Arla Foods to accelerate its transition to sustainable dairy production

By Jenny Eagle

- Last updated on GMT

Arla farmers are at the forefront of the sustainability debate. Photo: Arla.
Arla farmers are at the forefront of the sustainability debate. Photo: Arla.
Arla Foods has announced a climate strategy for its entire value chain, working towards carbon net zero efficiency by 2050.

The strategy covers its 10,300 farmer owners to the consumer to reduce total CO2 ​emissions by 30% per kilo of milk by 2030 and it is looking at commercial opportunities to drive change. 

Sustainable packaging

The company plans to accelerate the transition to more sustainable operations using non-fossil fuels, renewable energy, sustainable packaging and less waste with a number of initiatives to be announced this year. 

Peder Tuborgh, CEO, Arla Foods’ said the decision ‘to have this new ambitious climate goal is farmer led’. 

Our elected farmer owners have been involved in the process of setting the ambition from the start, and they have shown great support and willingness to enter into a dialogue on how future dairy production should be organized​,” he said. 

The target is set for all markets in Arla, however, some countries might reach the target sooner based on local conditions. 

Our 10,300 dairy farmers in seven countries have worked continuously to reduce emissions for many years. At this moment in time, CO2​ per kilo of Arla milk is already less than half of the global average. With new technology continuing to emerge, we are now taking the next step to further cut our emissions by 30% in 2030 and reach climate neutral operations by 2050​,” added Tuborgh. 

He said it believes 2050 is a realistic target to become carbon neutral, but it will depend on the continuing development of technology within the industry. 

Based solely on the technology available today, we know we will be able to reach our 2030 target, and becoming C02-neutral by 2050 is a really important ambition to set as it drive a further improvements​,” said Tuborgh. 

We believe we can do it. Arla’s farmers are already among the most carbon efficient in the world and we have opened the world’s first carbon net zero dairy, Aylesbury."​ 

Organic dairy

Tuborgh said it believes more consumers are willing to pay more for their milk in the same way as organic dairy. 

From today we are starting to work with a group of progressive farmers in both Denmark and Sweden to offer more sustainable conventional and organic fresh milks​,” he added. 

Arla will bring organic milk to market this year with its Arla 24 brand in Denmark and Arla Ko brand in Sweden.     

Tuborgh said for obvious reasons it’s not possible to reduce a cow’s methane emissions completely, but it can be significantly reduced, for example through optimized feed composition, a research area Arla is investing in. 

To counteract emissions, it is working with Arla farmers to quantify and increase the carbon captured and stored in the soil as part of increasing their positive contribution. 

Since 2013, almost 700 on-farm meetings have been organized to educate groups of farmers on sustainability measures and more than 5,000 climate assessments have been conducted on Arla farms.  

We are driving CO2 ​reduction at farm level through our Sustainable Dairy Farming​ Strategy program. Arla follows the internationally recognized methodology for carbon footprint calculations at farm level, developed by the International Dairy Federation​,” said Tuborgh. 

We have developed a farm carbon assessment tool and we have conducted carbon assessments at farm level for many years. To date we have conducted over 5,000 carbon assessments. Through these assessments, the farmer will get a performance status, benchmark against peers and advice on how to improve.​ 

Arla farmers have reduced emission per kilo of milk by 24% since 1990 and the CO2 ​reduction from Arla’s operations such as packaging and transport has been reduced by 22% over the last 14 years. All while Arla’s milk intake has increased by close to 50%​. 

The Swedish and Danish society and our farmers are very much at the forefront of the sustainability debate. This makes Sweden and Denmark the logical place for us to start the work on how we make advances on organic dairy farming, and use the learnings in other markets over time​.” 

Arlagården Plus

Tuborgh said as part of its work to make its production more sustainable by reducing total CO2​ emissions by 30% per kilo of milk by 2030 and be carbon net zero by 2050, it will be communicating openly about the progress it is making along the way, including updates on its packaging set-up.

Jan Toft Nørgaard, dairy farmer/chairman, Arla Foods added, “We don’t have all the answers yet, but we call on our farmers, not least the younger generation of farmers, the industry, academic institutions and governments for collaboration and ideas that will support the transition to more sustainable farming and food production.” 

Tuborgh said the company is in a ‘strong position to ensure people maintain confidence in dairy as part of a healthy and sustainable diet for the future’. 

Dairy is enjoyed across the world and plays an important role in providing nourishment to a growing world population – from a basic glass of fresh school milk to advanced whey proteins used in optimized medical nutrition​,” he added. 

Last year, Arla created a digital database called Arlagården Plus to help Arla and the individual farmer to systematically measure and benchmark the farm performance. 

So far, Arla farmers are registering data from 96% of Arla’s milk pool in the system on a quarterly basis, e.g. about their herd, milking system, feed, grazing, land use and animal welfare. 

The next step is to include parameters that will indicate the farm’s impact on the climate and the environment, to identify best practice farms that it can learn from.   

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