By Nicole Johnson-Hoffman, Managing Director and Chief Sustainability Officer for OSI Europe
OSI’s vision for our sustainability responsibilities includes making continuous improvements in our own facilities while driving positive change in the food and farming industries in which we participate.
Setting aspirational and transparent goals is a key mechanism to integrate sustainability into all aspects of OSI’s activities. As such we’ve set global sustainability targets which focus on delivering three key priorities – a sustainable supply chain, environmental protection and social responsibility.
It was a real shift in thinking for OSI to make our sustainability goals public. There will of course be times when we don’t meet all our targets, but by being transparent about our successes and failures it’s possible to work with others to find solutions to the trickier issues.
It’s important that we hold ourselves accountable by regularly reviewing progress towards our 2025 targets and communicating all results to our stakeholders via sustainability progress reports.
2021 SUSTAINABILITY PROGRESS UPDATE
It gives me great pleasure to say that the most recent sustainability progress report shows that OSI has already disclosed key supply chain information to the CDP, a non-profit organization dedicated to addressing human impacts on climate change, which was one of our sustainable supply goals.
We are on-track to meet other critical supply chain goals, especially those relating to animal welfare. For example, all primary beef processing facilities in Europe and all primary poultry processing facilities in the USA have installed third-party remote video auditing. This is something we expect all primary processing facilities to be fully equipped to do by 2025.
From a social responsibility perspective, there has been significant progress towards providing a new standard minimum training program for all employees. This has included the adoption of innovative training methods, including virtual reality technology, to enhance our employees’ learning experience. It’s expected that all facilities will have fully adopted the new training program ahead of 2025, and the goal will be updated to focus on improving career development opportunities for employees, which is something we are passionate about at OSI.
We have also made progress towards important climate and emissions related goals. OSI is nearly 70% of the way towards reducing energy intensity by 20% and has increased our use of renewable energy by almost 90% since 2015. These are big achievements for our team.
In other areas, we have faced significant barriers to progress and this is something we want to be transparent about. For example, our goal to reduce water use intensity by 15% has proven itself to be a real challenge. There are many factors contributing to water use intensity, including the tension between the target to conserve water and making continuous improvements to food safety, as best practice hygiene tends to require large quantities of water. As an industry leader in food safety, we are working urgently on both these critical goals.
To find a solution, OSI has consistently been looking for ways to improve food safety and quality in our facilities, while taking into account water and energy use. We’ve partnered with leading sanitation companies to understand their learnings from operations across the globe and are using this insight to implement best practice procedures.
COMPLEXITY IN THE FOOD SUPPLY CHAIN
The tricky balance between water conservation and food safety enhancement is just one illustration of the numerous ways the food supply system is more complex than most people realize. There are numerous interconnected issues and interdependencies which make easy answers and single-issue solutions unrealistic. Solutions are rarely clear-cut, and seasoned sustainability leaders know there are always compromises to be made and trade-offs to be considered.
As another example, some approaches to improving animal welfare can have negative impacts on emissions at the farming end of the supply chain. Use of slower growing breeds of certain farmed animals is often suggested as a way to improve animal welfare. However, the longer it takes to rear an animal to market weight, the less efficient the process in terms of resource use and emissions intensity. Animal welfare benefits must be clearly proven before decisions are taken that might have negative environmental impacts.
It’s because of the complexity of challenges in the food supply system that OSI works closely with our value chain partners, with several members of the OSI team sitting on roundtables and multi stakeholder groups. It’s essential for all food industry players to learn from different perspectives, share information and refine best practice based on solid evidence. It will take extensive collaboration to enable widespread adoption of proven solutions which will most benefit people, animals and the planet.
MONETIZING ECOSYSTEM SERVICES
OSI is keen to understand the role livestock can play in storing carbon in soils and improving the environment. It’s now essential that we investigate how rearing livestock can actually improve the health of soil, enhance carbon sequestration and increase biodiversity in ecosystems. OSI is participating in projects currently running in the UK, USA and Australia to quantify these potential benefits and the practices that create them. The aim for this work is to inform best practices as well as better communicate the sustainability benefits associated with animal agriculture.
In addition, OSI envisions using this evidence to enable farmers to monetize the ecosystem services their operations provide. This would enable farmers whose work is having a positive impact on the climate to get a share of the value they are creating.
Many of our customers are keen to support progressive farmers. Our ambition is to connect our customers and farmers, enable our customers to support the farmers for the ecosystem services provided, while being able to reassure consumers that they’re doing their part to support the climate.
THE FUTURE OF SUSTAINABILITY AT OSI
Sustainability is a process, not an event. It’s a way of thinking about the impact of our business and incorporating impact into day-to-day decision making.
We will know we’ve succeeded in our sustainability mission when we no longer talk about sustainability as a separate activity. In the future, sustainability will be fully embedded into every aspect of our business.
To maintain progress, we need people from within and outside of OSI to get involved and bring their expertise to discussions. There are many sustainability professionals at OSI, but we need all types of specialists, from animal health and welfare experts to engineers, to consistently drive further improvements within the organization and wider industry.