Sustainability Commitment Update 2011 - 2012


 The Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC) collects and reports information on its members’ environmental and social performance on an annual basis. This information provides a means of benchmarking sustainability performance within the industry over time.  In 2012, the AFGC released the Sustainability Commitment 2010-11 Report, which sets the sustainability commitment targets for the food and grocery industry, and reports the industry’s performance for 2010-11. The Sustainability Commitment can be found here

AFGC believes that businesses that measure and publicly report on social and environment impacts, will be better able to understand and manage these issues. Through publications and industry fora and workshops, the AFGC continues to encourage its members to consider a holistic approach to sustainability and sustainability reporting. AFGC encourages industry to consider utilising sustainability reporting frameworks such as the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI).

This Sustainability Commitment 2011-12 Update provides summary information on members’ sustainability performance against the five key target areas of Water; Waste; Energy & Emissions; Packaging; and Social & Sourcing.

Industry Sustainability Performance Overview

Since the launch of the Sustainability Commitment, the industry has made substantial progress towards its sustainability targets and, as member case studies demonstrate, sustainability considerations are increasingly being incorporated into business strategies. There also has been an increase in the number of companies reporting their sustainability performance, from 41 to 52 AFGC full members.

A snapshot of the industry’s 2011-12 performance shows:

  • Water intensity decreased by 11.4 per cent (target 20 per cent reduction by 2020)
  • Waste to landfill decreased by 3.6 per cent (target 40 per cent reduction by 2020)
  • Energy intensity increased by5.5 per cent (target 10 per cent reduction by 2020)  
    • Electricity, coal and transport fuel intensity decreased, while companies increased their use of gas as an energy source
  • Carbon emissions decreased by 6.3 per cent (target 20 per cent reduction by 2020).

The sustainability performance of the food and grocery manufacturing industry depends on various factors including: the level of production, duration of operations, changes to product mix and interruptions to or closure of production lines. While the AFGC measures both the industry’s overall sustainability performance (eg kL water consumed) and intensity metrics (sustainability performance relative to production levels, eg kL water consumed per tonne of production) it is not possible to account for some of the other factors affecting performance, such as changes in product mix.

In the period 2010-11 to 2011-12 survey respondents’ production levels declined marginally, which is consistent with the broader industry trend in the AFGC’s State of the Industry 2013 Report.

Static or falling production levels make it challenging for food and grocery processors to improve sustainability performance, given the use of some resources, such as energy and water, does not necessarily vary directly with production. For example the requirement for lighting, heating or water for cleaning production lines still exists even if the company is operating at a reduced capacity.

To improve sustainability performance in the face of static or declining production levels, businesses are evaluating their processes, looking for more resource efficient means of operating, replacing inefficient equipment and re-using resources where possible. The industry has made some significant inroads in this respect, with investments in resource efficient processes that have already delivered some improvements in sustainability performance.

For example, the industry has reduced its municipal water use per tonne of production by 11.40 per cent from 2010-11, which places the industry over halfway towards achieving its 2020 target. This has been achieved through water savings measures such as reducing, reusing and recycling water, for example through waste water treatment and Clean in Place washing and sanitising systems.

With support of grants from the Clean Technology Investment Program, AFGC members have invested in energy efficiency projects valued at over $130 million. These projects included improvements to lighting efficiency, upgrading old equipment, installation of solar panels, heat recovery and cogeneration facilities.

The shift towards co-generation and tri-generation has led to an increase in total gas, and therefore energy, consumption however has contributed to a fall in emissions levels. Once these investments are operating at peak capacity it is anticipated that they will contribute to a fall in overall energy levels.

Survey Methodology

In early 2013, all AFGC full members were invited to submit sustainability performance data, to inform industry progress on the Sustainability Commitment.  Responses were received from 52 members, 47 of which are Australian based manufacturers. Thirty three of the respondents were Australian based manufacturers that also reported in the 2010-11 survey.  To provide a better comparative analysis, only these common thirty three company responses have been included in the reported metrics for 2011-12. This report provides an update on the industry performance in the 2011-12 period, while the case studies reflect the 2012-13 period. The AFGC has reviewed and updated the methodology for the calculations and, to ensure accurate comparison over time, has re-calculated the 2020 targets and 2010-11 results to reflect the common thirty three companies reporting across both years of the survey.

Net Balance Review

Net Balance was engaged by AFGC to conduct an Agreed Upon Procedures engagement in line with Australian Standard on Related Services (ASRS) 4400. The engagement related to selected environmental performance indicators reported for the 2011-12 period, and featured in this report. The environmental indicators reviewed were consumption of municipal water, production waste sent to landfill, energy use, and greenhouse gas emissions. Net Balance performed work, on a sample basis, to ensure that the transcription of AFGC member data into industry average calculations was accurate and that the industry average calculation methodology was applied by AFGC correctly. Net Balance also reviewed the adjustment of the 2010-11 baseline data to ensure the assumptions behind the adjustment were robust. A report of factual findings has been made available to the management of AFGC and includes recommendations relating to the transparent communication of changes to the baseline metrics.

 Net Balance


The overall industry performance is dependent on various factors including product mix, seasonal variation, profile of survey respondents and the external economic conditions. The AFGC has made all efforts to ensure that the data underlying the industry performance is accurate and provides comparative industry performance. It is important to note that a direct comparison between the data in the 'Sustinability Commitment Update' with that in any previous reports cannot be made as the methodology has been updated from the earlier reports.