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Don't be a Pollyanna with your poultry sustainability program

October 8, 2014

With consumers showing growing concern about food sustainability, and non-governmental organizations breathing down the necks of food production companies, there’s tremendous pressure to mount sustainability efforts that show results.

Poultry producers are under no less pressure than consumer goods companies like Mondelēz International, one of the world’s largest snack food companies. It is spending millions of dollars on sustainability, and – the dollar level of investment notwithstanding – its approach to sustainability can be instructive for poultry producers.

With global revenues of $35 billion and customers and a supply chain in 165 countries, the maker of brands such as Ritz, Nabisco, Philadelphia, Tang, Chips Ahoy, Oreo, Trident and Cadbury gets a lot of attention and pressure about sustainability worldwide.

Speaking at the Informa Oilseed & Grain Trade Summit, David Brown, vice president of global commodities, told listeners that he is amazed at the power and influence of NGOs when it comes to sustainability.

>> Don’t say ‘yes’ to everything now. Referring to the need to be responsive to the demands for progress in sustainability, Brown said, “It’s easy to say yes to every demand, but you can’t say yes to everything now.” Remember, he said, “It’s a marathon, not a sprint.”

>> You need a sustainability strategy. Mondelēz’s strategy focuses on creating growth through well-being. Elements in the consumer channel include the following:

  • Empower balanced snacking choices

  • Promote healthy lifestyles

  • Invent new solutions

  • Improve products’ nutrition

  • Educate about balanced snacking

In the supplier channel, Mondelēz has mounted focused programs to help its farmer-suppliers improve their production efficiencies. There’s also an effort to promote values such as women ownership of the plantations that produce its coffee and cocoa supplies.

>> Partner with external advisers and document your sustainable journey. What does partnership with NGOs look like? “No two are the same,” Brown said.” It can be tough to figure out the relationships. Some NGOs take you at your word and others show up and march to try and disrupt business.

“We have to be transparent about our journey in creating greater sustainability recognizing that stakeholders value real intentions and progress versus perfection,” he said.

>> Don’t make commitments that the supply chain can’t handle. Again, external partners who are serious about the process should be willing to measure progress over the long haul. Avoid adopting Pollyannish objectives which set you up for failure.

>> Make sustainability about growth. Agriculture supply is under pressure. Mondelēz must compete for key crops to fuel growth. It focuses on areas in which the company and its suppliers need to grow and become more efficient.

>> Your sustainability strategy should make business sense. Sustainability efforts need to make good, responsible business sense. They need to create win-win scenarios for the company, suppliers and stakeholders.

Mondelēz holds the No. 1 position globally in biscuits (cookies), chocolate, candy and powdered beverages as well as the No. 2 position in gum and coffee.

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