The long term view was certainly in evidence at this year’s International Poultry Expo, with economic forecasters looking beyond current difficulties in the market, predictions of where the next major growth areas would be, advice on how to align business direction with consumer preference and how to foster sustainability.
Consumer expectation and sustainability are, perhaps, more difficult to understand and define than simple profit and loss. Speaking at the event, Donnie Smith, president and CEO of Tyson Foods, noted that, while there may not be an overarching definition of sustainability, sustainability issues were coming under ever more focus as, in the case of Tyson, he proferred, they were important to everyone who is important to the business.
Taking a simple example, he suggested that to direct any approach to sustainability we all take a look at lessons learned in kindergarten, and added that if something is borrowed, it be returned in the same or better condition than when it was found.
This approach can be applied as much to water resources, as to land, as to people.
No progress without goals
Tyson, however, like many other companies, is doing a lot more than simply looking at its immediate sphere of operation and is involved in a number of community and hunger programs at home and overseas. And while not everything is perfect, the company has set itself goals across its business areas and functions and is working towards achieving them. For example, in terms of reducing physical waste, there is a goal of being landfill free for many plants. Three are already three that have achieved this, others are close to hitting the target.
Reducing waste and inputs, as well as being good for the environment, can also help to reduce cost, making good business sense in both the short- and long-term. Supporting communities can help to ensure that are suppliers and consumers in the future.
And of course, sustainability resonates with consumers. Charlie Arnot, of the Center for Food Integrity noted that shared values are highly important in building trust with consumers. While science should never be discarded, studies have found that engendering confidence with consumers, for example through shared values and ethical behavior, is far more important in winning hearts and minds. Confidence has been found to be four times more important than competence in the eyes of the consumer.
He continued that, the public has the right to expect farmers, food companies, restaurants and grocery stores to act in a responsible manner. While profit remains key for any business, focusing on profit at the expense of building trust with communities and consumers may not be the best strategy in the long-term.
He reminded delegates at the event that what can be done is not always the same as what should be done, and of the importance of getting the right message to the right person at the right time. Simple ideas, perhaps, but ones that are worth reflecting on with regard to many aspects of our day-to-day lives.