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Building a Vibrant, Sustainable UK Dairy Industry

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Building a Vibrant, Sustainable UK Dairy Industry

Building a Vibrant, Sustainable UK Dairy Industry
April 24
10:46 2012

18 months ago, over 40 organisations and people from right across the UK dairy supply chain came together to create a common vision for a sustainable dairy industry. The Dairy 2020 vision has now been launched together with a framework and toolkit for making it a reality.

The Dairy 2020 steering group comprised of Asda, Dairy UK, DairyCo, Defra, two dairy farmers, First Milk, the NFU, Volac, and Forum for the Future. In addition to the steering group, over 40 organisations have taken part from right across the supply chain. The Dairy 2020 group is now working to engage the rest of the supply chain in the initiative, and agree specific actions for delivering the vision.

The dairy industry provides products that promote health and wellbeing, helps sustain rural communities and plays a vital role in land stewardship, points out Sally Uren, project director for the Forum for the Future Dairy 2020 team and deputy chief executive at Forum for the Future. “But the UK dairy industry also faces some enormous economic, environmental and social challenges. According to a 2011 report in Farmers Guardian, the price paid for milk ‘at the farm gate’ has fallen by 28% in real terms since 1994 (when the Milk Marketing Board was abolished). Globally, dairy production accounts for some 2.7% of humankind’s carbon footprint, so pressure is on to cut carbon – and some say, yields. And young talented graduates are not tripping up over each other in their rush to join the dairy industry – the skills shortage and age profile of the industry is a real concern.”

The industry is well aware of these challenges, and has been involved in a huge range of work measuring and managing current impacts. For example, the Global Dairy Agenda for Action on Climate Change was launched in September 2009. However, the majority of industry-led initiatives tend to focus on single issues – particularly environmental ones – rather than the broader sustainability agenda.

The Dairy 2020 vision is for ‘a vibrant UK dairy industry that enables people, environment and business to thrive’. The vision is supported by a framework of eight guiding principles covering issues such as working practices, innovation, skills, environmental stewardship and animal welfare. Dairy 2020 has also drawn up a list of areas where focus is needed to enable a sustainable dairy industry to thrive in 2020, a set of scenarios describing possible futures for the industry in 2020, and a toolkit that will help organisations in the industry to bring the project outputs to life through their individual company strategies and actions.

The purpose of the launch is to engage a wider audience than the working group and continue to build commitment with leaders in commercial companies, associations, farmer bodies and NGOs. Organisations involved in Dairy 2020 are now being asked to publically endorse the conclusions of the project – the vision and the guiding principles, and commit to play their part in delivering them in the dairy industry and through their individual company strategies. Over 20 organisations from across the sector have agreed to do this. “We expect this number to grow as we engage the wider industry and stakeholders to gain their support and commitment for using the outputs of Dairy 2020,” says Sally Uren.

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