Interviews · 8min read
Interview with Laura Degallaix from FoodDrinkEurope
Learn how this reputable industry policymaker is driving sustainability along the food supply chain.
FoodDrinkEurope promotes ideas, innovations and policies that enable the European food and drink industry to make products that are safe and contribute to a greener planet, healthier living and thriving economy. The team coordinates the work of more than 700 experts.
About Laura Degallaix
Before becoming Director Environmental Sustainability at FoodDrinkEurope in 2019, Laura Degallaix held a series of exciting roles, including Director at the European European Environmental Citizens Organisation for Standardisation (ECOS), Programme Manager for the Environment and Services Sectors at ANEC, the European Consumer Voice in Standardisation and Head of the Environment and Safety Department BEUC, The European Consumers' Organisation.
How is FoodDrinkEurope supporting small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) on the road to becoming more sustainable and equitable?
FoodDrinkEurope promotes and represents the interests of the European food and drink sector, around 289,000 enterprises, in the development of EU legislation and policies. The industry is made up of 99% of SMEs.
FoodDrinkEurope is working to ensure our positions and actions reflect their expectations and needs. For example, we call for enabling and supporting measures to be introduced to ensure a swift transition to more sustainable food systems that leave no one behind.
What’s more, we’re also inviting SMEs to tell their sustainability stories to EU policymakers here in Brussels with The Foodies Awards. Applications are currently open until 31 May 2022. We will announce the winners in Brussels in September.
What policies is FoodDrinkEurope currently tackling concerning carbon emissions along the food supply chain?
Food production from farm-to-fork represents 30% of total carbon emissions within the EU, with the manufacturing process accounting for 11% of this share (3% of the total). Decarbonisation of the food manufacturing sector can therefore significantly contribute to the EU’s carbon neutrality targets.
FoodDrinkEurope signed the EU’s ground-breaking farm-to-fork Code of Conduct, in which food chain actors committed to reaching carbon neutrality by 2050. To this end, FoodDrinkEurope has issued a decarbonisation roadmap with over 95 concrete actions that manufacturers, including SMEs, could take to help reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
We are also engaged in the political discussions around the Fit for 55 package as well as some of the related legislation to ensure that they will provide the right support to the efforts by SMEs in the food and drink industry.
In the transition to better practices along the food supply chain, what are some of the most significant economic challenges SMEs currently face? And how are they looking to overcome these challenges?
SMEs are uniquely placed at the centre of the food supply chain and, as part of the wider European food and drink industry, purchase 70% of all EU agricultural raw materials.
SMEs are currently confronted with rising input and energy costs. This was fulled by the onset of the pandemic and has been amplified by the impact of the war in Ukraine. They will need EU and national measures to offer relief in the short term.
In parallel, Unfair Trading Practices (UTPs) impose a serious threat along the food chain and are detrimental to all operators, especially SMEs. The EU Directive on UTPs was recently transposed and enforced, so it is too early to assess its overall benefits on the ground. Member States’ upcoming annual reports will provide important information, and the European Commission will publish its first evaluation of the Directive with a legal proposal by 1 November 2025.
Tell us more about FoodDrinkEurope's role and commitments as part of the EU's Circular Plastic Alliance.
The food and drink industry accounts for 60% of EU packaging. From packaging reduction to increased recycled content—we are working hard towards more sustainable packaging solutions.
FoodDrinkEurope is, therefore, part of the Circular Plastics Alliance—a collective effort of the plastics value chain to ensure that at least 10 million tonnes of recycled plastics go into new products by 2025. We hope that this work can boost plastic recycling in Europe and help big companies and SMEs alike increase the recycled content of their packaging. But it won’t work alone. The packaging legislation review expected in July will be vital in ensuring that the right framework conditions are in place to support a fully circular economy for food packaging.
Between the long-awaited Green Claims initiative and impending legislative framework for Sustainable Food System, we expect to see some exciting emergences in the food labelling and packaging spheres in 2022/2023. What changes should SMEs brace themselves for?
We are at a critical time in history. We must avoid a damaging rise in global temperatures and loss of biodiversity while continuing to provide safe, affordable, high quality and nutritious food to a growing population. As one of the largest manufacturing sectors in Europe, the food and drink industry has an important role to play in the transition toward more sustainable food systems.
The transition will require significant efforts and investment from the whole food supply chain, especially SMEs. The legislative framework for sustainable food systems can ensure a smooth transition provided it takes growth, food security, innovation and competitiveness into account.
For further reading explore European Green Deal: the New Farm to Fork & Biodiversity Strategies on foodcircle Magazine.
Imagery: Courtesy of FoodDrinkEurope