responsibilities.
The year-long UCC adult continuing education diploma recognises prior learning and each participant’s existing sustainability knowledge. Modules include earth science, climate change and sustainable development as well as ecology, applied geographical information systems, environmental protection, practical environmental management and more – all of which are directly applicable on a farm. The initiative is another part of the company's sustainability strategy. “Working together with Baileys through the Sustainable Farming Academy we are committed to supporting our family farm suppliers on their sustainability journey,” says John. “Working in partnership we will help them boost their knowledge, skills and know-how to farm more sustainably for the benefit of future generations.”
Jennifer English, global brand director for Baileys comments on the launch, “We are delighted to partner with Glanbia Ireland to continue to support farming communities now and for generations to come.” Wicklow-based, Glanbia Ireland milk supplier, Amanda Mooney comments: “As a dairy farmer with a farm that has been passed to us from a previous generation, and with our children already starting their journey with the same farm, we very much see ourselves as caretakers of the land, working to preserve and nurture it, so that it can be passed on for generations to come. The introduction of the Sustainable Farming Academy will help farmers like me in this ambition; both in learning how to farm more sustainably in the day to day, as well as tapping into sustainable farming innovations as they come to market.”