A new report from UL Environment, entitled “The Sustainable Edge™,” presents compelling data about sustainability as “the new business imperative.” According to the report, companies that enact a sustainability strategy reduce operating costs and drive profitability, innovation and new market opportunities. Key to successfully doing so are communicating a sustainability story, obtaining third-party certifications and striving for transparency in product claims.
What does this new imperative mean for the food industry?
The demand for sustainably grown crops and sustainably produced food has never been clearer. Companies involved in current and future food harvesting and production are challenged with demonstrating how they will minimize their impact on the earth. The issues falling under the sustainability banner in consumer’s minds are diverse and can range from poor working conditions to use of child labor, pesticide use, environmental damage, animal welfare, food waste, and even the amount and type of packaging that is used for a product.
Consumers are becoming more vocal about their desire to see manufacturers act responsibly toward the future of the planet, sometimes even taking to social media to build momentum. And action groups have aided consumers in vocalizing their desire for companies to change.
“The Sustainable Edge™” reports that “55% of consumers across 60 countries say they are willing to pay more for products and services provided by companies committed to positive social and environmental impact.” In the food industry, certain segments, like moms, are willing to pay higher prices for products with demonstrated sustainability.
One recent example of sustainability success in the food industry is the addition of The Hershey Company to the Dow Jones Sustainability World Index, as well as to the North America Index. It earned this distinction by reducing water usage, waste, and greenhouse gases; moving toward zero waste landfill facilities; and creating the Cocoalink program, which aids the success of Ghanaian cocoa farmers.
A large challenge food manufacturers face is communicating the changes and progress they’ve made to their consumers. Third-party certifications, such as USDA Organic, Fair Trade, Food Alliance or the Marine Stewardship Council, can provide a credible way to reach consumers via packaging and inform them of the practices in place. Some retailers are now increasing their presence in the sustainability market, requiring transparency throughout the product life cycle.
Download “The Sustainable Edge™” for more statistics and strategies.
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