Blog: Ben CooperBarilla puts sustainability centre stage

Ben Cooper | 23 May 2017

Barilla's 2016 results statement, published last week, makes interesting reading, not because of the Italian food group's commercial performance, but for the emphasis placed on sustainability achievements.

In fact, the statement provides more information about Barilla's engagement on sustainability than it does financial or commercial information, which is highly unusual.

Integrated reporting is becoming increasingly common and many companies now include sustainability sections in their annual reports. However, the plethora of financial data publicly-listed companies are mandated to publish and the need to give investors a thorough account of commercial progress means that, even for leaders in sustainability with much to say, the sustainability content will still be greatly outweighed by financial and commercial information.

Barilla, of course, is a privately-owned company and is not subject to the detailed disclosure rules which govern financial reporting for public companies. However, privately-owned companies are not compelled to publish any sustainability information either. While it is a matter of discretion how much financial information Barilla divulges, it could also choose not to put its record on key sustainability issues in the public domain.

However, not only does Barilla choose to do so, it places sustainability centre stage. The company reported that it had cut CO2 emissions per ton of product by 28% over the past six years, and water use per ton of product by 21%, as it continues to work towards its 2020 target of a 30% reduction for both water and carbon. The statement also included information on the company’s use of renewable energy and sourcing of sustainable agricultural raw materials. It also highlights the company’s performance on reformulation and improving the nutrient profile of its brands.

Barilla believes it has a good story to tell on these issues and has chosen to make sustainability a very public and very prominent part of its identity, under the banner “Good for you, Good for the Planet”. That Barilla considers its sustainability mission so core to its business that it can be the primary emphasis of the company's annual public statement on its performance provides further proof of how critical sustainability has become to companies whether public or privately held.

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