Most Europeans are familiar with the brand Royal FrieslandCampina; their milk products like butter, cheese yoghurt and many others play a vital role in any European breakfast.
With 14,391 member dairy farms in the Netherlands, Germany and Belgium; its products sold in more than 100 countries worldwide; 19,000 employees in 25 countries; and sales amounting to over 9.6 billion euros in 2011, the impact of a company like FrieslandCampina on consumers and the food industry as a whole cannot be underestimated.
Demand for milk is high, and for the big players of the dairy industry it is profitable. However, the impact of the dairy industry as a whole over the years has been negative; with production practices adversely affecting the welfare of animals, people and planet alike. Yet some companies, such as FrieslandCampina, are working towards producing their dairy products sustainably.
The dairy giant has been busy with a number of positive initiatives to produce their products in a more sustainable manner.
In 2010, the company launched a strategic programme called route 2020, which, amongst other things, set a target for greenhouse gas levels at their member dairy farms to be reduced by 30% of the 1990 levels, by 2020. They also set targets for palm oil and cocoa to be sustainably grown by 2020. The soy which the company sources for cattle feed is to be certified by the Round Table on Responsible Soy Association (RTRS) by 2015, and cocoa sourced for the Chocomel brand is to be wholly UTZ certified by 2014. All cocoa products sold in the Netherlands and Belgium are to be UTZ certified by 2020.
FrieslandCampina scored reasonably well in the 2011 annual survey carried out by the Transparency Benchmark of the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs, Agriculture and Innovation. However, it scored relatively poorly in three categories: stakeholders, verification and elaboration. The Transparency Benchmark offers insight into the way Dutch companies report on their CSR activities in order to improve these.
The targets set for 2020 may be hard to meet without setting short term goals to monitor progress. It is important to ensure all targets are SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound); setting short term goals, and ensuring targets are smart, are ways to determine that the company’s efforts are sincere and that they are yielding results. This can prevent any incidences of greenwashing. Furthermore, while we do want companies to make long term commitments, in order to make them credible they need to be accompanied by incremental steps, which show how these commitments will be carried out and adhered to. For example, FrieslandCampina aims for a two per cent yearly reduction of energy usage. Reality shows, however, that this target was missed in both 2010 and in 2011, according to their CSR reports for each year.
Furthermore, while a reference is made to FrieslandCampina’s supplier code of conduct (business practices for suppliers), this code has not be published in the 2011 CSR report, despite Fairfood’s repeated requests for this during discussions with the company. The 2011 CSR report does show, however, many targets, plans and programmes. The report divides the company’s CSR policy into four categories, “Nutrition & health”; “Efficient and sustainable production chains”; “Dairy development in Asia and Africa”; and “Sustainable dairy farming”; and each category specifies the targets to be achieved by 2020. Overall it is clear what the targets are and what initiatives the company has taken thus far, however, some targets could be more ambitious. For example, the company’s commitment to source UTZ certified cocoa for their products sold in the Dutch and Belgian markets. While it is unclear just how much chocolate the company uses in its products outside of these markets, with an eight year time frame, ensuring that all the cocoa they use is sustainably sourced by 2020 would be more appropriate.
The challenge lies in maintaining the momentum; for a smooth and sustainable dairy industry, every company within the industry needs to ensure that from grass to glass, its practices are carried out sustainably. This takes planning, setting short term goals and transparent reporting. We believe that with adequate steps in the right direction, the well intentioned promises made by FrieslandCampina can be kept and can positively influence the industry.
Image: bies (CC License)< Back