Along the way, many challenges have been overcome, but food standards in the 2020s will be defined by a whole new set of challenges in the arena of sustainability and environmental impact.
As leaders in the food safety space, it is important to consider how today’s environmental and sustainability issues can be addressed by, and integrated into, food safety standards such as those offered by BRCGS. Doing so will not only help achieve demanding environmental goals, but also meet the growing expectations of the end-consumer.
A question often asked is how sustainability is being integrated into food safety standards such as BRCGS? In many ways, however, sustainability is already being addressed through existing audit work. This is because many environmental and sustainability standards already exist independently, and BRCGS food safety auditors are expected to check that where a client is already certified to sustainability standards or makes claims regarding their sustainability and/or environmental performance, that these claims are accurate and substantiated.
Palm oil is a good example. Where a company claims sustainable palm oil production or consumption practices, there is an expectation that during a BRCGS food safety audit, the auditor will check that the relevant palm oil audit (i.e. RSPO) has taken place and that certification has been achieved. So, while BRCGS is not directly auditing against sustainability, auditors do play a pivotal role in checking that claims made are substantiated.
Elsewhere, the impact is more direct. BRCGS Packaging has introduced Additional Modules with an environmental and sustainability focus. Additional Module 10 (Plastic Pellet Loss Prevention), for example, focuses on the containment of pre-production plastic waste that potentially ends up in the environment, particularly in waterways, which can be ingested by wildlife.
Steps like the introduction of Additional Module 10 reflect the steadily rising importance of sustainability for food packaging manufacturers as customers put more and more focus not just on products, but on their packaging - something which is very much an emerging trend.
As customers grow more conscious, however, initiatives like Additional Module 10 will gain even more traction and when this happens, bodies like BRCGS will be in a position to develop new modules and standards to help drive further change. We have seen, in areas like carbon reduction, how a rapid acceleration in the adoption of standards follows as pressure from customers to do more grows. The same will happen with sustainability, it’s just a matter of time.