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Dairy Council

Lakeland Dairies Showcases Sustainability in Newtownards

Lakeland Dairies recently hosted a visit at its Newtownards site in partnership with the Dairy Council for Northern Ireland as part of the European Milk Forum’s EU Sustainable Dairy programme.

During the visit, delegates heard about the 130-year history of the cross border dairy co-operative and the sustainability journey it has been on to improve its processes and invest in energy efficiency measures to work more sustainably and improve its environmental footprint.

Lakeland Dairies makes a significant contribution to the local and global economy. It employs 1,400 people on the island of Ireland and in 2022 paid €1.1bn to dairy farms across 17 counties which provided it with enough milk to export its products to more than 100 countries across the world.

Sustainability practices are embedded in the culture at Lakeland Dairies, and the delivery of its recently launched Pathway to a Better Future strategy is overseen by a board subcommittee. The strategy focusses on six Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) Pillars – Climate Action, Sustainable Farms, Supply Chains, People and Communities, Sustainable Operations and Responsible Business.

The strategy aims to reduce Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions by 2030 while there is a target to reduce the carbon footprint of milk production by 2030 before the end of the decade. Lakeland Dairies is targeting 100% of plastics packaging will be reusable, recyclable, or compostable by 2030. Water usage will be reduced by 15% by 2025, zero waste to landfill by 2026 and there is a clear commitment to Diversity and Inclusion. Crucially, the Co-op has a Net Zero commitment while working with the SBTi (Science Based Targets Initiative).

Lakeland Dairies Group Head of Sustainability Rory Farrell said,

“Sustainability, in all its guises, is at the centre of everything we do. Climate action is critically important for us as business and is also an imperative for our customers and consumers across the world who we serve. Our dairy sector is already hugely sustainable, having one of the lowest carbon footprints in the world.

"Through Pathway to a Better Future, we're shaping a future where sustainability and ESG are not just goals but a way of life. The world and environment in which we are operating has changed considerably in recent times with environmental demands now greater than ever at farm and factory level. This trend will continue, and we are well prepared for the challenges and opportunities that will present themselves in this new chapter of the co-op’s history.

“Lakeland Dairies’ farm families have already played a huge role in tackling climate change and improving our sustainability credentials. We are supporting them on this journey over the course of the decade.”

To support its farm families on their sustainability journey, Lakeland Dairies has also launched a new three-year Sustainability Incentive Payment. The payment has been designed to support suppliers in reducing the carbon footprint of their dairy enterprise, while delivering benefits for water quality, biodiversity, soil health and animal welfare.

Speaking about the EU Sustainable Dairy Programme Dairy Council CEO Ian Stevenson said,

“The EU Sustainable Dairy programme has been a fantastic opportunity to transfer knowledge within the sector and develop a range of case studies to recognise the work of the sector in tackling climate change. Our processors have an important role to play in continuing to improve their own sustainability credentials, and they are also a vital source of information for Northern Ireland’s 3,200 dairy farm families which are embedded in our rural communities.

“New figures from DAERA show the great strides that the sector has made to lower its carbon footprint whilst retaining economic profitability. In the past 33 years we have seen the carbon intensity of milk production decrease from an average of 1,927 grams of CO2 equivalent per kilogram of Energy Corrected Milk (ECM) in 1990 to 1,214 grams in 2021, with milk production expanding by 92% in that time frame. This demonstrates that the sector is very much up to the challenge and the will and resilience is there to work towards reasonable and achievable targets.

“As we continue on the path to net zero, we need to recognise the role the dairy sector plays in providing employment, producing nutritious and enjoyable dairy products, and how sustainable land management practices can improve carbon sequestration and storage and improve biodiversity.

“An informative event such as this at a factory level really helps to demonstrate how the whole dairy supply chain is working collaboratively on the sustainable improvement journey and that every part of the sector including farmers and processors have to play their part in securing a positive and sustainable future for our sector.”

The event also included a tour of the Newtownards site including its state-of-the-art automated warehouse. Delegates also learnt that the site has been zero waste to landfill since 2012 and it produces over 20% of its energy from renewable sources.

The Newtownards site directly employs approximately 260 staff and has seen significant growth in its output over the last 20 years. Having produced 42,000 tonnes of produce in 2003, it is now on target to exceed 140,000 tonnes in 2023.

Find out more about Sustainable Dairy.