Blog: CIES - closing thoughts
Dean Best | 20 June 2008
After sitting in a bar of Germans cheering on their football team last night (yes, I am a bitter Englishman), it was a relief to return to the orderly calm of the CIES World Food Business Summit in Munich this morning (20 June).
As just-food has reported this week, the conference has provided a fascinating snapshot of the work food manufacturers and retailers are doing in the complex field of sustainability.
However, many of the more thought-provoking views on the issue have come from outside the industry. Aviation giant Airbus implored the food industry to work harder on sustainability before it becomes seen as a contributor to problems like climate change. Advertising group BBDO warned that the old communication strategies (and by old, the firm meant just a few years ago) are no longer relevant in an era of Facebook and iPhones. Food suppliers and manufacturers would have received plenty of food for thought.
That’s not to say that the industry is not making significant strides on sustainability. The likes of UK retailer Waitrose and French food group Danone have developed innovative strategies on issues like sourcing and improving nutrition in the developing world.
It is these more innovative ideas that have really grabbed the attention this week.
However, as we all know, innovation costs money. And in the global economic downturn in which we are all operating, how easy will it be for you to keep investing in sustainability? And will consumers still be switched on to such issues when they are watching the pounds in their purse?
As the conference draws to a close, there could, on reflection, have been more debate here on how important corporate and social responsibility and embracing the sustainability agenda is – right now – in this more uncertain economic climate.
This is pertinent given the pressure publicly-listed companies are under to meet short-term targets on profit. The up-front costs and longer-term mindset needed on issues like carbon emissions do not fit well with this pressure.
There was, however, one glimpse into the minds of the audience here on that very point. Delegates, throughout the event, had been asked to vote on a series of questions on sustainability in between presentations.
One question this morning asked how an economic downturn would affect a company’s sustainability strategy. Just shy of half – 48.4% – said their investment “would be reduced but core areas would be maintained”.
Plenty of food for thought, indeed.
Danone completed its US$12.5bn acquisition of WhiteWave Foods this week. The move will roughly double Danone's presence in North America, where WhiteWave is a top four dairy player. ...
Premier Foods plc revealed today (28 March) it has secured a deal with its pension scheme trustees that will see the UK food maker reduce its pension burden....
Hain Celestial, under the scrutiny of the investment community in recent months and facing some challenges in its domestic market, has announced another shuffling of its management pack....
FrieslandCampina, which today served up higher profits but lower sales for 2016, is ready to offload the last non-dairy business owned by the Dutch cooperative giant....
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