UK food sector must upskill millions of workers to fight climate crisis, report finds

14 December 2021 by Ruth Smith
blog author

​Every job in the UK food manufacturing sector should become a climate job to reach carbon net zero targets, a new report has revealed. 

The study by the Future Food Movement has highlighted the urgency in upskilling millions of people to enable them to make positive climate decisions in their roles. 

The Future Food Movement is a pioneering new community, industry network and upskilling platform, founded by strategic change consultancy Veris Strategies. The movement solely focuses on closing the climate skills gap and encouraging collaboration between food companies to tackle climate change.  

It has released a white paper called Tomorrow’s Talent: Skills for a Climate Smart Food System which found that 50 per cent of the two million people who work in the UK food sector want training to help them understand climate issues.  

The report highlighted that just 12 per cent of people who work in the industry felt fully confident about their understanding of climate and sustainability issues and two thirds don’t believe that their businesses are taking positive action to tackle climate change. A total of eight in ten people believe their employer has a responsibility to help them understand how to tackle the crisis. 

Last month’s COP26 highlighted the need for rapid decarbonisation in the UK food industry but to achieve the 1.5-degree target, the Future Food Movement believes that food businesses need to make every role a climate role.  

Kate Cawley, managing director of Veris Strategies and founder of the Future Food Movement, said: “The hard truth is that, currently sustainability in the food sector isn’t working. There aren’t enough sustainability experts who can drive science-based change and there’s a lack of confidence from senior leaders on how best to reach climate targets. 

“The Future Food Movement brings together businesses to focus on four stand-out skills areas that are key to unlocking climate proficiency within the workforce: climate literacy, application, technology and communication. Our aim is to radically empower the industry at all levels to make the changes needed to fight climate change. 

“This isn’t just another technical, science-based upskilling programme tailored to ESG roles. We have collaborated with some of the world’s leading lights on climate issues who will be delivering workshops on topics such as climate language, regenerative agriculture, the future consumer, tech for good and human rights & ethics.”  

The climate skills gap is intensified by labour shortages, an ageing workforce and poor perceptions of the industry itself.  

The Future Food Movement was launched by chef and sustainable food campaigner Gizzi Erskine and author on climate Lucy Siegle at a regenerative agriculture-focused roundtable dinner. 

Lucy Siegle, journalist and author on climate and nature said:“We need a much sharper, more open conversation about food security and supply chain resilience in the UK. I know from my own work that there’s huge appetite from the general public to consume food in a climate smart way.  

“Meanwhile there is a huge opportunity for manufacturers and producers to have a voice in the climate debate and shape a positive food future that addresses emissions, impact, but also price and affordability. For me the Future Food Movement has all the ingredients of the smart, open debate that will drive change.”  

Ruth Smith, Consultant within Acre's Sustainable Business team commented"There’s never been such a high demand for hiring across sustainability, with food and climate being a significant area of growth. It’s amazing to see so many companies stepping up and taking ownership of their impact, and acting accordingly, but there’s still a long way to go. At this point, it’s essential to take into consideration that we all play a part in the carbon reduction journey and we can’t leave it to the big brands and suppliers. Consuming food responsibly with the environment in mind can make a huge difference and we should be conscious of our individual contributions."

The Future Food Movement will work in a variety of ways to tackle the climate skills gap. This includes upskilling more than a thousand industry leaders in a climate and net zero programme, connecting food industry executives in a Business Leader Network and running a series of 12-month Accelerators which feature live online CPD certified learning. 

Ruth has joined Acre supporting organisations across FMCG and Retail embedding Sustainability through consulting and developing their teams and recruitment. This fast-growing sector is something that aligns closely with Ruth's core values and prior professional and educational experience. 

Ruth has experience recruiting Internationally in the Renewables and Clean Energy space, focused on the core value of Sustainability. She holds a 2:1 in BA Geography from the University of Brighton. This was specialised on Sustainable Development, EIA and Geographical Politics, which she applies daily to her practice in recruiting into the Sustainability space and in Acre.