Food Companies Take Responsibility for Improved Sustainability Reporting

Source: Global Reporting Initiative, 21 November 2007

Nestlé, Bunge, Tyson Foods and Green Mountain Coffee Roasters first to commit to multi-stakeholder development of GRI’s sector-specific indicators for sustainability reporting.
Following the global trend in environmental awareness, paired with heightened consumer consciousness, food companies are increasingly facing new expectations and seeking to proactively communicate the economic, social and environmental performance of their businesses.

The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) has responded to the demand for increased transparency in food production by facilitating a working group to provide sector-specific sustainability indicators for food processing activities. The resulting Sector Supplement on Food Processing will be open to a public comment period and will complement the more general GRI-developed G3 Guidelines for sustainability reporting.

The aim of the working group developing the new GRI sector-specific indicators is to enable companies and stakeholders to better measure and communicate sustainability progress. This is based on the principle that good measurement supports good management and is a prerequisite for good communication.

"We believe a comprehensive set of food sector indicators will provide for consistency and relevancy in the sustainability reporting process and increase our ability to provide in the areas of hunger relief, product quality, environmental protection, employee well-being and community support," said President and CEO Dick Bond of Tyson Foods, Inc., one of the new GRI working group members.

Consumers are becoming increasingly interested in understanding how what they eat and drink is produced. This shows the need for a voluntary initiative of companies working together with stakeholders to meet these expectations.

"As a consumer-focused company we strive to provide meaningful information about our products and how they are made. This cannot be reduced to a simplistic "carbon label" but requires a sound understanding of all significant sustainability aspects, including water, nutrition, health and wellness as a basis to create shared value for society.", stated Safety, Health and Environment Vice President Claus Conzelmann of Nestlé.

Nestlé, Bunge, Tyson Foods and Green Mountain Coffee Roasters affirm that working with GRI to develop specific sustainability reporting guidelines for the food processing sector brings value to their sustainability reporting management programs.

"Sustainability reporting creates value for our company," says Corporate Social Responsibility Vice President Michael Dupee of US-based Green Mountain Coffee Roasters. "It helps us to improve our programs, provide relevant information to the investing and consuming public, and connect to the larger community."

Sustainability reporting is becoming the way many companies are reinforcing the trust of consumers and expanding their competitive advantage against other market players.

Bunge’s Corporate Communication Director Adalgiso Telles: "Bunge has operations in different stages of the food supply chain, from fields to consumers table. In Brazil we work with many partners on increasing sustainability performance, because we know that’s a good way to improve business as a whole. We look forward to welcoming the working group participants in Sao Paolo at a first meeting early 2008 to develop these guidelines."

GRI, known for its multi-stakeholder approach, aims to form a complete group by early December 2007 and is currently recruiting food processing companies from emerging markets to join as working group partners. Recruitment has been opened to include investors and experts from fair-trade, labor, social and environmental, and health and well-being organizations.