The value proposition grows more complex every day. It's no longer enough to supply consumers with safe, nutritious chicken at affordable prices. Understanding and managing the social, economic and environmental impacts of poultry businesses is the rest of the value proposition.

How do you treat the environment? How do you treat your animals? How do you treat your workers? The new demands are coming not just from consumers and your customers but also from the government and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Astute industry managers recognize this and are responding, but the rate of change in the new business environment is breathtaking.

Does your company have a Corporate Responsibility board or committee? Perhaps not, unless your company is publicly owned. But this is an area that deserves attention. Not because it's an altruistic step, but because your customer probably either has his own board in place or is working on one. His stakeholders are demanding it, and this will lead him to you.

Ah! There's that word stakeholders! It's not enough to satisfy your customer and the food consumer. There are also stakeholders to satisfy. An interesting example of the widening sphere of stakeholders comes from Scotland. The Scottish government just kicked off a food policy debate by publishing a discussion paper, "Choosing the Right Ingredients: The Future for Food in Scotland." The paper sets out the government's vision for food's role in making Scotland "wealthier and fairer, smarter, healthier, safer and stronger and greener."

The Scottish government aims to give consumers and other stakeholders a say in shaping the first-ever national food policy. Sustainable economic growth is the stated goal, which is expected to be achieved through cooperation and collaboration across the food supply chain. This would supposedly insure the viability of producers and increase export markets. The environmental impact of food production would be reduced by more responsible behavior in production, processing, manufacturing and consumption. This would include reducing emissions and unnecessary raw materials, packaging and water.


Admittedly, this is occurring in Scotland and not in the USA. But this Scottish experiment is an evolution of the broad trends.

Unilever President Kevin Havelock, who recently participated in the Grocery Manufacturers Association Environmental Sustainability Summit, sheds light on the opportunities and challenges in the realm of corporate responsibility. His company's commitment is to reduce its overall carbon footprint, making water conservation a priority and implementing changes in packaging. He said that since 1995, the company has cut its CO2 emissions by 30 percent in total on a per-ton of production and more than halved the amount of water used at its manufacturing sites.

Unilever Group CEO Patrick Cescau has said, "Successful brands of the future will be those that both satisfy the functional needs of consumers and address their common concerns as citizens concerns about the environment and social justice."

Speaking of the influence of stakeholders, Unilever has worked with the World Wildlife Fund to develop the Marine Stewardship Council to establish a global standard for sustainable fishery management. The company also has worked with the Rainforest Alliance to have all its tea certified from sustainable sources by 2015.

Havelock said the company's sustainable development is not only good for business but serves as a catalyst to energize workers and as a tool for attracting new employees to the organization.