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Visit to Robert Wiseman Dairies, Bellshill: Wednesday 7 April 2010.

Founded in 1947, the family firm of Robert Wiseman was floated on the London Stock Exchange in 1994 and has steadily grown to acquire a 30 per cent share in the UK market for milk.

The company now owns seven dairies including new ones at Manchester, Droitwich and Bridgewater, and whenever it builds a new one retrofits existing facilities to the same standard. Rising costs include fuel, energy and water, and the dairy industry's carbon footprint includes the methane output of the cow!

An energy resource manager now oversees a renewable energy strategy which includes a new refrigeration system, rainwater harvesting, lighter packaging and recycling so that only 0.2% of the company's waste now goes to landfill, making financial sense since tax is thus avoided. 22 of the company's 1500 vehicles run on liquid natural gas, but a look at biofuels revealed that at this stage they were insufficiently developed to be of practical use.

Wiseman's engagements include packaging branded for special events, support to young farmers groups and a commitment to Fareshare which passes on surplus output to charities. The company shares best practice through an industry sustainability group and a low carbon skills forum, gives advice to national agenciers and internally runs workshops encouraging best practice at home in the hope that this will be mirrored in the workplace.

Hand-driers have replaced paper towels so as to cut down on waste. Water is a bigger issue than carbon for a food company. Maintaining its lead as Britain's most efficient dairy company, Wiseman is the first food and drink business to have an IPCC permit and the first company to sign up for the WRAP Courtauld Commitment 2 which has a carbon matrice.

Only the Aberdeen plant now produces bottled milk, which some customers still prefer since it fits better into the door of their fridge. Half the milk comes directly from farms, with Tesco tracking output from their own sources, and the other half from cooperatives. There is no international trade in fresh milk. Much collaboration takes place between dairy companies, who benchmark each other. Peaks in demand for fresh milk are managed by diverting output at quiet times into supply for the making of cheese and powdered milk, but Robert Wiseman has firmly resisted any temptation to diversify into areas other than fresh milk.

CILT Scotland would like to thank David Douglas, Robert Wiseman Group Energy Manager and Kirsty Cooper, Group Logistics Manager for their presentation and for making us welcome to their Bellshill dairy.

Report by John Uellowlees.

 

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