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“Your mission is to ensure we continue to earn the trust of consumers, the industry, IGOs, NGOs and regulators. Good luck. I’m looking forward to seeing how it goes.” This was the challenge laid out for the people around the table in Paris – and those calling in from around the world – at the hybrid Q3 GFSI Steering Committee meeting. After the Q4 meeting in December, the 2022 Q1 meeting is set to take place in person in Barcelona, adjacent to the GFSI Conference.

In his Welcome Address, Chairman and CEO of Mondelēz International Dirk Van De Put, who serves as GFSI’s Co-Sponsor as part of his work on the CGF Board, also thanked the members for their dedication to driving the critical work of GFSI forward. Wai Chan-Chan, Managing Director of The Consumer Goods Forum, stressed the importance of GFSI’s shift to a CGF Coalition of Action as the key to bolstering impact by harnessing CEO and company commitment. On the heels of this meeting, he noted, would be the first-ever Coalition Impact meeting, where CGF Board CEOs would map out ways to maximise our impact.

Erica Sheward, GFSI Director at The Consumer Goods Forum, welcomed both familiar and new faces, praising the wonderful level and range of expertise represented on the Committee, as well as the balance and diversity. This is key, she said, to striving for improvement without losing the great progress already made. GFSI has been on a fantastic journey over the past 20 years and we now have an opportunity to reflect, reboot and reenergise.

Day 1 of the four-day meeting was an innovation, kicking off the week with an executive coaching session to equip members on how best to work together to drive the strategic direction of the Coalition. The emphasis on Day 2 was around science, benchmarking and harmonisation. As Dirk Van De Put stated, GFSI is the world’s leading and most-trusted food safety verification system. But Day 2 made one thing clear – far from resting on its laurels, GFSI is making progress on multiple fronts to revitalise and amplify this position and the value it delivers for trust and confidence in safer food. Each agenda item drove this home, starting with a presentation of the vision and roadmap of the newly established Science and Technology Advisory Group (STAG), which was received with enthusiasm from the Committee. The Technical Subcommittee then provided a progress update on GFSI’s Race to the Top framework, encompassing the work on auditor competence and professional development, CPO oversight, CPO and AB collaboration as well as progress on the development of the GFSI certificate platform. The day closed with a fruitful meeting between the Steering Committee and Certification Programme Owners (CPOs), where Steering Committee members set out their vision to engage with CPOs as Enablers of the GFSI strategy.

If Day 2 focused on raising the bar, Day 3 turned towards implementation. Discussions converged around building capacity in supply chains and partnering across public and private sectors to deliver measurable and scalable impact. Starting with a big picture view, the public-private partnership (PPP) group mapped out a new paradigm for cooperation around managing food systems in a changing world, before zooming in on the case for a mutual recognition strategy. This comes at a time when GFSI has remoulded its target strategic outcome and is striving to shape an environment in which regulators and UN agencies involved in food safety verification are able to trust and recognise GFSI-recognised certification and use it as a risk-based resource allocation tool. Time was dedicated to defining GFSI’s unique role and engagement with other entities in the firmament, from the World Health Organization to the UN Food & Agriculture Organization and the World Food Programme. The interrelation and interconnectivity of GFSI’s projects within the Race to the Top was also explored.

The subcommittee dedicated to capability building presented the outcomes of the recent stakeholder consultation, the case for a strategic review of the Global Markets Programme and next steps, including the early development of exciting partnerships to be announced soon which are designed to support the roll out of capability building pilots.

Day 4 closed out the meeting with presentations from representatives of each of the GFSI Local Groups spread across Asia-Pacific, Europe, the Middle East and Africa, Latin America and North America. The GFSI Coalition Team has embarked on a journey to work more closely with its regional colleagues, dedicated technical consultants and the Local Group Co-Chairs to provide a robust framework for these groups to operate and indeed flourish. The final session was an interactive look to the future and a call for thought leadership.

Feedback from the meeting was overwhelmingly positive, with participants finding inspiration from the peer-to-peer dialogue, the level of expertise and the participative format in which subgroups commit to taking items forward and reporting back to the rest of the Committee. The feeling is that this allows for more impact and speed, while ensuring everyone has a role to play. Hear more from the GFSI Steering Committee in this month’s podcast where two new members share their impressions and plans from both the retail and manufacturing perspectives.

A running theme throughout the four days, impact will also be ubiquitous at the upcoming GFSI Conference, taking place in Barcelona from 29th to 31st March 2022 under the theme ‘Delivering Impact for Safe Sustainable Food’.

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