Andy Green, sustainability expert at certification body Cert ID Europe, is running a workshop in August that looks to provide answers to those questions.
The event will assess how companies can go about creating an ethical business culture, it will address NGOs and market pressures, and the value of transparency compared to traceability in the supply chain.
Cert ID is also looking at ways feed companies can demonstrate they have sourced raw materials responsibly without having to be subjected to numerous, burdensome and costly audits.
We caught up with him to hear more.
“The target audience for the workshop would be quality, technical and procurement managers in food or feed companies who are responsible for sustainability commitments, as well as those working in business ethics or supply chain.
“Companies can’t afford to react after something happens. They have to be proactive, and know the risks in their supply chains, and know what they can do with their suppliers to reduce risk,” said Green.
Ideally, when the delegates go back to their companies, they would map their businesses from a risk point of view, such as whether there could be forced labor or deforestation in certain supply chains.
“We won’t be looking at specific crops or commodities, some examples perhaps, but we will be evaluating hypothetical organizations and various risk assessment and mitigation models.”
There is a massive amount of pressure on the industry to provide high protein feed while minimizing the environmental impacts and eliminating deforestation.
Pressure is coming from a whole range of stakeholders today on sustainability commitments, not just from NGOs. Investors and even staff in the company itself are demanding action, he said.
Additional drivers, such as the Modern Slavery Act in the UK, call on industry to ensure supply chains do not have negative humanitarian impacts, meaning that the feed industry needs to be able to understand what impact its inputs are having on these important areas, continued Green.
“The deforestation footprint of feed manufacturers is becoming a significant issue and they will need to address it,” he said.
The food industry moved on palm oil seven years ago, and now there is a lot of cultivation on already degraded land.
He said first movers like Unilever, Ferrero and Premier Foods led on sourcing RSPO certified segregated palm oil, gaining a massive boost for their brands’ reputation as a result, and the rest then followed.
“Soy is the big one now.”
Green said some industry stakeholders place a lot of importance on traceability, viewing that approach as a panacea. “Knowing where raw materials come from is a big driver in the food industry, but it adds a lot of complexity on the feed side.”
“How does one determine effectively whether the supply chain around a meat pie, for example, has Roundtable on Responsible Soy (RTRS) certified sustainable soy in it?”
Tracing feed use per animal per farm would result in astronomical costs. Perhaps, instead, a meat processor could source from groups containing 25 farms that met global GAP+ criteria on feed inputs, he said.
Another way to move the industry to using “responsibly produced soy” is for retailers to insist in their product spec sheets that their supply chains have either RTRS soy or soy from standards aligned to FEFAC’s soy sourcing benchmarking scheme parameters, he added.
Challenges of multiple audits
Green stressed that feed manufacturers need to source and use responsibly produced raw materials in a cost effective way, and they need to be able to demonstrate they have done so without making their businesses untenable.
“We need to find alternative models to simply asking the feed industry to pay for multiple audits. We need a more grown-up approach.”
Managing compliance with numerous schemes, if left uncontrolled, could see the relevant person in a feed company spending up to 20% of their time on such an activity.
“Technology has advanced to allow us move away from the clip board approach to audits of the 1990s. There are better ways to audit supply chains. We have to start thinking about the level of risk a supplier brings.”
Ultimately, he said, it is about industry players sharing information, it is a about ensuring transparency. “Sustainability should be a pre-competitive issue.”
In that context, Cert ID is in the process of developing a technology platform aimed at improving transparency. It would track batches of production. “It would show how much of an ingredient was bought, and who bought it. It would rely on the mass balance approach. A feed maker would report the volume of approved feed it has manufactured, with proof of imports from suppliers. Livestock farms could then demonstrate they used responsibly produced soy, with slaughter weight to feed conversion data also included.”
Further information on the course, which takes place in Birmingham, UK on 22 August, can be found here.