This week, Glanbia Ireland committed to reduce its carbon intensity by 2030 under its sustainability strategy. Living Proof sets out ambitious targets, including an intention to reach net-zero carbon by 2050.

Farmers can expect to see their carbon footprint available in the near future and that carbon footprint is to reduce by 30% by 2030.

The strategy aims to reduce carbon emissions and increase regenerative farming practices among its suppliers. There are five priority areas, all of which have different targets set out.

Carbon reduction:

  • Sign up to the Science-Based Target initiative, which will allow specific targets and time frames to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to be decided upon.
  • Reduce carbon emissions from Glanbia Ireland processing sites by 30% by 2030 (from the baseline of 2018).
  • Support dairy farmers to reduce carbon intensity by 30% from milk production by 2030.
  • Regenerative agriculture:

  • Improve soil health on farms.
  • 100% of milk suppliers to keep an up-to-date nutrient management plan by 2025.
  • 100% of milk suppliers in the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s priority areas for action to have water quality plans in place by 2025.
  • 100% of milk suppliers to be certified to ‘A greener world’ animal welfare approved standards by 2025.
  • 100,000 native trees and hedgerow plants to be planted by the end of 2021 as part of Operation Biodiversity.
  • Circular economy:

  • Cut food waste by 50% by 2030 and maintain zero waste to landfill.
  • Reduce plastic usage by 15% by 2025 and 25% by 2030.
  • 100% of packaging materials to be compatible with a circular economy by 2025.
  • Other targets include the responsible sourcing of all food ingredients by 2030 and continued engagement with community projects.

    How will these targets be met?

    Farmers will meet these targets with support and advice from Glanbia. Regular soil sampling, the development of a nutrient management plan and a plan to improve water quality are all crucial.

    The Teagasc Marginal Abatement Cost Curve (MACC) will guide some of this advice and Glanbia aims to see 90% of milk suppliers milk recording by 2025. Furthermore, Glanbia is focused on working with suppliers to have 75% of them using low emissions slurry spreading (LESS) equipment by 2025.

    These targets are also in line with the Department of Agriculture’s roadmap to climate neutrality – Ag Climatise.

    Water quality

    The EPA attributes 85% of the nitrogen sources in rural river catchments to agriculture. In June, the agency published maps displaying elevated nitrate concentrations in intensively-farmed areas of the south and south-east of the country.

    Dairy farming in particular is coming under increased pressure to reduce nitrogen losses to water bodies. Reducing this loss is a top priority in Glanbia’s strategy.

    Glanbia currently has three ASSAP (Agricultural Sustainability Support and Advice Programme) advisers on its team and there will be a huge focus on improving water quality from its suppliers.

    All suppliers in the EPA priority areas for action will have a plan to protect water quality in place by 2025.

    Signpost programme

    Glanbia’s Open Source Future Farms Signpost Programme will be part of the Teagasc Signpost Programme network. The aim in this programme is to reduce GHG emissions by 30%, bringing emissions to 0.8kg CO2eq/kg FPCM (fat and protein corrected milk) before any carbon sequestration is taken into account.

    Ammonia emissions are also to be reduced on these farms by 20% through the use of LESS equipment, protected urea and an overall reduction in artificial nitrogen use.

    Carbon sequestration will be measured on all farms through the National Soil Carbon Observatory. Deep soil samples will be taken to measure soil carbon storage.

    LIDAR technology will be used to analyse above-ground carbon stocks like hedgerows and a flux tower will also be placed on a farm to monitor emissions in the air.

    The Signpost Programme targets an increase in nitrogen use efficiency to 35% and aims to have net profit greater than €800/cow or above €2,000/ha.

    The participating farms will be given a sustainability report each year and a plan to improve the sustainability of the farm will also be prepared.

    Speaking on the launch of ''Living Proof'', Glanbia Ireland CEO Jim Bergin stated: “Irish farmers are among the best in the world and are showing their determination to adapt to the requirement for science-based climate action.

    "Farm families are proud custodians of the rural environment, and we will support our farmers in addressing challenges and building on Ireland’s great natural credentials. Farmers have proven their willingness to adapt and change many times.”


  • Glanbia Ireland's plan compiles targets and practices that we hear more and more about every day, but puts them into a living document which will now guide the practices to follow when supplying milk to the company.
  • Support will be provided to farmers, enabling them to meet these targets and presumably the role of price incentives to support sustainability best practice will play a role in the years ahead.
  • Looking at the focus on improved soil health and measurement of carbon, there could be scope for suppliers to build carbon and trade carbon credits into the future.