Europe’s largest dairy cooperative, Arla Foods, has announced its ambition that by 2050 its operations from cow to consumer will:
- Be carbon net zero, with any unavoidable emissions (for example, from farms) entirely offset by improvements elsewhere in the supply chain
- Balance nitrogen and phosphorus cycles to support clean water systems
- Be even more closely aligned with nature to further increase biodiversity across Britain’s countryside.
These new targets come after the cooperative, owned by 10,300 farmers across the UK, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, the Netherlands, and Belgium shows business growth can be achieved without environmental impact. While Arla has managed more than 40% more milk since 2005, its CO2 emissions have reduced by 22% across production and packaging; on farms CO2 emissions per kilo of milk have re-duced by 24% since 1990.
"business growth can be achieved without environmental impact"
Arla Foods UK Managing Director Ash Amirahmadi comments, "One of the greatest challenges facing us all is providing natural, nutritious food for a growing population whilst reducing our collective impact on the world around us. Arla has already shown this is possible and the new ambitions announced today will ensure Arla’s farmers, production sites and products continue to play their part in developing a sustainable world for everyone."
Whilst the targets are ambitious and will require radical changes across its business in the decades to come, Arla believes they are possible given the rapid pace of change in technology and ever-increasing on farm efficiencies. Arla’s UK examples of best practice have already proven this:
- The first carbon net zero milk processing facility in the world: Our state-of-the-art milk pro-cessing facility at Aylesbury was developed to be the first carbon net zero facility of its kind by using biogas produced on site and anaerobic digestion. The site has since created a circular economy for its operations working with Olleco and McDonald’s
- 424 tonnes of potential food waste redistributed to Fareshare: Arla has entered into an agreement with FareShare to redistribute surplus products via its networks to frontline charities who prepare meals for vulnerable people. In 2018 Arla provided 424 tonnes of dairy products to FareShare, enough to make more than 1,000,000 meals for people in need
- A 48% reduction in Arla’s UK plastic carbon footprint: that’s equivalent to 72,937 tonnes since 2005 or taking over two million 4pt milk bottles off the shelf. Arla has achieved this by reducing the weight of its standard milk bottles by 25.5% and using up to 40% recycled plastic in them, and making 84% of the packaging produced in the UK recyclable
- Thinking responsibly in everything we do: No palm oil is used in Arla products made in the UK. Where it is required in products made outside of the UK all palm oil and palm oil products come from100 per cent RSPO certified growers that have been independently verified. The WWF cites Arla as leading the way in its buyers’ score card
- Applying our cooperative principles to nature: Being part of a cooperative means working to-gether. Arla’s farmer owners work with the nature around them to apply the best environmental measures for the land they farm. This means while every Arla farmer works differently, they are all working for a more sustainable world.
Examples of actions taken by Arla’s UK farmer owners to drive sustainable change include:
- 90% of cows owned by Arla’s UK farmer owners graze on grass outdoors. On average, these cows graze for 16 hours a day 180 days of the year. Grazing is just one of many land manage-ment systems that helps absorb carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere
- Almost 1,500 Arla farms open parts of their land to public use, with farmers taking responsi-bility for the care and maintenance of Britain’s hedgerows and more than 10,000 kilometres of public footpaths
- Approx. 2,200 acres of land owned by Arla farmers is left fallow for wildlife to flourish, that’s equivalent to nearly 900 rugby pitches.
- Many farmers use renewable energy sources, across Arla’s 10,300 farmer owners the electricity produced on farms equals 61% of total electricity usage on farms.
Arla farmer owner Arthur Fearnall comments, "Every day Arla farmers take steps to support and shape Britain’s countryside. No one feels the effects of varying weather patterns more than farmers, it has a di-rect impact on the animals we care for, the food we produce and the money we make. We’ve taken some big steps at Arla, but we can’t take our feet off the pedal. Every business and individual in every walk of life will need to think about their impact on the world in the years to come."