Friday, October 24, 2008

Cradle to market in 6 months

Interesting piece that caught my eye this week in "McDonald’s USA recently recognized Smithfield Foods, a pork supplier for the McDonald’s system, with the company’s first-ever Sustainability Award. The award, which will become an annual honor, recognizes the supplier that best exemplifies the McDonald’s vision, principles and values for sustainable supply. "

Smithfield has been reporting since 2001, starting out as many companies did with environmental reporitng and then moving by 2005 to full blown corporate social responsibility.
Smithfield employes 57,000 people in the supply of 50 different types of pork, beef and turkey products, and other gourmet foods. Apologies if this offends vegetarians. I am not much of a pork fan myself, actually. My first taste of a pork pie was a surreptitious bite at an after-ballroom-dancing-class party when i was a kid. Being Jewish,that's a bit like eating two Magnums after a Diet Club weigh-in. I was so consumed with guilt that I swallowed so quickly I didnt even taste it.

Anyhow, Smithfield has a pretty good sustainability record and declares a core value to be "advance animal welfare". I took a quick peek at their latest CSR report to see how they are doing on this score. page 44. Fascinating. Did you know that the life-cycle of a pig is 6.5 months from birth to market! Except for 243 pigs who didnt make it to market due to transportation accidents along the way . Their life cycle was 6.5 months minus about 2 days, i reckon. But .. from birth to market! A pig's natural life-cycle appears to be from birth to market, not from birth to grave. (I can't help but feel a twinge of sadness here, because in Chinese Astrology i am, yes, you guessed, a PIG!) .

Smithfields say "We are the world’s largest producer of pork, with 445 hog production farms and
approximately 1,700 contract hog growers in the U.S. alone." Growing hogs - the language surprises me a teeny little ... it would soften the blow if they said raising hogs. you know, a little respect.

My favourite sentence is:
"Ensuring the health of the pigs we produce is one of our top priorities. Our staff geneticists identify animals with superior characteristics to develop breeding programs that minimize deleterious physical characteristics." I had to Webster deleterious. It means
harmful. Guess breeding harmless pigs does ensure their good health, until it is time to market, right ? However, being a feminist, i was pleased to read that Smithfield has moved to group housing of pregnant sows by phasing out individual gestation stalls at an investment of, wait for it, hundreds of millions of dollars over the next 10 years. I guess pig-gender issues are safe with Smithfield. And feminists everywhere can now enjoy porkburgers at Mcdonalds knowing that they are in good hands.

Flippancy aside, Smithfields open and transparent reporting is commendable. The long descriptions of all the measures taken at each stage of Porky's life-cycle appear to reflect genuine best practice and first class reporting. After all, Miss Piggy is a key stakeholder, right ? Oops, i said flippancy aside.

I find Smithfield to be no less impressive in their approach on other issues. Their GRI checked B report is clear, comprehensive and marred only by a lack of assurance. I would have liked to see a clearer analysis of stakeholder dialogue and material issues, but the report does relate to what i would expect to be core for a business such as Smithfield - food safety, animal welfare, food insecurity, use of antibiotics in animal treatment, health etc. I like this report.

So back to McDonalds. And their Supplier sustainability Award. Understandable that Smithfield was selected.

This all caused me to wonder how many multinationals make sustainability awards to their suppliers . And whether reporting is part of the sustainability criteria. I am aware that many globals now rate and rank suppliers in terms of value offered, service etc.. but how many rank them for sustainability ? I think i will check that out - would welcome feedback if anyone knows who does what.

Oh, and next time you're tucking into a pork sausage triple decker , please remember that if Smithfield grew it, it probably died smiling.

No comments:

Related Posts with Thumbnails