Feed Bites

Sustainability: An Imposed Requirement or A Market Opportunity?

Written by: Lara Moody   |   February 16, 2023

IFEEDER, Environmental footprint

During the recent International Production & Processing Expo in Atlanta, Ga., it seemed to me that sustainability was on the minds of many attendees and exhibitors. It could be that I was especially tuned into the topic with the launch of the Institute for Feed Education and Research’s Animal Food Industry Sustainability Toolkit during the show, but let me give you some context.

The Animal Agriculture Sustainability Summit, hosted by the North American Meat Institute, U.S Poultry & Egg Association (USPOULTRY) and IFEEDER, was standing room only. The Feed Strategy Feed Mill of the Future program had a strong focus on sustainability and sold out of seats. And, the AFIA Pet Food Conference panel on sustainability, which I moderated, received so many thoughtful audience questions that I didn’t get to ask many of my own! Beyond that, many exhibitors’ booths integrated sustainability. For example, I visited with Terry Medemblik, president of Walinga USA, about his company’s prototype EV grain trailer and was impressed with the implications it has for sustainability.

None of the engagement around sustainability surprises me though, given last year our member survey showed 80-90% of members across all industry segments viewed sustainability as “important” or “very important” to their organizations. But, an important question we did not ask, was whether their organizations view sustainability as a requirement or an opportunity. 

Going back to the Animal Agriculture Sustainability Summit, Robert Bonnie, under secretary of farm production and conservation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and headliner of the summit, said he wants to see more farmers thinking about what the USDA is doing with them and not to them to address broader climate issues. The same sentiment applies to how corporate culture engages on sustainability.

Is sustainability viewed as an imposition that must be undertaken to meet certifications or reporting requirements, or is it integrated into corporate strategy, where it is viewed as a path to add value and market opportunities?

There is evidence to suggest that those who address sustainability topics to fulfill their organizational purpose are capturing value in sustainability; whereas those that address sustainability for other reasons, such as to meet industry norms or standards or to conform with regulatory requirements, are less likely to capitalize on the value opportunity. IFEEDER is developing resources to help animal food industry members make this transition.

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