The Covid-19 pandemic has brought the essential nature of Europe’s food and drink industry into sharp focus. The food and drink sector has managed to maintain supply and ensure that the EU’s 450 million citizens continue to be fed and refreshed. As the non-alcoholic beverage sector, we – the soft drinks industry – are a local industry working with local suppliers, farmers and bottling plants and have many thousands of people to thank for ensuring that our production and supply is maintained.
But the situation remains very challenging in some of the most important channels for our sector which remain closed due to lockdown measures, e.g. restaurants, cafés and hotels. The health of our sector’s workers and as well as of our clients remains the highest priority for our industry. We continue to call for reasonable and proportionate measures to be taken to enable economic exchanges and a phased re-opening of the economy while ensuring safety of all parties involved.
Our sector strongly believes that recovery and green growth should go hand in hand. We call for the creation of a supportive framework for industry to continue long-term investments in sustainability and nutrition, together with a strong EU industrial and growth strategy. In addition, we call on governments to help create a “new normal” for the food and drink sector by in particular supporting the Horeca sector go back to normal as soon as possible.
We also anticipate governments will examine a wide range of measures towards paying for the significant funds currently being mobilized to fight the Covid-19 pandemic – but additional financial burdens on companies and consumers in the mid-term will only delay the recovery. Any new or additional taxation applied to food and drinks need to be carefully considered.
1. Supporting sustainability ambitions and green transitioning
Europe after Covid-19 will not be the same, but the European ambitions around climate neutrality and sustainable growth should not change. To continue being competitive and sustainable, our industry needs support from policy-makers and long-term legal certainty that our investments into packaging circularity will be recognised under the EU circular economy objectives.
To achieve full circularity and deliver on the commitments we made in our Circular Packaging Vision 2030, we need a clear pan-European policy framework that avoids sending contradictory signals which could lead to bans of products which are recyclable, collected, recycled, or using high levels of recycled content.
EU Recovery Funds have to support the green transition while we are recovering from the Covid-19 economic fallout, by funding investments in collection schemes, recycling innovation, and green infrastructures.
Our 2030 Vision ⤵💡— Soft Drinks Europe (@UNESDA) February 23, 2021
🚮#Collection: strive towards closing the loop
♻️#Recycling: use only packaging that is #circular by design & boost the uptake of #rPET
🔁#Reduce & #reuse: reduce our #packaging footprint & use more #refillables #LeadingTheLoop 👉 https://t.co/S7MVlPLQYZ pic.twitter.com/xIhC1EU8XU
2. Putting better regulation into action
Europe’s Green Deal targets in the Circular Economy Action Plan and Farm-to-Fork do not have to be changed, but the right framework needs to be created to support industry in achieving these. The situation created by the pandemic requires both consistency and adaptation from EU policy-makers: consistency for the green and growth agenda to be maintained and stimulated to the highest possible level; adaptation because we must protect EU businesses that have been hit by the crisis, by ensuring ambitious legislation is developed and adopted in the right way to support innovation and growth by reducing unnecessary burdens for economic operators. This can be delivered by following better regulation principles and in particular by conducting thorough impact assessments at all stages of the legislative process. It is important to take into consideration the consequences of the pandemic as well as the implications of legislation for all businesses model and long-term investments of the food industry, for example in the case of the review of the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive or of the actions deriving from the Farm-to-Fork strategy.
3. Helping the Horeca sector to recover
Regarding the Horeca sector, we urge for a gradual, safe, intelligent and controlled re-opening of the Horeca sector in Europe. Such a re-opening needs to respect various health, hygiene and practical requirements to ensure that the health of Horeca workers and their clients are always ensured. Expansionary fiscal policy (e.g. temporary reduction in VAT rates) for a sustained period to stimulate household consumption and restore demand, especially in the service sector, should be explored. Since the Covid-19 pandemic outbreak, we have remained a steadfast advocate of effective measures for the hospitality sector in particular. Very recently, on 27 April 2021, we joined 11 other associations and trade unions representing the European hospitality industry in calling on the European institutions to put a stronger focus on supporting the recovery of the sector. We have no doubt that a smoother and safe recovery will ensure a better future for all.