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Net Zero & Sustainable Food Production – A Pipe Dream?

Net Zero & Sustainable Food Production – A Pipe Dream?

For the food production and distribution sectors in the UK, operating in a sustainable manner is not yet a widespread practice.  

The global industry is no different and “without transformational changes to global food systems it will not be possible to limit global heating to 1.5 °C.” 

Unfortunately, emissions from food production are expected to increase due to growing demand for emission-intensive food and a rising population. However, with Net Zero agreements in place for the international community and industry-specific legislation impacting food production in the UK, changes will soon become unavoidable. 

Whether large organisations like it or not, they will have to make a green transition that involves the reduction of emissions and reliance on fossil fuels. 

However, new technology such as True and a wide range of innovations in renewable power are driving change. In this article, we’ll analyse the key challenges facing the food industry and potential solutions that can be implemented now and in the future. 

ESOS and Scope Emissions 

The ESOS Phase 3 deadline is now set for 5th June 2024, having been extended from November 7th 2023 and qualifying UK businesses must report on their emissions by this date, including those in the food production sector. 

Scope 3 makes up more than 90% of a company’s carbon footprint and businesses are increasingly looking to their supply chain to be actively reducing their emissions as a means of ensuring they are meeting their own Scope 3 targets.  

Dean Attwell, Oakland International CEO, said the UK food supply chain is, “up for its biggest period of distortion and disruption in the last decade.” 

For food producers and distributors, the weight of decarbonisation falls on them, and they need to ensure that they are meeting downstream demand for sustainability from supermarkets and consumers, or else risk losing valuable business. 


The Food and Drink Federation has declared its aspiration for the industry to reach the net zero target by 2040, ten years ahead of the global target of Net Zero by 2050. 

If you have not started to calculate your emissions in your ESOS report, our team and partners can take responsibility for your reporting and ensure the submission is on time.

Learn more, here. 

Where Conscience meets Commercials 

For UK food producers and distributors, Net Zero may seem like a nebulous target and one that would come at the cost of commercial growth, however, the opposite is true.  

Unless changes are made in a gradual, purposeful and strategic manner, the food sector will simply shed off the organisations that do not comply with sustainable practices. Furthermore, as the energy landscape continues to become more volatile, the reliance on the national grid for energy may become increasingly risky.  

Ruari Cairns, Director of Risk Management for True, said:

“We’ve never seen such unpredictability in the supply and cost of energy in the UK. The global landscape is rapidly shifting and businesses cannot afford to ignore what is going on. Investments in renewable technology may seem like an overhead that isn’t worth the investment but if the winter 2022 energy crisis taught us anything, it’s that businesses that were proactive and had strong on-site renewable power were the least exposed to the price spike.” 

Oakland International is an integrated supply chain specialist that operates across the UK and Ireland. The organisation champions sustainability and has been recognised as a leader within the food production sector. 

By combining their energy procurement and sustainability strategy, they have successfully saved over £4.4 million and are progressing year-on-year in reducing their carbon emissions.  

The business has taken advantage of onsite wind and solar PV generation and is making use of anaerobic digestion, fleet electrification and various energy efficiency measures to further streamline its processes and reduce consumption.  

As a result, Oakland International has improved the volume of retailers it supplies. Having worked with the True team to implement a range of energy cost savings and carbon reductions, the future is looking bright for Dean Attwell and his business.  

“True enables businesses to assess the impact of investments in renewable energy and understand how they deliver against Net Zero goals, all while energy costs are brought down and emissions are lowered. I think this is a game changer for companies who genuinely want to develop a road map to Net Zero and save money.” 

By 2030, Oakland International is on target to achieve a 43% emission reduction from 2018 and since working with the True team. 

Your Net Zero Journey 

Achieving Net Zero will require the collective support of millions of people around the world, but for a single organisation, there are more clearly defined steps to take. 

The process may seem daunting and almost impossible to start, but with a clear process and the right experts, sustainable food production is achievable. 

Step 1 – Collate energy procurement, renewable investments and emissions data in one place 

Collate your energy procurement strategy, power consumption, emission figures and benchmark them against your key targets in one place. By creating a single source of truth, you can begin to tackle the biggest issues impacting your green goals. You will also ensure that you do not have any blind spots or nasty surprises in the future such as being penalised for failing to comply with regulations. 

Furthermore, you can track and report on the money your business invests in sustainable initiatives, ensuring complete transparency and clarity of returns and results.  

True has been designed to deliver a precise and complete picture of your road to Net Zero, bringing together energy procurement, emissions tracking and investment-grade analysis of renewable energy generation. Get started for free, here. 

Step 2 – Work with trusted experts to access government support and approved partners 

The UK has a range of schemes to support the transformation of large businesses but applying and navigating the process can be a complex matter. 

That is why it is essential that you connect with experts who understand application processes and the securing of funds.  

For example, Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) allow businesses to build renewable energy generators without paying for the overhead costs. Instead, a 3rd party investor takes responsibility for the investment and simply sells the power to you at a lower rate than the national grid. 


If you would like to learn more about the opportunity presented by PPAs, connect with an expert, here.  

When it comes to the exact type of technology your business should invest in, there is a myriad of options but choosing the right ones can make the difference between a return on investment and a costly mistake. 

Before picking a partner to construct or install sustainable technology, make sure to connect with an independent consultant to assist in understanding the viability of technologies that depend on variables such as energy consumption, site size and location.  

An independent consultant can run tenders from trusted suppliers and support you in making the right decision, according to your financial and environmental goals. 

Step 3 – Engage your business and its key stakeholders 

Once you have the tools and the experts to support your path to Net Zero, you can present your strategy to the wider business, fully equipped and confident in your ability to push towards a greener future. 

Delivering a presentation to senior managers and stakeholders that demonstrates a return on investment and a clear road to reducing emissions is advisable in the early stages of the process, as getting buy-in from an early point is often the spark required to drive change. 

Highlight the opportunities to make quick wins, like switching diesel for biofuels and utilising energy efficiency measures, such as Voltage Optimisation which can instantly reduce energy consumption by 19%. 

Or, Demand Side Response, which is a technology perfect for the food production and distribution industry, which offers additional revenue by adjusting your assets’ energy consumption in response to the grid’s demands.  

Highlight case studies and examples of success such as Oakland International and position yourself as a ChangeMaker... 

Throughout this internal process, our team and technology can provide you with the data and expert insight that will be required to succeed.   

The opportunities for sustainable transformation in the food production and distribution industry are easier to attain than many believe and following the advice above can get you started on the road to Net Zero. 

We’re on a mission to make real change in the UK and around the world and we hope you are too. 

Ready to be a ChangeMaker?

Connect with our team, here.