Retailers and manufacturers sign European code of conduct for sustainable food chain

65 leading food producers and food retailers have signed a European code of conduct that should make the food chain more sustainable. However, cooperation between actors with divergent interests remains the big challenge.


Facilitating sustainable choices

Yesterday, the European Commission launched its code of conduct on responsible food business and marketing practices. The code is part of the European Green Deal and the 'Farm to Fork' strategy that should lead to a climate-neutral food chain by 2050. At the launch, the code was signed by 65 producers, food retailers and sector organisations -among them big names such as AB InBev, Ahold Delhaize, Carrefour, Colruyt Group, Danone, Mondelez, Nestlé, PepsiCo, Tesco and Unilever. They call on their sector colleagues to join them.


The signatories make commitments in the field of sustainability, health and social conditions. The aim is to make sustainable and healthy food choices more accessible for everyone. This includes promoting the consumption of vegetables, fruit and legumes, attention to animal welfare, improving the nutritional composition of products and providing consumers with transparent information. Food loss and food wastage are also addressed.


Divergent interests

The emphasis is on cooperation and partnerships throughout the food chain. That is not easy, because the interests often diverge. During a launch event on Monday, it became clear that sustainability is not a black-and-white concept, that the agricultural sector has questions about certain expectations - such as the sharp reduction of pesticides - and that the industry is divided about the role of the Nutri-Score in informing consumers, Foodnavigator reports. 


But there is no doubt about the urgency of the issue. "We need to make our food system sustainable and we need to do it soon", European Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans says. "Addressing these environmental, health, and social challenges in our food system require cooperation across the entire food chain." 


Ahold Delhaize top executive Frans Muller calls the code of conduct a milestone: "We cannot do anything else but be ambitious here. I strongly believe that we need every actor in the value chain for the transformation of the food system to be effective. We embrace the initiative of the Code and encourage other companies in the middle part of the European food supply chain to join, in order to drive global change."