Last summer, IMACE organised a debate focused on sustainability in the margarine value chain. The debate was well-attended with more than 50 representatives of the industry, NGOs, authorities and researchers in and around the margarine sector. Through an interactive House of Commons-style debate, participants debated a variety of topics, ranging from the consumers’ knowledge of the margarine’s environmental impact to the sustainability of the plant based margarine to the responsibility for the extra costs of sustainable cultivation.
The topic of sustainability is obviously fundamental for the margarine sector given the high potential of margarine to be a sustainable product. Margarines which are plant-based products – as opposed to animal-based products – have a lower environmental impact, according to the latest research. Indeed, LCA studies on margarine have shown that the carbon footprint of different margarines range from 1.1 to 1.7 kg CO2 eq. per kg, which is lower than the one of butter and other animal fat sources. When it comes to the health impact, margarines are packed with good vegetable oils (poly and monounsaturated fatty acids) providing essential nutrients to your body.
Three speakers provided the audience with their viewpoints on the topics of sustainability. Willem-Jan van Zeist, LCA specialist at Blonk Consultants, discussed the challenge of quantifying sustainability. Richard Holland, Director of WWF’s Market Transformation Initiative, offered an NGO view and emphasized on the need for the food industry to do business in a sustainable manner. Lieven Callewaert, European representative of the Round Table on Responsible Soy (RTRS), highlighted from a sourcing perspective the role of soy in the production chain.
The debate around various motions, enabled IMACE to better understand the positions and interests of the value chain actors. For IMACE, the next step after the debate would be to develop and implement a long-term vision with all its partners from the value chain. IMACE is planning to focus on the following priority domains:
- Sustainable sourcing of oils, to ensure security of supply on the long-term;
- Minimising environmental impact during production, through i.e. the optimization of energy and water use;
- Reducing food waste throughout the margarine cycle;
- And engaging consumers, by communicating transparently about our products and helping them to make the right choices.
Wiser with all the enriching ideas provided during the debate, IMACE and its members are more than ever committed to go further on the road towards sustainability.