- Tyson Foods has created the Coalition for Global Protein, a group that will focus on efforts to advance the future of sustainable protein. The coalition will include leaders from the protein industry, academics, non-governmental organizations and financial institutions. The first meeting is taking place this week at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
- The purpose of the coalition is aiming to get groups in the food and agriculture sector to identify and implement creative solutions to sustainably feed the world’s growing population and address issues like food waste and conservation. The conversation will be moderated by Lawrence Haddad, executive director of Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition.
- "We’re introducing this Coalition because we know that we cannot achieve this alone," Noel White, chief executive officer of Tyson Foods, said in a statement. "Collective commitment and immediate action are needed to deliver the greatest impact on the future of sustainable food production.”
As consumers consider which products to buy at the grocery store, their decisions are increasingly influenced by issues that go beyond just the food or beverage product. Shoppers are giving greater weight to the role businesses play in tackling global problems such as the environment, traceability, transparency and sustainability.
Nielsen found that a company’s commitment to sustainability can sway product purchases for 45% of consumers. For companies that don't take these steps, they potentially risk losing millions of dollars in sales to their competitors who do. In recent years, businesses including Mars, PepsiCo, Coca-Cola, Unilever and Walmart have announced some type of pledge — most often focusing on where their products come from, who produces them, how they are manufactured and their impact on the environment.
But with nearly all food and beverage companies accounting for some type of sustainability effort, there has been criticism from some environmental groups as to how much impact it's having on the underlying cause and if businesses are actually following through on those pledges. A 2019 report from Greenpeace said none of the companies that pledged to reduce deforestation in their supply chain, for example, had been successful yet.
In forming a coalition, Tyson is trying to expedite the role it plays in tackling issues such as food waste, hunger and conservation while at the same time acknowledging it can't do it alone. For the pork, chicken and beef processing giant to have a meaningful impact, Tyson is saying that it needs to have input from entities beyond corporate America. The Coalition for Global Protein is tapping into academics, non-govermental organizations, financial institutions and other protein makers for their own expertise and opinions that may be far different than what the Arkansas-based Tyson could bring to the table on its own.
“We’re focused on uniting the world’s most influential, food-focused stakeholders around a shared purpose to build a future of protein that is sustainable and equitable across global communities — at every link in the supply chain,” John Tyson, chief sustainability officer of Tyson Foods, said in a statement. “Igniting transformative change in our food system requires industry-wide collaboration and a willingness to go beyond our individual businesses through strong commitments and actions.”
After several years where individual food and beverage companies announced their own initiatives, there is early evidence that at least a few groups are finding that it helps to look beyond their own walls.
The board of the North American Meat Institute, which represents 95% of red meat processors and 70% of turkey products, unanimously agreed in July to encourage companies to share sustainability best practices. Prior efforts focusing on collaboration in worker safety, food safety and animal welfare yielded improvements in each of those categories. And in October soda rivals Coca-Cola, Keurig Dr Pepper and PepsiCo partnered with the World Wildlife Fund, the Recycling Partnership and Closed Loop Partners to recycle more and reduce the industry's use of new plastic.
To be sure, partnerships like the Coalition for Global Protein doesn't preclude companies from moving forward with their own initiatives. Tyson noted prior commitments it has made to improve land stewardship practices on two million acres of corn, partnering with the World Resources Institute to set science-based greenhouse gas reduction targets, reducing water use intensity by 12% and working with Proforest to identify deforestation risks across the company’s global supply chain.
In the end, it will likely take a combination of joint partnerships and individual efforts for companies to have an impact on sustainability that moves the needle. While consumers are interested in which companies are partaking in sustainability, it's not always enough. People want to see results, and coalitions like this one could be the best way to do that.