When A Company Makes Sustainability its Purpose
By Debbie McGarry
Companies view doing good as a competitive advantage as well as a strategy to reduce environmental impacts and benefit society. This is a significant evolution from the days of Howard Bowen, who coined the term corporate social responsibility (CSR) in the early 1950s to describe a practise of good deeds by companies to do what’s right.
As Canadian consumers are increasingly demanding green products and services, more and more business leaders are working to meet those needs by incorporating sustainability into their business model. But is that enough for the future of our economy?
A Leader in Sustainability
Maple Leaf Foods (MLF) stands out as a food industry sustainability leader as they have gone beyond creating meaningful sustainability strategies into their business and production practices by making sustainability their purpose.
“There are very few companies out there that 1) are purpose-driven, and 2) their purpose is sustainability. I can go the other way and say sustainability IS our (MLF’s) purpose,” said Tim Faveri, MLF’s Vice President of Sustainability & Shared Value.
In 2014, MLF set a goal to reduce its environmental footprint 20 per cent by 2020 and 50 per cent by 2025. While some people deem these high targets, others have noted that they are modest at best as experts remind us of the country’s 12-year goal to cut carbon emissions in half to avoid catastrophic climate change.
In line with MLF’s vision to become the most sustainable protein company on earth, the company has made serious progress in the past 18 months with the acquisitions of Lightlife Food Holdings, Inc. and Field Roast Grain Meat Company, SPC, and has established itself as a North American leader in plant-based protein. In addition, it made a minority investment in Ontario-based Entomo Farms, the largest human-grade insect farm in North America.
MLF’s Vision Inline with Canadian Business Values
Doing business like a Canadian is a big part of MLF’s modus operandi. While MLF is a small player in the global meat industry, the company is Canada’s largest food processor, which has allowed them to become a disruptor in the industry and to remain steadfast in its leadership values, sustainable meat principles, and sustainability pillars: better food, better care, better communities, better planet.
“We know we’re the only meat company in North America, and perhaps the planet, to come out and say ‘eat meat in moderation’ because of human health, nutrition, and climate change, and we’re sticking to it,” said Faveri.
Shared Value Drives Change
Faveri mentioned that when MLF leadership looked at and benchmarked the entire food industry, they concluded that the whole food system had to change. And the best way to drive change, according to MLF, is by creating shared value, the intersection of shareholder value and social and environmental concerns. Shared value activated the company’s purpose.
MLF’s focus on shared value is evident in its overall blueprint for success, where the company strategy focuses on product development (all-natural ingredients, raised without antibiotics, embracing plant-based protein, etc.); eliminating waste (by improving product yield, reducing energy/water consumption and reducing food waste/loss), and community involvement to advance sustainable food security. At the same time, the company is driving profit and shareholder value.
In addition to focusing on lower environmental impacts, animal welfare, nutrition, and safety, MLF aims to transform the whole value chain to become more sustainable and to lead by example to drive change.
MLF, a trailblazer in the CSR arena, is an excellent example of a modern, progressive Canadian business that demonstrates fundamental business values that help position the country as a leader in the future economy.
MLF became a new member of Canadian Business for Social Responsibility (CBSR) in January 2019.
“We are excited to be a part of CBSR and to work with other Canadian sustainability leaders,” said Faveri.
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