IPE 2011 - Summit Addresses Development of Sustainability Programmes

US - A number of conferences are being held in conjunction with the International Poultry Expo in Atlanta, and on the eve of the show, one of the main events yesterday (25 January) was the Animal Agriculture Sustainability Summit, reports Jackie Linden, senior editor of ThePoultrySite.
calendar icon 26 January 2011
clock icon 4 minute read

Sustainability means different things to different people, said Dr Ashley Peterson of the United Egg Producers (UEP) in the introduction to her presentation at the Animal Agriculture Sustainability Summit. She and Leigh Ann Johnston of Tyson Foods joined forces to cover the topic 'Elements of a Sustainability Programme'.

Dr Peterson continued that this has the implication that there is no 'one size fits all' for company sustainability programmes but on the other hand, it allows the organisation to form the definition in a way to suit its business culture, values and needs.

The first stage, she said, is to create a sustainability vision and define it, taking into account the triple bottom line of people, planet and profit. The vision should be written down so that it can be taken as a guide for all future decisions.

Taking an inventory should be the second step, said Dr Peterson. This helps to establish the performance baseline and identify opportunities for improvement, as well as the setting and measurement of goals.

Moving from point A to point B is step 3 and involves the formation of two teams in the company: those who create the sustainability vision and the sustainability implementation team to fill be gaps between the present status and the vision. The development of 'SMART goals' is important, she said, i.e. those that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Results-orientated and Time-bound.

Ms Johnston continued by discussing monitoring, measuring and continual improvement. She highlighted the need to establish an internal system for assessing performance, as well as to monitor and measure leading indicators for financial performance – not forgetting 'people' and 'planet' issues. It is important to evaluate what the company already measures or monitors in these areas in order to establish what needs to be done in addition.

Ms Johnston then took over, highlighting the importance of sharing your sustainability performance within and outside the organisation. The sustainability vision must be shared and materials need to be produced that address specific questions and issues.

Based on her own experience, she said that it is important to check the pulse of the leadership team and agree how transparent you can be in these communications. Inviting the process owners to the table to go through the chosen items will ensure that they are on side and this will also make the best use of the expertise of those working all the time in that sector.

Ms Johnston also stressed it is vital to be able to support statement or claim made with scientific or other data because this will helps to ward off any subsequent allegations of 'green-washing'. She added that the organisation's legal team should be included.

Take credit for all you do, she said.

And finally, regarding communications, Ms Johnston advised using creativity in communications to get the important messages across, and to continue these communications once they have been started. Everyone in the organisation needs to have an broad overview of the sustainability programme, its goals and progress. Furthermore, it must also be established in advance how to address questions arising in response to the sustainability programme and who in the company will be responsible for doing so.

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