Blog: Ben Cooperjust-food - At the Summit

Ben Cooper | 2 October 2012

The Sustainability Summit, jointly convened by the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) and the retailer association, the Food Marketing Institute (FMI), gets underway in Washington DC tomorrow (3 Oct), and just-food will be attending all three days.

Apart from what promises to be a stimulating conference, it is of course an extremely interesting time to be in Washington, as election fever mounts before next month's Presidential Election.

As well as being an extremely good opportunity to evaluate the progress the US food sector is making on sustainability, it will also be very interesting to hear what industry professionals around the conference are saying about the election.

The US food sector has had something of an up and down relationship with President Obama, notably on the diet and health issue. He made the fight against childhood obesity a key priority and children's TV advertising was firmly in the sights of Obama appointees at key government agencies. Aggressive lobbying and significant adjustment in self-regulatory measures has put paid to the imposition of official government guidelines which was at one stage feared. 

On the other hand, the First Lady's Let's Move campaign has actively welcomed corporate involvement and the industry has taken up that opportunity enthusiastically. 

The relationship with legislators regarding environmental issues will of course be much discussed at the conference, which is billed as "the premier sustainability event for the food and consumer products industry, bringing together retailers, manufacturers, government and advocacy groups to learn together, network and seek common solutions".

So what will the event cover? The organisers say the conference, which has "Uncovering the Possibilities" as its overall theme, has been designed to "help companies with all levels of awareness, expertise and experience incorporate sustainability into every aspect of their business model". It will take in topics such as emerging trends, consumer and employee engagement, technology and innovation and supply chain management.

The conference kicks off tomorrow with expert panel discussions on sustainable agriculture and sourcing high-impact products such as palm oil, cocoa, coffee, soy and beef.

Another critical aspect of the conference is that it is being jointly hosted by the GMA and FMI so in itself represents retailers and food manufacturers coming together to tackle pressing sustainability issues and reduce impacts.


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