The dairy sector takes its commitment to protecting our world’s resources seriously

Environmentally friendly diets need to be healthy.  Providing a growing world population with more sustainable and healthy food is a big challenge for the future. In seeking solutions to how we can best develop sustainable food systems it must be remembered that it takes more than adequate calories to feed humans. The dairy sector has been pioneering on the challenge to reduce environmental impact and protect nature, setting ambitious targets of GHG reduction, committing to further reductions and significant investment in research and development to find innovative and sustainable ways to produce and process nutritious milk and dairy products.

The result has been improvements in environmental performance, producing more nutritious milk and dairy products with fewer natural resources, less water, and less energy.  In 2013, the global dairy sector launched the Dairy Sustainability Framework to enable the industry to continuously improve and demonstrate adaptation and mitigation progress made through proactive efforts. In 2015, the dairy sector was the first one to develop a life cycle assessment methodology to measure its footprint. In 2016, the International Dairy Federation and FAO signed the Dairy Declaration of Rotterdam, a commitment by the global dairy sector to the achievement of the UN sustainable development goals.

The sector is continually finding new ways to improve sustainability, increase energy efficiencies, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, reduce water, save energy, and lower operating costs for dairy farms.

Dairy as part of the solution

In recent years, IDF has actively put environmental concerns at the top of its priorities, through scientific research and a close collaboration with various stakeholders worldwide.
The objective of this work is to inform the global dairy sector about developments concerning the environment (e.g. effects of environment on milk and milk products, effects of dairying on the environment), while providing leadership on environmental sustainability issues in close liaison with the wider IDF network and relevant international and third party organizations.
The goal of the dairy sector is to drive continuous improvement and deliver for healthy people and a healthy planet. Our network of IDF experts are actively working in several areas to help achieve these goals:
  • Energy efficiency and GHG emissions quantification and mitigation, including renewable energy generation
  • Water quality, efficiency and reuse​
  • Biodiversity
  • Waste management and reduction
  • Review and adoption/promotion of best available technologies and practice
IDF work supports the dairy sector’s longstanding efforts to be an active participant in seeking and implementing solutions to issues with long term health ramifications of our planet and population. Farmers across all facets of animal agriculture, including dairy, have long-since embraced evolving techniques to produce animal sourced foods as efficiently and sustainably as possible, minimising agriculture’s climate-contributing footprint in the process.
IDF also seeks to provide information on the true picture of dairy’s impact on the environment:
  • The dairy sector has one of the smallest carbon footprints per unit of animal product in the world. Producing milk and indirectly meat, accounts for 4% percent of all global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from human activities.
  • Overall contribution of milk production, processing and transportation represents 2.7% of GHG global emissions.
  • The dairy sector is significantly reducing emissions: emission intensity of milk has dropped by almost 11% between 2005 and 2015, while dairy production increased by 30% (FAO report 2019).
  • Ruminants use agricultural land and environmental resources efficiently. Around 1.3 billion ha or 1/4 of the global agricultural area is not suitable for cultivated agriculture. While food for humans cannot be grown on these marginal lands, cows and other dairy animals can graze in these areas, recycling otherwise wasted biomass into milk. 

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The dairy sector has been pioneering on the challenge to reduce its environmental impact

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