Sustainability drives efficiency drives performance.

New research highlights the strategies and capabilities of companies with sustainability-framed initiatives to increase food quality, safety, and overall corporate responsibility. Around 56% of respondents rank “the need for competitive advantage” as the top business pressure driving their organisation to focus on a sustainability initiative. I’ve been saying in this blog how nice it would be to see a genuine sense of responsibility drive corporate responsibility, but OK, if it takes a recognition that there’s money in sustainability then, fine, at least we have a corporate response to important issues.

food sustainability; the cost of 'cheap' food

The survey results show that top performing firms achieved: – 19% decrease in energy costs – 17% decrease in waste / disposal costs – 13% decrease in defects / non-conforming goods over last 12 months – 5% decrease in year-over-year overall operational costs relative to changes in volume of business – 15% increase in customer acquisition rate.

Jhana Senxian, the report author, advised. “ The hyper-visibility and critical nature of food company practices – and missteps – have driven thought leading companies to adopt strategies geared to responsibly sustaining the business while also sustaining the environmental and social infrastructures upon which the business depends.”

The report by the Aberdeen Group, entitled “Sustaining the Global Food Supply Chain: Three Keys to Gaining Competitive Advantage”, is no doubt available for squillions.

One great example of sustainability initiatives in the food sector is that of UK frozen foods business Birds Eye Iglo which is launching a company-wide sustainability plan called ‘Forever Food’. The group has committed to sourcing 100% of wild and farmed fish from certified fisheries by 2012, reduce packaging by 15% by 2012, reducing water consumption used in manufacturing by 20% by 2020, reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 30% by 2020 and sending zero waste to landfill from UK operations by 2015.

The plan has been developed in collaboration with a range of organisations including the WWF, the Marine Stewardship Council, the Food and Drink Federation and the Prince’s Countryside Fund. The new guidelines covers all raw materials and manufacturing sites as well as third party suppliers. The company claimed the move is another step in its history of sustainable development, with key milestones including co-founding the Marine Steward Council (MSC) with WWF in 1995, and stopping frying using palm oil in 2002.

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