Barry O'Donovan resource efficiency manager, Sinead Nee environmental officer, and John Durkan sustainability and environmental manager all at ABP Food Group. 

Active role

Sustainability is embedded at every level at ABP, from its staff to its supply chain 

As a business that depends on natural resources for its products, ABP Food Group believes it has a responsibility to ensure that those resources are in place for the next generation. A fully integrated agri-business, its main business function – the processing of beef – is supported by three tangential businesses: a pet foods division, a renewables division, and a proteins division. This structure ensures that ABP’s products are processed in the most sustainable manner possible.”

The company’s environmental strategy, Doing More with Less, works to ensure that staff understand the role of sustainability and its importance in ABP and the wider community, and are motivated to continuously reduce the environmental impact of the company across the supply chain. In November 2020, ABP’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions targets were validated by the Science Based Targets Initiative (SBTi) demonstrating the company’s commitment to aligning its sustainability strategy to the global climate change goals as set out in the 2015 Paris Agreement. The new targets address GHG emissions across ABP’s business operations and its supply chain. Commenting on the SBTi validation, John Durkan, head of sustainability said: “The validation of our targets clearly maps the carbon-reduction journey required by ABP so that we can play our part in helping reduce global emissions. We have already made great progress since the introduction of our sustainability strategy in 2008 and we look forward to building on that progress and accelerating our work as we now look to 2030 and beyond.” The company has established a wide range of projects aimed at reducing environmental impacts across its supply chain.

Farm level

At farm level, the company has been conducting collaborative research with Teagasc and the Irish Cattle Breeding Federation (ICBF) with an aim of improving the all-round sustainability (economic and environmental) of dairy beef using improved genetics in the dairy herd. The study is run on the company’s R&D beef farm in county Wexford which spans 280 acres. It is owned and run by an experienced beef-farming family. The research has also examined feed intake, grass types and herd health. Almost 3,000 animals have participated in the scheme so far and the latest findings show that emission reductions of up to 36% across different breeds can be achieved through better genetic management and improved production efficiencies. The findings could have a significant role to play when it comes to agricultural greenhouse gas abatement as set out in Ireland’s 2019 Climate Action Plan.

Processing sites

In its processing facilities, the company is leading the way when it comes to improved water management and conservation, with ABP Cahir becoming the first food processor in Europe to achieve the European Water Stewardship (EWS) standard. These learnings have now been applied across all other processing sites as part of a pilot group for the new European Water Stewardship Multi-Site and Catchment Group Scheme. This multi-site scheme also includes two ABP sites in Northern Ireland and its joint venture partners, Slaney Foods and Irish Country Meats. Water consumption since 2008 has more than halved.

Waste minimisation

APB uses lean techniques to identify areas creating most waste across its sites and to date, it has reduced its waste by 700 tonnes. ABP Clones overhauled its meat-packing process with the singular goal of reducing waste and developing more sustainable food production. The initiative included staff training, the introduction of more durable packing, and optimising the operation of its packaging machines. It resulted in a 70% reduction in waste generation – 1.5 tonnes of packaging per day – with the same processes now being rolled out across all other sites.

End consumer

Helping the end consumer reduce their environmental impact is another focus area and to help achieve this, the company co-founded the Plastics Action Alliance. It is also a member of EIT Food, a consortium of 50 leading food and technology companies, start-ups and research institutes from across Europe chosen through a competitive process. EIT Food members, which include Danone, PepsiCo and Nestlé can collaborate with and learn from their counterparts. As the consortium’s only meat processor, ABP is also able to bring its industry expertise to R&D projects and ensure new technology is developed with the red-meat industry’s needs in mind.  

Article appeared in issue 4, 2020

 

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