Blog: Ben Cooperjust-food - At the FMI/GMA Sustainability Summit - Day Two

Ben Cooper | 5 October 2012

just-food's round-up of views on the Sustainability Summit includes opinions, generally extremely positive, from a broad range of stakeholder groups: manufacturers, retailers, service providers, NGOs and the conference organisers themselves. 

One constituency missing from that group is the media, and there can be no more appropriate person to turn to for a journalist's view of the Summit than.....me.

In fact, the media presence at the conference was small and low-key which meant at times one did feel a bit lonely, but on the other hand there were not legions of reporters waiting to interview every speaker. 

Quite a few delegates said they were pleased there were so few journalists, which one tried not to take personally.

The limited media presence was not a deliberate policy by the conference organisers, the FMI's Jeanne von Zastrow said, but at the same time having a relatively small press corps did suit many delegates who were there to network with one another, not address the media. Speakers and those addressing Q&A sessions wanted to be able to speak freely and not have their words taken out of context.

In that regard, there is perhaps a distinction to be drawn between trade media and general media. As a business journalist looking at sustainability, my overall aim was to meet and discuss these issues with others who share that specialism, hear interesting presentations from a wide variety of people working in the field and hopefully deepen my understanding. In other words, not all that different from the delegates themselves.

It is a feature of this particular area that people working within it are almost predisposed to engaging with others about these issues, so it was not surprsing to find that delegates were in general open to discussion - even with a journalist! 

In terms of content, the conference was hard to fault. There were some very interesting presentations. The presentations by PepsiCo's John Philllips on the Future Value Chain 2020 on the final day, author Bob Willard's take on making the "business case" and the panel discussion on global food security chaired by Kersten-Karl Barth, worldwide director of sustainability at Siemens, all stand out. 

Meanwhile, smaller break-out sessions, for example on sustainable agriculture and waste, drilled down into considerable detail, with knowledgeable specialist speakers from industry and, significantly, from NGOs.

The food, always an important consideration for a member of the Fourth Estate, was excellent. Well, a conference hosted by the food industry would have to be. In this particular instance of course, the menus could be complimented not only for taste but also for their impeccable sustainability credentials. As could be said for the conference as a whole, the bill of fare was most definitely fit for purpose.


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