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One woman’s mission to make the UK food industry more climate smart

A third of global greenhouse gas emissions come from the food industry. The truth is that the UK food sector is moving too slowly to reduce its impact on the environment, and it urgently needs help if it is to hit the 1.5 degree target by 2030. 

Kate Cawley, founder and managing director Veris Strategies and founder of the Future Food Movement, has made it her mission to connect previously competitive food businesses and help them combat climate change. She has identified a huge climate skills gap in the food industry and subsequently launched the Future FoodMovement to give individuals and businesses much-needed climate skills and the confidence to take action.

Kate was named as Management Today’s 35 Women under 35 and a Woman of the Future in recognition of her human centric approach to sustainability. Her commitment to truly changing the food and drink industry is inspiring a new generation of people who want to make the world a better place. 

Everyone’s job is a sustainability job 

Kate has blended an expertise in waste reduction, learnt from her family’s waste management business, and her background in marketing to breakdown hard to understand environmental technical information into engaging campaigns that help food businesses make sense of and ultimately, tackle climate change. 

This is more than setting PR-friendly green targets, it is about instigating behavioural changes across all areas of a business and embedding a net zero culture. 

This approach has helped her develop sustainability strategies for some of the UK’s biggest food, drink and retail brands including Cranswick plc, Greencore plc, Compleat Food Group and Samworth Brothers, Roberts Bakery and Belazu.

We can’t compete on climate 

Never one to shy away from a challenge, Kate devised and launched the Future Food Movement in 2022 which is the biggest mass climate upskilling programme in UK history.  It has ambitious aims to revolutionise the role that individuals and businesses play in how the UK food and drink industry tackles climate change. 

Kate identified a lack of confidence in business leaders at some of the UK’s leading food manufacturers and a cautiousness in how they were developing and implementing climate change initiatives. She spotted an opportunity to put these businesses together in the same room to collaborate, learn and be inspired from each other in order to help them to develop strategies quicker. 

The Future of Food

This isn’t about dull e-learning modules on sustainability delivered to tick green agenda boxes. Kate has spent over a year devising a digital learning platform which is open to both business leaders and individuals which help inspire, educate and drive real-life collaborations.  

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The Accelerator is a 12-month CPD accredited learning experience which fast-tracks senior business leaders in the food industry giving them climate skills and preparing them to be Future Food Leaders who can respond to the climate crisis.

Kate is at her heart an optimist and believes that by bringing together pioneers from across all sustainability specialisms to coach, mentor and inspire then the bigger the impact. 

Kate said of what drives her: “The climate skills gap in the UK food industry has the ability to derail the UK’s carbon net zero ambitions which would be a disaster for all of us. I created the Future Food Movement as a legacy project and so I could look my daughter in the eye and tell her truthfully that I tried my hardest to ensure a healthier planet for her future.

“We will all remember the businesses that didn’t do enough to tackle climate change so it’s important to be on the right side of history. The Future Food Movement is ambitious in its scope but if it works, and we connect the food industry together across all levels then it will have a massive impact. This is building for the future. We want to help businesses be braver. Work smarter. Do better.” 

Challenging the food and drink industry

The Future Food Movement is the culmination of 20 years of work from Kate, supported by her team of experts at Veris Strategies. It is a pioneering new community, industry network and upskilling campaign which is solely focused on closing the climate skills gap. 

Its Ally Community, championed by chef, food writer and sustainable food advocate Gizzi Erskine, is open to the two million individuals who work in the UK food industry and arm them with knowledge that will help them take action on sustainability in their businesses.

In its recent White Paper, Tomorrow’s Talent: Skills For A Climate Smart Food System, The Future FoodMovement revealed that nearly two thirds of those who work in the UK’s food and drink sector, do not think that their employer is taking positive action to tackle the climate crisis. The report also highlighted a need for the food sector to come together to collectively have a loud voice in climate action, whilst also increasing employee retention and inspiring the next generation to enter a positive, sustainable, and engaging industry.

This is Kate’s rallying call to everyone who works in the food and drink industry, whatever their role. This new platform will focus on four skills areas; climate literacy, application, technology, and communication, as part of its mission to help the industry deliver on net zero by 2050. 

Kate said: “Ultimately, we all win, or we all lose. It’s as simple as that. Knowledge is power, and through the Ally Community we will be upskilling our whole industry and helping make every role a climate role.”


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