The Dairy Roadmap: Evolving to meet the sustainability challenge

Michael Oakes smiling in front of hay stacks

The Dairy Roadmap is accelerating efforts to support the dairy sector in setting a robust and ambitious strategy on the environment and climate change, helping to secure the long-term future for nutritious and sustainable UK dairy produce.

This work comes in anticipation of both the UN Food System Summit and COP26 events, which could have a dramatic impact on the dairy sector nationally and around the world.

Demonstrating environmental credentials

The Dairy Roadmap steering group, led by AHDB, Dairy UK and the NFU, is working collaboratively with the wider dairy sector to develop plans and work programmes that demonstrate the environmental credentials of the dairy sector to key policymakers.

Current chair of the Dairy Roadmap and NFU national dairy board chair, Michael Oakes, said:

“For years now it’s been too easy to attack the dairy industry for its environmental performance, but everyone in the sector and across the supply chain knows we have an amazing story to tell and are involved in some fantastic work to go even further to enhance our environmental credentials and reduce any impacts.”

The Roadmap exists primarily to jointly set targets for environmental improvements along the whole supply chain to drive meaningful and quantifiable positive change. Recently, the Roadmap has evolved to cover some of the wider sustainability challenges and get involved in global initiatives, which are helping to drive the dairy industry forward and realise our ambitions.

Dairy Cows Bridge Farm_60841

Leading the sector

Judith Bryans, Chief Executive of Dairy UK, added:

“2021 is a crucial year for environmental and climate policy with the headline UN climate conference COP26 being held in the UK. We want to put the Dairy Roadmap at the heart of the dairy sector, leading the way and crucially demonstrating that dairy is part of a sustainable diet.

“The Roadmap has been in place for over a decade and was way ahead of its time in challenging the dairy sector to improve our environmental credentials; now the focus is shifting.”

Milking parlour Pyle Farm Somerset_55779

Educating the public

Paul Flanagan, AHDB Strategy Director for Dairy, said:

“As an industry, there is a lot more public interest in what we do so we want to wrestle back the narrative on the role of dairy production in a sustainable diet. We stand confidently behind robust scientific evidence on our work in recent years and our plans for much greater improvement in the future. For that to really succeed, we need to work collaboratively as an industry both within the UK and globally, presenting a united message to the public and policy makers.”

Recent activity from the Dairy Roadmap includes:

  • Formation of a collaboration group to align and coordinate ambitions within the dairy sector, including existing commitments to net zero made by various dairy sector organisations and businesses.
  • Formation of workstreams aiming to unpick the challenges of environmental data, measurement, and reporting to better support dairy farms in making effective decisions to improve their environmental and carbon footprint.
  • Formation of workstreams to communicate and encourage uptake of best practice, and to explore new avenues for research and innovation.
  • Formation of a communications group tasked with aligning and coordinating industry communications on sustainability to effectively counter media reports about the impacts of the dairy sector on the environment.
  • The announcement of a new stakeholder forum to engage organisations from the entire dairy supply chain in the work of the Roadmap and gather views and input on key workstreams.
  • Aggregating membership of the Dairy Sustainability Framework – a global initiative to report, collate and benchmark key sustainability indicators for dairy industries all around the world.