Actor Saoirse Ronan has worked for free on a new campaign encouraging food and drink manufacturers to become more sustainable.

The voluntary “Origin Green” programme was announced by Bord Bia, the Irish food board, today and it aims to get every Irish food and drink manufacturer signed up to an environmentally-friendly charter by 2016.

To launch the campaign, the 18-year-old actor from Carlow has fronted a stirring audio visual presentation on sustainability.

To be approved for the programme, manufacturers must set out targets in areas such as emissions, energy, waste, water, biodiversity and corporate and social responsibility activities.

Bord Bia is already running a pilot Origin Green programme with Kerry Group; Glanbia (Dairy Ingredients Ireland); Marine Harvest; Country Crest; Dawn Farm Foods; Flahavans; Irish Distillers; ABP and Errigal Seafoods.

Bord Bia chief executive Aidan Cotter said he aimed to have 75 per cent of Irish food and drink exports sourced from Origin Green members by the end of 2014, and 100 per cent by the end of 2016. He said Ireland could be a world leader in sustainability.

“By the end of this year, most of our 32,000 beef farms will have been carbon foot-printed and soon we will begin to roll out the measure across all 18,000 dairy enterprises. In this we are already a world leader. No other country anywhere in the world is carbon foot-printing its farms on what is, in effect, a national scale.”

The plan was endorsed by Taoiseach Enda Kenny, who said it said the plan sent out “a very clear message about Ireland’s place in the food industry and our desire and our ability to be judged and to emerge shining with the highest international standards”.

Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney highlighted the connection between improving environmental sustainability and reducing production costs and improving profitability at farm and company level.

“It is not enough to say that you have a clean, green product, you must be in a position to prove this through a credible means of measurement,” he said. “I believe that the development of such sustainability programmes is an essential element in the growth strategy for the food sector and I encourage producers and companies alike to sign up.”

The announcement was made at Bord Bia’s Food and Drink Leadership Summit in Dublin.