Innovation and Collaboration For a Sustainable Food Chain: Interview with Agneta Påander, Sustainability Director at Orkla Foods Sweden

The current global food system is responsible for 27% of GHG emissions and 70% of freshwater withdrawal and therefore has a huge environmental impact on the planet. According to the Vegconomist, if plant-based products would replace only 10% of the global animal market we could “save CO2 emissions equivalent to 2.7 billion trees, an area of land bigger than Germany, and enough water for everyone in the state of New York for five years” by 2030. In this blog post, you can read about Agneta Påander’s thoughts on plant-based food, circular solutions in food production and much more.

Good Food should Do Good too

The Orkla Group is one of the leading actors within branded consumer goods for grocery stores, catering, bakeries and pharmacies in the Nordics. Orkla Foods Sweden is a member of this group and Agneta Påander, who I have interviewed for this blog post, is the sustainability director for it. Agneta told me that at Orkla Foods Sweden, they have a mission to produce good food that does good – it should taste good, but it should also be good for people, animals, the environment and society in general. But what does that mean in practice? One thing that they are doing is gradually switching to more plant-based protein, which Agneta argued has a positive effect not only on the environment but on our health as well. Last year, Orkla Sweden actually launched plant-based products in all of their business areas, Agneta explained to me. In the food category alone, sales of vegetarian and vegan products grew by 30%. 

Orkla has put science-based climate targets in place for their business; they aim to reduce their GHG emissions in scope 3 with 30% and in scope 1&2 with 63% by 2025 and 77% by 2040. An example of what Orkla Foods Sweden is doing to reach these goals that Agneta brought up was their facility in Kungshamn, where they have a circular focus. By local cooperation with a biogas plant they have managed to reduce a 1000 tons in CO2 emissions per year for the establishment. First, they take waste from their marine raw materials and this becomes biogas that is used in the production process of the food. The biogas is also used to heat the buildings, while the residual product is used as a high-quality organic manure for local farms.

Collaboration for Sustainable Innovation

Throughout the interview, Agneta stressed the importance of the whole food industry acting together in order to create a sustainable food system, “and time is starting to run out, so we really need to do it now”. All actors within the supply chain affect one another and for Agneta that means that they should act towards the same goals and at the same pace. She envisions an industry that is open, shares knowledge with one another and finds long-term solutions to systemic issues together. In practice it means that people need to be open to new ways of thinking and be bold enough to implement the type of solutions that will give long-term sustainability. “And we must do it together in order to succeed”, Agneta declared.

One of the areas she thinks the industry should focus on improving is sustainably grown raw materials, which is why Orkla is part of Sustainable Supply Chain for Food in Sweden. In this organisation, Orkla along with WWF and 14 other actors have investigated what needs to be done in different food categories like vegetables or dairy products, for example, so that the supply chain can become more sustainable. Another subject that Agneta is passionate about is food waste. She reminds me that if you throw away a tomato, you are also throwing away all of the work that has already gone into the supply chain, from the seed until the moment it ends up on your plate. “All of those previous steps in the supply chain had their own impact on the environment and when you throw the tomato away that environmental impact has been for nothing”, Agneta stated. In Sweden alone we have about 1,3 million tonnes of food waste every year, she told me, and that is why Orkla has set a goal to half our food waste until 2025. Orkla has also joined an organization called Samarbete för minskat matsvinn which allows them to find solutions to the problem of food waste along with other key players in the supply chain. Agneta is currently Vice President of this organization.

Orkla Group also has a division that is called Orkla Venture where they support and invest in innovative startups, often with a sustainability focus. Agneta talked about her conviction that innovation is the solution, “sometimes to problems we don’t even realize exist”. Two examples of the startups that Orkla has supported have produced sustainable baby food and recycled packaging, respectively.

Agneta Påander was included in the Fairforce list Top Professionals Working with Plant-Based Food in Sweden and the UK.