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The EU Commission has launched the process for developing an EU Code of Conduct for responsible business and marketing practice, a key action under the Farm to Fork Strategy.

The aim of the code is to promote the uptake of good practices and voluntary commitments on sustainability. It is targeting actors in the middle of the chain, including food processors, traders, wholesales, retailers, food services and input industries (seeds, feed, fertilisers, etc).  These actors will be asked to sign up to the code and commit themselves to measurable actions which go beyond legislative requirements, with the purpose of reducing the overall environmental footprint of the food value chain and improving peoples’ health and quality of life.

Despite work commencing on the content of the code only in March, the EU Commission wish to have it finalised by the end of May.  Creating a useful and actionable code of conduct in such a short timeframe will be a significant challenge.

Stakeholders from the agri-food chain are expected to lead the drafting of the code and therefore EU level trade associations have been asked to participate in four thematic drafting groups:

  • Food consumption patterns for healthy and sustainable diets
  • Improving the impact of food processing, retail and food services’ own operations on sustainability
  • Improving the sustainability of the food value chain in relation to primary producers and other actors in the chain
  • Monitoring and evaluation

The first meetings of these thematic groups took place in the last two weeks with a further two meetings planned for April. ICOS is represented in these meetings by Copa Cogeca.

The final outcome is expected to include some ‘aspirational and broad targets’, that which are intended to be undertaken and supported by all businesses, as well as a framework for specific commitments from individual companies. It will to include a monitoring framework to ensure that businesses are living up to these commitments.

A key priority for ICOS is to ensure that the code recognises the national initiatives already in place regarding responsible businesses and marketing practices, specifically for Ireland, Origin Green, under which Irish cooperatives similarly have signed up to numerous voluntary commitments to improve the sustainability of the food chain. Like Origin Green, the code must also remain flexible in order to allow businesses to decide what actions are best fitting, considering their own unique conditions.

It is also fundamental that this Code promotes value and burden sharing across the chain, to ensure that farmers and cooperatives receive the fair share of added value and are not overly subject to the burden of costs and action.

Alison Graham – European Affairs Executive