Following the success of the first-ever virtual GFSI Conference on 23rd-25th March, the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) hosted its first Steering Committee meeting as a Coalition of Action (CoA). The new Steering Committee and its 18 members were announced on the 23rd March, just days ahead of this first meeting on 26th March. The 18 newly selected steering committee members had been subject to a rigorous selection process, a process that was published on the GFSI website. The GFSI Steering Committee includes new members of the Coalition all of whom are representatives of CGF member companies.
Once the formalities and introductions were completed, as part of the inaugural meeting of the group, members were updated about GFSI’s new lease of life as a Coalition of Action under the stewardship of The Consumer Goods Forum (CGF). It was reinforced that the move to the CoA signals a strengthening of overall governance in line with the wider CGF. Additionally, the new governance has increased GFSI’s visibility amongst the CGF membership, especially with CEOs, which has resulted in more companies signing up to the CoA than were previously part of the old GFSI Board.
GFSI Director Erica Sheward emphasised how the Coalition’s Race to the Top Framework – a collection of initiatives to help drive continuous improvement in the food safety system – underpin the actions of the Coalition. This reimagining of the GFSI strategy – based on extensive consultation – is supported by a Coalition Charter approved by the CGF Board of Directors. The current Charter asks members to work on the harmonisation and improvement of food safety systems and to help raise the food safety bar globally. It was noted that there was a need to ensure that GFSI stakeholders are familiar with the objectives of the Charter as they relate to Members’ obligations. The group also discussed in more depth the role of GFSI within the CGF and the history behind this shift.
Members then moved on to discussing the new Governance Rules and the process for making decisions. Erica highlighted the governance changes, which included the review of the Local Group strategy, the decision-making framework and the introduction of the Science and Technology Advisory Group (STAG), which is comprised of academics who will provide direct scientific input into the work of the GFSI.
As the current cap of the Steering Committee is 29 members, the Steering Committee was reminded of the application process for new Steering Committee members. New candidates will be considered on a quarterly basis, first by the GFSI team and then voted on by the Steering Committee members. Finally, Erica informed the members that the Co-Chairs and Vice Co-Chairs need to be appointed as specified in the Governance Rules. Once the onboarding process has finished, members will be requested to submit their applications to join the various GFSI sub-committees: Technical, Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs), Capability Building and Governance.
The next phase of the meeting saw representatives from Certification Programme Owners (CPOs) join the discussion.
Steering Committee members were updated on the role of the CPOs and the ways of working with GFSI. Much of the discussion then focused on how the parties can build greater trust through more transparent and effective engagements, something both parties are keen to enhance.
Then, representatives from the Certification Bodies (CBs) were welcomed to the meeting. Here, the group discussed what was needed to improve their working relationships and the potential creation of dedicated forum to facilitate the inclusion of a CB perspective in the creation of the benchmarking requirements. The attendees also discussed how to collaborate on defining auditor competency and audit quality, harmonisation of standards and the use of remote assessment in audits. This discussion included how to implement steps to improve trust in remote audits.
The Steering Committee Members reflected that both the CPOs and CBs presented their shared views on the ways of working moving forward, highlighting a high level of pre-alignment and preparation before this meeting.
The GFSI Steering Committee will now take the input from the CPOs and CBs and see how best to continue to develop more robust processes that promote ongoing engagement and collaboration.
Following on a series of on-boarding meetings, the next meeting of the Steering Committee will be in Q2 2021.