The Guest Blog

Guest post by David Crous, consultant at PRACSIS.

Hanoi 13 November 2013 – The objective of the 15th forum and roundtable on eco-innovation which took place in Hanoi was to show how eco-innovations and new technologies can increase resource efficiency and cut waste within the whole food sector. The European Commission and the UNEP reunited over 350 delegates, including governmental officials, private companies and technology experts in order to evaluate the main challenges Asian and European societies are facing within the food chain and discern the drivers and solutions for tackling food waste.

The similarities between Viet Nam and European green growth strategies as well as the resource, market and demography pressures that Asia is incurring on the supply and demand side made it relevant to meet in Hanoi, share know-how and boost eco-innovation in both regions. Delegates agreed that new models of food production and consumption are needed to face scarcity and secure food supply while reducing the environmental impact of existing patterns. Seventeen good practices were presented in three subsectors: food processing, packaging and retailing.

Amongst them Vietnamese organic food producer and retailer Viet Len exemplifies how international cooperation can bring tangible results in food packaging. Following its participation in the EU SWITCH-Asia project a novel technology was developed, doubling the preservation of its production. Other novel packaging materials were showcased at the Forum such as the use of reclaimed potato waste by Mars Chocolate Europe or that of agri-waste by BulleShah Packaging, a Pakistani liquid packaging board producer. Other best practices contributing to sustainable food chains took the floor in Hanoi. A new technology replacing adhesive stickers with less polluting substances was presented by Spanish company Laser Food. Indonesian food processor Mercy Crops has extended its product’s shelf life through energy efficiency technologies, contributing to sustainable growth, poverty alleviation and mitigation of climate change. The increased use of renewable energies by major players in the food processing and retailer sectors are also contributing to reducing the sector’s carbon footprint while opening new markets and business opportunities.

Visiting Hanoi for the Mission for Growth to Vietnam, Myanmar and Thailand, European Commission Vice President and Commissioner for Industry and Entrepreneurship Mr Antonio Tajani joined the forum to give the closing remarks. He directly referred to the private sector, highlighting that “food-supply and food-processing companies need to see the business opportunity instead of considering resource efficiency as an external challenge”.

Mr Arab Hoballah, Chief, Sustainable Consumption and Production Branch, UNEP, said: “Business as usual is not an option. Resource efficiency and eco-innovation make business sense. The opportunities are there, and the way forward is in partnership, looking along the entire food value chains from growers, producers, packagers, retailers to consumers. Companies and experts illustrated that change is already under way – contributing to food waste reduction and addressing the food crisis. Change will ultimately take place also at the company level – integrating sustainability

into the DNA of strategic decision making – but governments too are needed to set a conductive policy framework which will enable decoupling of currents consumption and production patterns.”

“The conference has shown that there are opportunities for European businesses,” said Mr Timo Makela, Director of International Affairs, LIFE and Eco-innovation of DG Environment. “European businesses are ready to work with Vietnamese businesses to show the way on sustainable food production.”

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