Sustainable food and drink careers: being part of a positive, fairer change in the industry
It’s easier to find sustainable food and drink careers in the industry now than ever before. As the number of consumers looking to eat more sustainably day-to-day increases, food and drinks businesses cannot thrive without being able to show how they are working to reduce emissions and reach certain environmental targets.
If you are looking to make a difference in the food system, you are in luck: there is a wide range of green roles in food and drink, and there doesn’t seem to be any sign of them decreasing anytime soon – if anything the opposite is true. As Geraldine Gilbert, Principal Sustainability Strategist for Food and Partnerships Lead at Forum for the Future explained at the Food Matters Live Inspiring Careers in Food event last February: “The ‘green’ area has evolved over the past 25 years, and the field of green jobs is changing because we’ve failed so far”. With development needing to happen faster than ever to tackle climate change, green jobs in the food sector are becoming critical across various areas.
What are some sustainability food and drink roles?
You’ll find plenty of jobs in food companies where ‘sustainability’ is in the name, such as Sustainability Executive, Sustainable Sourcing Manager or even Sustainable Chef, but this doesn’t mean there aren’t other roles where you can make an impact. If your background is in dietetics, you could specialise in plant-based nutrition or with a background in design you could develop innovative plastic alternative food packaging. Another suitable role could include helping to manage the redistribution of supermarkets and restaurants’ surplus food and cut down waste. Managing and improving animal welfare in the farming industry also plays a vital role in making the agricultural sector more sustainable. Working as a campaign-coordinator would also enable you to get involved in initiatives that can influence change around factory farming – one of the major contributors to climate change.
A sustainability career in food does not just mean working in a role that helps to directly reduce carbon emissions in the supply chain. It can also be a job that works to build food security and improve a country’s self-sufficiency. One such role could include researching underused indigenous ingredients and helping to promote their benefits or utilise them in new formulations. You could also be working in the food science field and improve public health.
Succeeding in a sustainable food career
If you want to take on a position where you manage the sustainable practices of a company, having a knack for science or technology could be beneficial, Stefanie Sahmel, Sustainability Manager at Abel & Cole explained at Inspiring Careers in Food. “Being scientific and tech-focused helps as you need to be able to communicate complex issues in ways stakeholders will understand,” she said, “being succinct and getting to the point also really helps.” Managing sustainability in a company can also require working with data collection, according to Cherry Dejos, Sustainability Manager at Pizza Express. “It’s a lot of number crunching. One practical example I can give is in past gas emissions. In reporting that annually you need to collect information on how many products you buy, how much your employees travelled.”
The skills required for a job in food sustainability however very much depend on what area of the sector you wish to work for, Geraldine says. “You could be leading sustainability inside a business, but that might be a restaurant, the supermarket. You could be working with the NHS where you could be in food research. You can work on securing a sustainable future for food in all kinds of different ways.”
Why ‘green’ careers in food are important
The reason there is such an abundance of sustainability roles in the industry is that they are essential to the future of food and drink. Working in this area means having direct impact. Everyone is impacted by food as we all need it to survive. The sector is responsible for nearly 30% of all greenhouse gas emissions, and in the UK alone, 35% of emissions are said to come from the food and drink we consume. Changes to the current food system are therefore essential if we want to continue to be able to eat nutritiously, and they can’t occur without the help of sustainable food roles, whether this be done through a job that helps to reduce our dependency on imported goods or finding new ways to get farmers to adopt more sustainable agricultural methods. Many positive changes are currently happening in the industry. As Geraldine explains: “With all those big challenges, it’s probably the most exciting time to work on the future of food.”