EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH IRISH FOOD BOARD'S CHIEF EXECUTIVE AIDAN COTTER

Hollywood actor Saoirse Ronan honoured for Irish food sustainability film

By Fiona Barry

- Last updated on GMT

Irish film star, Saoirse Ronan, has been honoured by the Irish Minister for Agriculture for her role promoting food sustainability.

Ronan, who has starred in Hollywood films including Atonement ​alongside Keira Knightley, and The Lovely Bones​ with Rachel Weisz, is the face of ‘Origin Green’, Ireland’s sustainable development programme. Bord Bia (the Irish Food Board) claims it is “the first of its kind in the world​”.

Ronan was presented with flowers by Irish politician Simon Coveney at a gala dinner promoting the Irish food industry to global delegates who were entertained by her film “The World is Hungry for Food Sustainability”​ and traditional Irish dancers and Celtic drumming.

 

AIDAN COTTER
Chief Executive Aidan Cotter, speaks at Bord Bia's sustainability conference

Aidan Cotter, Chief Executive of Bord Bia, told DairyReporter.com’s Fiona Barry that Ronan made a film supporting Origin Green free of charge because “at 18 years of age, […] she is at that age where the issue of sustainability matters an awful lot. Because this is about providing for future generations and ensuring that the way we operate today does not compromise the ability of future generations […].​”

“No ‘one-size-fits-all’”

Origin Green is a charter that commits Ireland’s food and drink industries, including dairy, to quality assurance and to making their production more environmentally and socially sustainable.

Targets vary between firms, and areas include emissions, energy, waste, water, biodiversity and corporate social responsibility. Companies are required to plan timelines and annual targets, which are verified by a third party, the accreditation multinational SGS.

According to Bord Bia, sustainability efforts will help food firms “boost the efficiency of their supply chain while also driving brand reputation and securing supplies over the longer term.​”

The structure of Origin Green, said the Irish Food Board, “allows companies to design their own measures around sustainability, with an understanding that there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution to ensure sustainable practices within such a wide variety of manufacturers. In effect, it allows companies to structure the strategic direction of their sustainability agenda without compromising their export growth potential.​”

Since its launch in 2012, more than 300 food companies have registered with the programme, encompassing 18,000 Irish dairy farms. The scheme aims for 75% of Ireland’s exports to be from Origin Green members by the end of 2014, and for 100% participation by 2016.

Glanbia Dairy Ingredients Ireland, Mossfield, Lakeland Dairies, and Dairygold Food Ingredients are among those who have signed up.

‘The greatest success for us if everybody stole it’

At Bord Bia’s conference on sustainability in Dublin on September 26, multinational companies expressed support for the programme. Stan McCarthy, Chief Executive of Kerry Group said “organisations like Origin Green are for the greater good.​”

Dan Bena, head of sustainable development, PepsiCo said, “There are a lot of certifying organisations that maintain that pride of ownership almost as their IP ​[intellectual property], and they really are hesitant to share it. Aidan ​[Cotter] impressed me by telling me the greatest success for OG is if everybody stole it.”

Aidan Cotter also used the conference to launch a programme of Origin Green ‘ambassadors’, ten executives trained by University College Dublin Smurfit Graduate Business School to promote sustainability among global food and beverage companies.

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