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With the rise of globalisation, social media, and an increasingly energised citizenry, the pressure on the food network to close the loop and offer clear and sustainable choices has never been greater.

The importance of food and beverage is the experience that it brings. As consumers we want and expect a full spectrum of emotional experience with food. We thirst for new culinary experiences – we want taste, flavour, texture, and to find unique pairings we may not have heard of. We want to play with our food, explore diverse cuisines and cutting-edge fusion foods that have the potential to create memories we can then share on social media.

This need is fuelled by living and sharing an experience. Food is a way to connect, laugh, share happiness and sorrow, feel safe and warm, to feel part of a community. Food is a way to not only pass down our heritage, but our culture, our history even.

As a result consumers behaviour has significantly shifted. Consumer interest in where food comes from and how it is made has been growing like wildfire over the past few years. More than ever consumers care about ingredient sourcing, labelling, worker welfare, and what impact the manufacture and distribution of products have on society and the environment. Aspiring to spend their money on brands that preach pro-social messages, apply sustainable manufacturing practices and exercise ethical business standards. The desire to know more about how, when, and where food and drink are being made, produced or grown – through to who’s doing the growing or producing – can be seen on almost every label in grocery stores, restaurant menus and is resetting dinner tables across the developed world.

It is vital then that consumers feel they can trust the quality and integrity of the food they’re buying. Some of this desire for information and transparency has been as a result of various well-documented food scandals, and, as a consequence, pressure on us retailers and manufacturers to offer full and transparent disclosure on our products have never been greater.

This new focus for full transparency across the food network is an enormous investment in change for the industry. But rather than viewing sustainability and transparency as a challenge, or burden even, more of us in the industry are leveraging the opportunity it brings to identify potential operational improvements, promote good corporate citizenship, which can reinforce the strength of our brands, and potentially minimise the impact of future reputational events.

While there is a clear business case to enter down the sustainability path, very often, perception defines reality when it comes to sustainability, and it can be difficult to break through the current ‘hype’ around these concepts. In reality, sustainability is a complex construct when you look at all it encompasses, such as sustainable farming practices, low environmental impact, upholding animal welfare, protection of public health, and good employment practices and community support. And depending on where you sit within the food network, the challenges and risks your organisation faces will be vastly different from another. One size does not necessarily fit all.

That said, whether you’re embarking on the path of integrating sustainable development into your business strategy – be that for the first time or to shore up an existing strategy – before charging forward it may be helpful to consider looking at the following:

  • Trend analysis – evaluate the global megatrends in the industry and considering your market’s key influencers across stakeholder importance, and the impact this will have on your business.
  • Stakeholder engagement – analyse what your key stakeholders consider important about your business, our industry as well as the markets you operate in.
  • Comparison analysis – look at the strategies and the activities from your competition, your suppliers and even your own customers.
  • Market analysis and risk assessment – look to deepen these processes and embed scenario plans that build upon global data sets, policies and industry insights, this will help to create a number of variants for a “future state” view of opportunity and risk.
  • Board engagement – As with all businesses, engaging with your board and your senior leadership team is key to garner a stronger understanding of your business’ ambition when it comes to responding to the above, as well as their risk appetite.

By running through these steps as part of a defined process you’ll be better placed to identify a model for integration that suits the needs of your business; providing a platform for a business case for action that supports the overall integration process.

If you’d like to hear from leading experts and industry peers on how they closed the loop of the supply chain, join us at the GFSI Conference on Thursday, February 28 from 8:15am to 9:15am where we’re holding a session that will highlight key examples for responsible sourcing choices and demonstrate how and where you can build on your journey.

 


 

This post was written and contributed by:

 

Natalie Harvey
Global Product Marketing Manager
SAI Global Assurance

 

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