What has the food industry achieved on sustainability?

By Rod Addy

- Last updated on GMT

The report urges the food industry to act with urgency to tackle global environmental issues
The report urges the food industry to act with urgency to tackle global environmental issues

Related tags Supply chain Food safety

Food industry leaders have united to tackle sustainability, health and food safety over the past year, despite significant challenges, but to make more progress they should be their 'own biggest critics'.

That's the message behind the launch of the Consumer Goods Forum's (CGF's) first annual report, Collective action today, impact at scale tomorrow – review 2021. ​The report ​reviews the commitments, activities, and accomplishments of 400 CGF members over the past 12 months and highlights business leadership on sustainability.

It follows COP26 climate talks and the CGF’s announcement as a UN Race to Zero Accelerator to help increase progress towards net zero among its global membership.

Successes include the Forest Positive Coalition’s first annual report, Plastic Waste Coalition’s Golden Design Rules, the launch of the Human Rights Coalition – Working to End Forced Labour and the call to action to do more to support vulnerable communities during the global pandemic.

Contributions come from CGF co-chairs Daniel Zhang, chief executive officer of Alibaba, and James Quincey, chairman and CEO of The Coca-Cola Company. The CEOs of companies including Carrefour, Danone, GSK Consumer Healthcare, Mars Incorporated, Mondelēz International, Nestlé, Sainsburys, Tesco and Unilever also play their part. 

Highlights include:

  • The Plastic Waste Coalition’s launch of the nine 'Golden Design Rules​' for packaging that are now being implemented globally to embrace the circular economy and decrease single use plastic. The research of the Coalition has indicated that if implemented, the rules will deliver a dramatic reduction in plastic waste into nature and more than 30% increased recycling rates.
  • The Collaboration for Healthier Lives Coalition co-ordinating a global response to support vulnerable communities​ during the pandemic. Actions included improving access to healthier foods and personal care products, donating food and personal care products to food banks and community programmes, and working with partners who provide essential support locally. 
  • The Forest Positive Coalition’s launch of its first-ever Annual Report​ – the first time member businesses have aligned on a set of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and publicly reported their individual and collective results to take deforestation out of the supply chain. The report was launched as part of Climate Week in New York in September 2021.
  • The Human Rights Coalition – Working to End Forced Labour was launched on International Human Rights Day in December 2020, to commit the industry to collective action to bring forced labour to an end and increase transparency in the supply chain.
  • In order to benefit communities, economies and the climate by tackling food waste, the Food Waste Coalition​ is now publicly reporting on their food surplus and waste data in an aligned approach. This is part of the Coalition’s decisive objective to accelerate progress towards Sustainable Development Goal 12.3 to cut per capita food loss in half worldwide.
  • Global Food Safety Initiative​ (GFSI) started a new chapter as the CGF’s Coalition of Action on Food Safety in March 2021 and, more recently, published the first-ever set of Benchmarking Requirements for food safety auditor Professional Recognition Bodies.

In spring 2020, CGF transitioned to CEO-led coalitions to encourage collaboration and focus on greater impact at scale.

By March 2021, eight coalitions had been created. Through the work of Food WasteForest PositiveGlobal Food Safety InitiativeCollaboration for Healthier LivesHuman RightsPlastic WasteProduct Data ​and Sustainable Supply Chain Initiative ​the group has united CEOs of world-leading consumer goods companies to deliver action. 

“If we are going to mitigate the greatest risks of the climate crisis and protect the health of communities around the world, we need to be our own biggest critics," ​managing director of CGF Wai-Chan Chan said. "​That is exactly why we have published our first annual review, committing to rigorous and transparent reporting to accelerate action and build trust.

'Act with urgency'
"All our members are committed to finding solutions together that have tangible, positive effects on people, the planet and business – and it is heartening to see the many examples of this across 2021. However, as COP26 underlined, we must continue to act with urgency and work towards even more ambitious targets in 2022, scaling up our impact.

"Our approaches to achieve this, beyond the work of our Coalitions of Action, include increasing our reach in Asia, building on our digital connections, and expanding to working with smaller, more localised members – encouraging action at every level.”

CGF is the only CEO-led organisation representing consumer goods manufacturers and retailers globally, bringing together senior leaders from more than 400 organisations across 70 countries.

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