Sustainable success: The Top 10 sustainability stories from the APAC food and beverage industry in 2022

By Pearly Neo

- Last updated on GMT

Bringing you the top 10 most-read sustainability stories from the APAC food and beverage industry in 2022.
Bringing you the top 10 most-read sustainability stories from the APAC food and beverage industry in 2022.

Related tags 2022 Top 10 Sustainability

Bringing you the top 10 most-read sustainability stories from the APAC food and beverage industry in 2022, featuring news on palm oil, plastic packaging and various regulatory updates from throughout the year.

Palm oil attacks? Why EU’s latest sustainability plans risk alienating Indonesia amid free trade talks

Palm oil industry experts warned earlier this year that the European Union’s (EU) regulations on deforestation carried major risk of upsetting Indonesia amidst ongoing free-trade negotiations.

The EU published anti-deforestation regulations in the name of sustainability, basically calling for the ban of all commodities produced from deforested land, whether this deforestation was legal, controlled, strategically planned or not.

“Deforestation and forest degradation are occurring at an alarming rate, aggravating climate change and the loss of biodiversity,”​ said the EU via the draft regulations.

“The main driver of deforestation and forest degradation is the expansion of agricultural land to produce commodities such as cattle, wood, palm oil, soy, cocoa or coffee.”

Collaborating with competitors: Nestle, Coca-Cola and Unilever among major brands uniting to boost recycling in Malaysia

Major brands such as Nestle, Coca-Cola, Mondelez, F&N and Unilever joined forces earlier in 2022 to drive the sustainability agenda in Malaysia, via an alliance that will tackle plastic food and beverage packaging concerns.

The Malaysian Recycling Alliance Berhad (MAREA) wants to reach a minimum recycling rate of 25% of packaging volumes by 2025.

MAREA is Malaysia’s first-ever Extended Producer Responsibility (ERP) association, and is chaired by Nestle Malaysia CEO Juan Aranols. 

The alliance’s members comprise of 10 well-known FMCG brands in Malaysia - Coca-Cola, Colgate-Palmolive, Dutch Lady Milk Industries, Etika Group of Companies, F&N Malaysia, Mondelēz International (Malaysia), Nestlé Malaysia, Spritzer, Tetra Pak Malaysia and Unilever Malaysia.

For a cleaner India: Food safety authority tightens proposals for recycled plastic packaging after pushback

The Food Safety and Standards Authority India (FSSAI) issued new, stricter standards earlier in the year to govern the use of recycled plastic for food packaging after facing pushback from a group of concerned scientific experts.

Previously all use of recycled plastics to package, store, carry or dispense any food items was prohibited in India under its Plastic Waste Management Rules. But in September 2021, FSSAI released draft plastic waste management guidelines proposing to allow the use of recycled plastic for ready-to-eat or drink products.

According to FSSAI CEO Arun Singhal, this revision was designed as a positive move towards more efficient management of the country’s massive plastic waste, reported by a 2021 Minderoo Foundation report to stand at some 5.58 million tonnes annually.


‘Palm oil has no alternative’: European supply chain expert calls out EU for ‘discriminatory’ policies

An Italian supply chain expert slated the European Union for its ‘discriminatory’ policies against palm oil earlier in 2022, highlighting the impossibility of finding an alternative for the commodity in the short term.

It is no secret that the palm oil sector has been facing substantial pressures from the European Union (EU) which has churned out policies which are expected to affect international trade in the name of sustainability.

Palm oil producing countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia have been taking steps to improve in the areas singled out by the EU, such as deforestation and labour, but so far there remains no signs that the EU is willing to compromise or ease up on the pressures being placed on palm oil.

Supply chain expert Professor Pietro Paganini, who hails from Italy, called out the EU for being ‘discriminatory’ in its policies against palm oil, and trying to cut off the sector without having a suitable alternative available to meet consumer needs.

Recyclability ratings: South Korea further tightens conditions for food packaging to be accepted as ‘recyclable’

The South Korean government updated national standards for food packaging recyclability, such that food and beverage manufacturers needed to review current packaging to avoid it falling into the ‘difficult to recycle’ category.

Over the past few years, South Korea has placed very strong emphasis on perfecting its local recycling system and policies particularly with regard to food and beverage packaging, ranging from enacting a specific new act on recycling in late 2019 to making various modifications to recycling labels and symbols to ensure consumer compliance and understanding.

The government moved to implement event more stringent conditions earlier this year regarding the classification of packaging as recyclable, resulting in more types of packaging falling into the ‘difficult to recycle’ category. This carried higher cost implications for food and beverage companies as a higher cost of recycling is attached to the usage of difficult to recycle materials for packaging.

Suck it and see: Vietnam eco-straw brand EQUO sets sights on overseas expansion

Vietnam’s EQUO highlighted that the sustainability and hygienic credentials of its eco-friendly straws give it a clear edge over competitors made from paper or metal, making a a new international launch into Singapore.

EQUO is focused on developing 100% plastic-free and compostable solutions for everyday single-use items from straws to utensils and even stationery, and aims to tackle the single-use plastic issue with its products.

“About 50% of all plastic products are in fact used only once, and only for 20 minutes or less, then takes hundreds of years to break down,”​ EQUO Founder Marina Tran-Vu told FoodNavigator-Asia​.

Thailand’s hi-tech food future: Government pledges to step up transformation of food and agri sector

The Thai government pledged earlier in 2022 to pick up the pace of its nationwide digital transformation plans for the local food and agriculture industry, with a major focus on big data, smart agriculture, e-commerce and agribusiness improvement.

Thailand has placed increased focus on the digitalisation of its food and agriculture supply chain over the past several years, particularly since the introduction of the national Thailand 4.0 and 20-year National Strategy frameworks.

As far back as 2020, work was underway to develop a national traceability system for the entire agrifood supply chain, starting with local organic foods, and in 2022 four major subcommittees were formed within the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives (MOAC) as part of the local transformation.

These individually focused on Big Data and Gov Tech, Smart Agriculture, E-Commerce and Agribusiness – all four focus on improving the agrifood sector with the use of technology, innovation and marketing.


Change is in the wind: Nestle Australia highlights plant-based portfolio and 100% renewable energy switch

Nestle Australia highlighted its switch to 100% renewable energy earlier this year for all operations, as well as its rapidly broadening plant-based product portfolio as key initiatives that will help the firm to reach its 2050 net zero emissions goal.

The firm converted all its operations – across all of its six Australian factories, two distribution centres, three corporate offices, 20 retail boutiques, and laboratory – to function using only renewable energy, and decided that it will be solely focusing on wind energy for this.

“We have made our first renewable power purchase agreement (PPA) with CWP Renewables, which is for 10 years – CWP Renewables’ Crudine Ridge and Sapphire wind farms in NSW will generate enough electricity to cover the electricity used across Nestle’s sites each year,”​ Nestle Oceania Director of Corporate Affairs & Sustainability Margaret Stuart told FoodNavigator-Asia​.

Eco be-leaf: Researchers develop bioplastic based on lotus leaf that's suitable for food packaging

Researchers who have developed a self-cleaning bioplastic inspired by the lotus leaf that is sturdy, sustainable and compostable, and ideal for fresh food packaging, moved into a search for commercial partners earlier this year.

The innovative plastic developed at RMIT University in Australia repels liquids and dirt – just like a lotus leaf – then breaks down rapidly once in soil.

RMIT PhD researcher Mehran Ghasemlou, lead author of the study published in Science of the Total Environment​, said the new bioplastic was ideal for fresh food and takeaway packaging.

“Plastic waste is one of our biggest environmental challenges but the alternatives we develop need to be both eco-friendly and cost-effective, to have a chance of widespread use,”​ Ghasemlou said.

Palm oil and human rights: Malaysia striving to improve reputation and appease US over labour standards

The palm oil industry in Malaysia ramped up its efforts to improve labour standards after taking several hits to its reputation and business prospects over the poor handling of human rights issues.

While the palm oil industry as a whole has always faced sustainability debates, Malaysia’s palm oil sector in particular has had more problems with labour than its counterpart in Indonesia due to its extreme dependency on migrant labour, with the vast majority of workers in palm oil plantations coming from foreign countries.

In late 2020 the United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) placed a detention order on palm oil and related products from Malaysia’s government-link FGV Holdings Berhad, saying that forced labour was being used to source this palm oil, which FGV refuted. 

The Malaysian Palm Oil Association (MPOA) launched a Responsible Employment Charter on behalf of the industry, outlining the commitment of its workers to responsible recruitment and treatment of its workers, based on international guidelines and frameworks.

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