These days, sustainability is – or should be – the focus in the food processing industry.
There’s a good reason why the concept is so important, says Cher Mereweather, CEO of Anthesis Provision.
“It goes without saying that companies have to acknowledge the state of the industry,” she says. “It’s facing several challenges, from COVID, to absenteeism, labour shortages, access to ingredients, inflation, and rising energy prices. Sustainability has never been more important in protecting yourself against these issues.”
To do that, it’s essential that companies develop a clear vision of who they are and what they’re about.
“You need to think hard about why you exist, and what impact you want to have,” says Mereweather, who will be speaking at Food & Beverage Manitoba’s Cultivate Sustainability Conference and Trade Show on September 7.
Why is doing that so important?
“Companies that clearly articulate their purpose to themselves and to consumers are the ones that are thriving,” she notes. “Doing that just puts you in a better position. You still feel the challenges, but you’re more resilient.”
Mereweather says it’s never too late to start building a culture of sustainability.
“With the looming pressure of the climate crisis, we have about seven years to get everything under control. Greenhouse gas emissions and water use are huge issues, and the food processing industry is one of the most vulnerable to these issues. It isn’t even an option to say it’s too late.”
The reason for that is simple.
“If we don’t figure out how to feed ourselves, we’re in trouble. So, companies are really going to need to have sustainability at the heart of their business if they’re going to thrive and survive.”
A spirit of collaboration will be required for the industry to stay healthy and strong.
“There needs to be a competitive sharing of best practices, where companies who’ve developed a competitive advantage do things like sharing technology,” she says. “We shouldn’t be competing on sustainability. If everyone succeeds, we all win.”
To win the sustainability challenge, it’s essential that companies across the country engage with all levels of government, says Mereweather.
“There are conversations that companies should be having with governments, like, for example, ‘how can you help us meet targets?’. We need to set bold goals and strive to attain them. We will need a spirit of collaboration to do that.”
The bottom line on becoming more sustainable is that companies need to get started, no matter how small the start might be.
“A good place to start is food waste,” she says. “Companies that have focused on it have had an average savings of $230,00 for all sizes and types of facilities. It’s a great place to start if you haven’t done anything. You can also focus on the cost of energy. If you get a handle on energy, you can get a handle on greenhouse gas emissions.”
Shifting thinking to sustainability will ultimately pay off, concludes Mereweather.
“The transformation is complex and will require a lot of work. Companies haven’t figured it out yet because it’s so early in the journey. However, on a positive note, companies that are authentically pursuing sustainability are being rewarded with profits, revenue, and good will from consumers.”
Cher Mereweather will be speaking at the CULTIVATE Sustainability Conference and Trade Show on September 7 at the RBC Convention Centre in Winnipeg, Manitoba. For ticket information, please go to https://foodbeveragemb.ca/cultivate/