Olivia Bertham was at the Sustainable Food and Beverage Manufacturing Conference on 2 December. She writes: "The conference provided some good insights into corporate approaches to - and the practicalities of - delivering more sustainable approaches to food and drink production. The overarching theme was collaboration, and it was clear throughout that no one company can work in isolation to achieve effective and scaled responses. There were examples from along the supply chain. One recurring theme was the long-term collaboration with farmers. Corporates are in a good position to instigate and encourage research and innovation to improve yields and security of supply; PepsiCo and Warburtons provided insights. At the retail end of the value chain, Marks & Spencer shared its approach to embedding sustainability into its product range. For example, all products need to demonstrate at least one 'sustainability attribute' by 2020, while the company encourages continual improvement with producers using a 'supplier scorecard' approach.

"Set against these positive initiatives was the reality of the challenge still facing us, well presented by WWF. Agriculture contributes 30% of greenhouse gas emissions to climate change, takes 60% of the planets land surface and 70% of water used. There is a common sense that production will have to increase to feed a growing population - although not by the oft-quoted 70% highlighted as a worst case scenario under business as usual, rather than a goal. Even so, the prediction of 30 billion farmed chickens by 2050 makes you stop and think - that's a lot of chickens. Despite production on this scale, 3.5 billion people are currently malnourished, either with too little food or the wrong type of food. Efforts to assist can sometimes create confusion; for example, the 65 certifications that currently exist for seafood.

"Clearly collaboration has to be the way forward because there are just too many stakeholders involved to go it alone. But with collaboration must come action, and action based on sound science. I rather liked the phrase 'a healthy dissatisfaction with the status quo', used by Duncan Williamson of WWF - I think we need quite a big helping of this to get us out of our current pickle."