More than 20 companies in the natural and organic products industry have joined the newly formed not-for-profit business association called The Food Trade Sustainability Leadership Association (FTSLA).
The objective is to provide a network for businesses to share best practices in the food trade and work towards sustainable improvements in 11 key areas including organics, climate change, energy utilization, distribution and waste management.
Companies who join the FTSLA commit to annually reviewing their practices in these key areas and a clear framework will also be developed for businesses to monitor and report progress, using common benchmarks.
A spokesman for The Food Trade Sustainability Leadership initiative, which formed the association, told FoodNavigator-USA.com: “The unprecedented scale and speed of global climate change combined with the rising cost of energy inputs puts into stark view the vulnerabilities of the food system.
“Our vision is for the organic sector to lead the way in the transition toward a sustainable food system by demonstrating successful, sustainable business models that will, in time, become the beacon for the entire food industry.
“On one hand natural resources we depend on are diminishing and getting more expensive. On the other hand consumers are increasingly looking to support businesses that are both environmentally and socially responsible. Businesses that get ahead of the curve in addressing these trends will be at an advantage.
“Investing in resource efficiency measures across the supply chain will have immediate cost savings benefits.”
Sustainability has become an increasingly important issue in the food industry, according to a recent PricewaterhouseCoopers report called The Food, Beverage and Consumer Products Industry: Achieving Superior Financial Performance in a Challenging Economy 2008, which was conducted for the US Grocery Manufacturers Association.
Lisa Feigen Dugal, the North American CPG and retail advisory leader for PricewaterhouseCoopers said: “A particularly exciting finding of this year’s report was the strong effect that sustainability reporting can have on corporate value. It’s well known that sustainability initiatives can be a great brand and reputation enhancer, but now we’ve discovered they’re much more. Positive reporting on these initiatives can enhance a company’s bottom line and shareholder value.”
The study highlighted efforts by General Mills’ which changed the case configurations of its Progresso soup brand, removing 2,000 tons of steel from the brands annual steel input total. The company claims it now spends less on steel and boasts of lighter cans. And it reported that PepsiCo has committed to replenish more water than it uses by 2009 at its facilities in India.
The FTSLA’s existing 22 members include SunOpta, Amy’s Kitchen, Nature’s Path Foods, New Harvest Organics, Organic Valley, and United Natural Foods Inc, but the aim is to recruit 50 new companies over the next year.
Members are asked to commit to a declaration of sustainability, based on the 11-point action plan and pledge continual improvement and transparency around their practices. The FTSLA will administer the declaration sign-on process and provide members with hands-on technical assistance to measure and make progress towards the goals laid out in the pledge.
One example of measures already being taken is SunOpta’s natural resource conservation initiative. It claims to have saved over 85,000,000 gallons of water annually through a number of technological upgrades, process improvements, and focused conservation programs. The knowledge gained is now being applied to other SunOpta facilities to achieve a goal to reduce water consumption by ten percent corporate wide in 2008.