The Corporate Sustainability Journey

LRQA reports from the Food & Beverage Sustainability Conference – 29-30 January 2014, Berlin

The second day of the ENG Sustainable Development in the Food and Beverage Industry 2014 was led by global, influential brands, with Carlsberg, McDonald’s, Coca-Cola and Mondelēz all presenting before lunchtime.

The focus shifted significantly from day one, with the second day seeing integration, collaboration, harmonisation, management systems and transparency, underpinned with the recurring theme of these conglomerates being ‘on a corporate sustainability journey.’

Collaboration and the importance of a management systems approach were features of the Carlsberg presentation, as well as the one given by Coca-Cola, with the engagement of suppliers being a top priority for both organisations.

Carlsberg also introduced integration into the mix, with their integrated management system approach being the core element of their risk management strategy to cover their entire supply chain.  David Burgess, Group Quality Director at Carlsberg highlighted the resonance he felt from the comment made by The Forest Trust during their day one presentation, namely ‘that product quality and sustainability were one and the same’ and highlighted some of the initiatives that Carlsberg have in place, including their ‘cradle to cradle’ project -  ‘The Carlsberg Circular Community’.  This uses a design framework to optimise Carlsberg’s products and includes representation from a range of packaging suppliers, including glass, plastic and cardboard companies to name but a few.

“An integrated management system ensures that best practices are captured and spread throughout the organisation,” said Burgess.  “It also demonstrates that we are committed to driving sustainability throughout our supply chain and it sends a clear message to our stakeholders; we are serious about this, it is part of our DNA.”

McDonalds Germany outlined their approach to sustainability and the use of the Global Reporting Index (GRI) G4 as a guiding principle.  They talked about their interpretation of the guidelines and how they are using them to translate into sustainable initiatives across their supply chain – much of which is based in Germany.  This local approach enables McDonalds to forge close working relationships with farmers and other suppliers and ensure that their product quality continues to be of the highest standard. 

McDonalds are also embracing technology and education through the use of downloadable Apps and literature to define the sustainability case for eating out.

Tom Armitage, the Communications Director for Mondelēz Europe explained the journey to embedding sustainability into the organisation.   Mondelēz International – often described as a $35bn start-up – has some of the world’s best known brands including Cadburys.  Their approach to sustainability is focused on four key outcomes, all geared to driving growth;

·         Mindful snacking
·         Sustainable resource and agriculture
·         Product and people safety
·         Community partnerships

Armitage explained that agriculture has the greatest impact across the Mondelēz supply chain; with the global population forecast to reach 9bn by 2050 vs 7bn today, 90% of this increase is expected to take place in developing countries.  To put all of this into context, Mondelēz is one of the world’s largest buyers of certified coffee and cocoa in the world.

“To secure supply, we need a 50% increase in agriculture production and rising food output will depend on productivity increases,” said Armitage.  The media has already highlighted the impending cocoa shortage and without intervention, a one million tonne deficit is to be expected by 2050.
Summarising their approach to communicating their sustainability strategy, Armitage explained; “Find the thing that you can meaningfully focus on as an organisation, set milestones and communicate your ambition and then communicate and engage both internally and externally to bring others on the journey.”

The use of internal brand ambassadors to drive their sustainability messaging was a recurring theme throughout the conference, with Mondelēz and Kellogg’s, amongst others, highlighting the connections between their sustainability strategies and their engagement with internal and external stakeholders.

Irrespective of the tactics used to implement a sustainability strategy, what is clear is that the corporate journey to sustainability is not a short one; it demands commitment, vision and clear objectives.  The world’s leading food manufacturers and retailers on hand in Berlin made it very clear that their corporate strategic objectives were aligned with their approach to sustainability, providing the audience with confidence that the corporate sustainability journey will be a successful one.


LRQA will be at the GFSI Global Food Safety Conference, Anaheim USA – 26-28 February 2014.  Come and visit our food safety experts, Stand F1.