When developing a sustainability program for your agrifood operation, it is important to have both clear leadership and key goals in place.

Sara Reichelt, DVM, Aviagen North America’s director of animal health and sustainability, shared her thoughts on the building blocks of a sustainability program during the webinar, “Sustainability: Where Are We Going and How Can We Get There.” The webinar was held in advance of the May 2022 Animal Agriculture Alliance Stakeholders Summit, and a recorded version of the webinar was recently posted on YouTube.

Support at the executive level

Reichelt said even before you start a sustainability program, you have to have what she calls “leadership buy-in.”

“If you do not have executive support or leadership support, you're not going to have teeth. On top of that, you're not going to have the financial buy-in, the time buy-in to move forward with any goals that you have. So that is really the first step is get buy-in from the top of the company,” she said.

Find a point person

Also key to a successful program is having a point person, and making sure that point person is able to devote an appropriate amount of time to the sustainability program.

“In the food animal industry, we don't have a lot of extra time. We're all quite busy, so in the situation where you potentially are adding that onto someone else's job it's not likely going to be as productive as giving somebody the time and space as their role to make changes,” said Reichelt.


Align your goals 

Everybody on the team has to have the same goals. Reichelt said the point person who is leading the program and the executive leadership “has to be on the same page.” People at both levels of leadership need to know what the goals are, so they can better collaborate and endure that the company is moving in the right direction for what it needs.

Don’t make the program too broad at first

While Reichelt said this advice may seem obvious to some, she said she really wanted to stress the importance of determining what the sustainability objectives are.

Those goals should be specific, measurable, achievable and time-bound, she said.

And there shouldn’t be too many goals.

“It can be really easy when you're talking about sustainability to have so many different projects and such a diffuse amount of effort being put in, that you don't actually move the needle on one specific (sustainable development goal, or SDG), so being able to limit your goals and ensure that you have some smart goals is going to allow you to move forward with one SDG at a time,” said Reichelt.