US meat group Smithfield Foods has created a role of chief sustainability officer for the first time.

The company said the move was part of its “long-term focus” on “corporate social responsibility and sustainability” and named Dennis Treacy to the role.

Treacy joined Smithfield in 2002 and last served as vice president, environmental and corporate affairs.

"Our business has become much more complex as we confront increasing government regulation and rising public and customer awareness of corporate social responsibility practices and sustainability. We understand that our long-term success directly correlates with our ability to effectively address these factors and that these programs must be managed from a senior level within our organisation,” president and CEO Larry Pope said.

Prior to 2002, Treacy served as director of Virginia's department of environmental quality and also served as assistant attorney general in the natural resources section of the Virginia attorney general's office.