In a policy document released yesterday, the EU's food and drink sector called on the European Commission to take account of economic conditions when setting environmental and production sustainability targets for industry.
All three pillars of sustainability, including social and economic, must be considered in an integrated manner, the Confederation of the Food and Drink Industry in the EU (CIAA) said in the document.
The Commission plans to publish in early 2008 an action plan for the bloc that would determine regulation of environmental impact, including climate change, and resource use.
The plan will have implications for manufacturers, who already are paying out increased costs to reduce their environmenal impact.
The CIAA submitted its policy document to the Commission in September as part of a consultation on future EU policy on environmental and manufacturing sustainability, and made it public yesterday.
The Commission is working on developing two separate polices for the bloc -- the Sustainable Consumption and Production (SCP) policy and Sustainable Industrial Policy (SIP)
The SCP deals with environmental impact. The SIP deals with resource use.
"The CIAA considers it vital for the success of SCP that all relevant stakeholders be fully involved in the process, including farmers, manufacturers, the transport sector, retailers, consumers, waste managers and others," the organisation stated. "Each actor along the chain has to take responsibility for his direct sphere of influence and should actively cooperate with other life-cycle partner to address sustainability issues affecting the entire food chain."
The CIAA also said it does not support discrimination between "good" and "bad" products on purely environmental grounds.
"Consumers base their purchasing decisions on a wide range of key parameter, including health, nutritional composition, convenience, fitness, life-style and cultural affiliation," the CIAA argues.
"Instead of discriminating against certain products and reducing consumer choice, SCP should be built on the principle of continuous improvement, based on innovation and the proliferation of best practice and technology."
The CIAA also supports adding information on all relevant product characteristics, including their environmental performance. But such consumer information should be "science-based, meaningful and verifiable, understandable and not misleading and contributes to improved environmental conditions in a cost-efficient manner".
"Voluntary stakeholder initiatives, private public partnerships, self-regulation, or co-regulation should be considered on a case-by-case basis in support of both SCP and better regulation and competitiveness," the CIAA stated.
The SCP should not hamper EU industry's capacity to compete on world markets, the CIAA stated.