Distilling the spirit of sustainability

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV.COM Ltd.

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Obi Onyeador [@thenewmalcolm]

This week we expect to see one of the flagship initiatives of the Von der Leyen Commission: the Farm to Fork Strategy. This hotly anticipated piece of policy, coupled with the Green Deal, promises to make the entire food chain more sustainable.

While most will welcome its introduction, there is a growing number of voices suggesting that measures aimed at improving sustainability and environmental protection should take a back seat to the economic imperative of recovery post COVID-19. This, however, fails to recognise the value that sustainability presents, something that we in the spirits sector understand acutely.

We are facing into one of the greatest economic challenges in history and the same sectors that are the engines of the spirits business – hospitality, bars, restaurants and tourism – are the businesses suffering most at the moment. They will need support from governments and from the full chain, including the spirits sector, and we are ready to play our part.

Many sectors are already calling for economic support in the form of public investment and in the form of changing legislation. As spiritsEUROPE we have already called for the swift resolution of trade tensions with the US, financial support for the hospitality sector and an end to discriminatory tax policies against spirits. However, ahead of the launch of the Farm to Fork Strategy, the EU and governments have a unique opportunity to encourage a move to sustainability in the agri-food sector by facilitating and encouraging a recovery based on improvements in sustainability and environmental protection.

The spirits sector takes sustainability very seriously. Just last week we announced our very own #Farm2Glass initiative, including our ambition to become a climate neutral sector by 2050. But sustainability is not new to our sector. In fact, it is firmly rooted at our origin. Spirits distillation itself began largely as a means to make use of excess grain during bumper harvests with innovative farmers distilling excess grain. That spirit continues through our sector over 300 years later.

As the Commission launches the Farm to Fork and furthers the Green Deal, I would urge them to take note of efforts already underway by sectors like our own. Find ways to encourage and incentivise these efforts and find ways to provide certainty and stability in these difficult times.

COVID-19 and its aftermath will leave our societies permanently changed and the months ahead will be challenging. Of that there is no doubt. But the spirits sector remains committed to sustainability and our environmental goals. I encourage the Commission to find the opportunity in this crisis, through the Farm to Fork Strategy and the Green Deal, to help us and others to make our sustainability and environmental aspirations and commitments a reality.

Read more on spiritsEUROPE’s commitment to sustainability with their #Farm2Glass brochure here.

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