Subscribe to Holyrood updates

Newsletter sign-up


Follow us

Scotland’s fortnightly political & current affairs magazine


Subscribe to Holyrood
by Iain Clunie, FDF Scotland
03 March 2023
Associate Feature: Moving to net zero - the food and drink sector’s call to action

Partner content

Associate Feature: Moving to net zero - the food and drink sector’s call to action

The food and drink industry is facing one of its biggest, most complex challenges yet: how does it accelerate its journey to net zero and take advantage of the opportunities and potential economic benefits? 

Globally the food and drink sector accounts for a third of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions - one of the single largest contributors to climate change. 

Across Scotland the sector accounts for more than 20% of our carbon emissions, and while it does not shoulder all the responsibility for achieving net zero, it will play a pivotal role. 

We should be in no doubt the challenge is significant, and now more than ever our impact on the planet is undeniable. We are at a crossroads with a stark choice to make, and we must do this with our eyes open. 

As food and drink businesses across the country look to address their environmental impact, and meet the ever-growing consumer demands, the inevitable economic impact comes into sharp focus. 

Funding is a major reason for businesses, particularly SMEs - which make up 90% of the Scottish sector - not to invest in greener, more sustainable operations and practices. 

However, across the board, and particularly within government, there is a growing recognition that investment in green technology and innovation is important and in order support businesses and help them survive the challenges we face. 

Collectively we can deliver long-term savings and create sustainable business models that are vital to securing the future of our food and drink industry. But co-ordinated action must be taken, and now. 

We need to make sure everyone is brought along on this journey, that net zero is at the heart of all businesses, old and new, and that we share information and examples of best practice. 

Scotland has long punched above its weight on the global stage; we have a wealth of world-class products as well as natural resources to call upon, all supported by world-leading research institutes on our doorstep. 

We must look at the journey to net zero as an opportunity rather than a threat. There are grounds for optimism and some great examples of companies taking advantage of the latest innovations and putting Scotland firmly on the global net zero map. 

For many SMEs the start of the journey to net zero may seem daunting, and the industry target of 2045 for reaching neutrality a long way off. 

Our biggest problem is the food and drink sector is not far enough down the track and is significantly lacking the investment required leaving us playing catch up. Everyone across the entire supply chain needs to play their part. Whether you are a producer, a supplier, retailer or consumer - no one is exempt. 

Practical barriers such as a lack of knowledge and understanding of how to calculate your carbon footprint and skills gap in your workforce can quickly put people off. 

This is where political leadership is essential, as are the policies that will enable business to make the necessary changes and positively impact long-term economic growth. 

Initiatives like the Scotland Food & Drink Partnership’s Net Zero Programme can help, and are here to support government, businesses and consumers reach the 2045 net zero targets. 

The programme provides leadership and advice to food and drink organisations at any stage of the journey so they are aware of the required changes and have the confidence to implement them. 

The small early steps industry can take will make a difference and should not be underestimated - they are often vital to enabling us to make the bigger changes. 


Iain Clunie is Director of the Net Zero Programme for the Food and Drink Federation Scotland.

This article is sponsored by the Food and Drink Federation Scotland.

Holyrood Newsletters

Holyrood provides comprehensive coverage of Scottish politics, offering award-winning reporting and analysis: Subscribe

Get award-winning journalism delivered straight to your inbox

Get award-winning journalism delivered straight to your inbox


Popular reads
Back to top