Food sector still moderate about sustainability performance
Ondernemers sociëteit voedingsindustrie
B2B Communications
Wallbrink Crossmedia
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Food sector still moderate about sustainability performance

  • 15 June 2021

A majority of Dutch food producers (53%) see themselves as 'average performers' when it comes to actual sustainability and over a quarter say that their own company is lagging behind. A sustainability approach sticks if it is easily communicated and tangible. Complex issues are lower on the corporate agenda, according to the Sustainability Race survey conducted by the food & agri consultants of Omnicom PR Group (ORPG).

This Sustainability Race study is being conducted for the first time in The Netherlands, from a communication and reputation perspective, among 282 co-decision-makers at Dutch food producers. The basic research, completed in March, already provides a lot of information to further explore in the coming discussions; what is going on in communication about sustainability in food production and can communication help speed things up? How consumers experience sustainability communication has been researched before, but how companies experience their own green communication provides new insights.

Tangible appeals

Within the wide range of sustainability aspects and what they mean for their own food company, it is the aspects that are instinctively close that are seen most often: recyclable packaging and less waste are mentioned by 40% of the respondents. These are appealing sustainability improvements that are easy to make tangible, both as a solution and in communication. Subjects that also circulate in the media as desirable sustainability aspects - local and fresh, supporting local communities, less international transport, organic or less animal protein - are placed at the bottom of the list in the survey with less than 10% as important sustainability aspects in the food company where they work. Sustainable oversight of the chain as a whole was also given little mention.

Important but not immediate

73% of respondents said sustainability is important. With a score of 7.5, there is also a high degree of satisfaction about the attention paid to sustainability in their own company and the communication about it. At the same time, 53% of respondents personally appear to have relatively little knowledge of sustainability objectives and the actual policy; 24% of respondents are completely unfamiliar with the sustainability policy at work. In terms of responsibility, respondents tend to look to others, with 31% saying they do not see a role for themselves in improving sustainability.

CEO role determines approach

The CEO is also seen as a sustainability booster. Half of the respondents felt that the CEO had an inspiring and credible vision. Some 38% also felt that the CEO showed 'stimulating example behaviour'. It seems that the CEO is less seen as an internal motivator to convert the vision into concrete goals and actions.

Perception of barriers

Barriers to communicating externally about one's own sustainability policy are perceived in different ways: 48% say they do not experience any barriers to being open about their own sustainability actions. The other 52% see 'no time', 'no money' or 'no facts available' as the most frequently mentioned obstacles to actively communicating about sustainability. This is a point for follow-up research, because do people consider these obstacles to be removed if they give priority to them in their business operations by deploying more staff, more budget, more footprinting systems that generate facts?

Influence of shareholders/financiers and also cooperation in the chain are ranked low as perceived barriers to communicating on sustainability. While these are regularly mentioned in the media as complex influencers of sustainability policy and therefore sustainability communication. Also reason for follow-up research.

The top three drivers of sustainability are pressure from the entire chain, pressure from the legislator and pressure from consumers.

Source: Omnicom PR Group