Can meat producers communicate about sustainability?

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

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A view of the farm of Danish Crown farmer Niels Aage Arve in Hjortshøj, Denmark. © Danish Crown

Sustainable food requires massive investments across the value chain and commitment from consumers to choose sustainability. Together, farmers, producers, consumers, and customers can create a sustainable future for food.

Building a sustainable food sector is one of the greatest and most complex challenges the world is facing today. Food production is a source of GHG emissions, the sector is vulnerable to climate change, and simultaneously the world’s population is growing. Solving this challenge requires strong commitment from farmers and producers to find new ways of producing food, and from consumers to choose the most sustainable alternative in their everyday lives. Neither farmers, producers nor consumers can do it alone – only by working together, we can drive real change.

At Danish Crown we see sustainability as the innovation opportunity of our lifetime. Danish Crown is built by innovative Danish Farmers, who in 1886 joined forces to create one of the world’s first cooperatives that has resulted in Danish meat meeting the highest global standards in quality and food security. Now, Danish farmers once again use the power of collaboration and has given a sustainability promise to consumers; Danish Crown will reduce our GHG footprint with 50 % by 2030 and become climate neutral in 2050.

In Denmark, we have, however, met a challenge in our efforts. Three Danish NGOs has filed a lawsuit against Danish Crown, claiming that Danish Crown cannot communicate our sustainability efforts to consumers, because meat has higher GHG emissions than plant-based foods. We are now faced with the question, can meat producers communicate about sustainability?

The new battleground in climate politics has become the courtroom and let us at Danish Crown be the first to say, that all companies’ climate efforts must be based on science and subject to thorough due diligence. That is the reason why Danish Crown has committed to the Science Based Targets initiative as we believe that sustainability efforts must be driven and enlightened by science.

The trial against Danish Crown is filed based on the Danish Marketing Act, not on the Climate Act. That puts a new dimension into the debate on business’ role in fighting climate change, because, if businesses cannot differentiate through sustainability, it will become more challenging to consumers to choose a more sustainable option, and what could become a positive spiral with consumers demanding sustainability and businesses supplying a broader selection of ever more sustainable products is broken.

Real sustainability change must be achieved together

Building a sustainable value chain requires commitment and investments. In our new five-year strategy presented in June 2021, Danish Crown commits to investing between € 0.5 – 0.67 billion Euro among our owners – the Danish farmers, and € 1.48 – 1.61 billion in the company, to deliver on our sustainability promise to consumers.

We are ready to invest these amounts, because we believe that sustainability is and will increasingly become a differentiator for consumers in the food sector, as it is for consumers buying a car or choosing a more sustainable airline.

A recent study from Forbes show, that a majority of consumers look for products that will help them live a more sustainable and socially responsible life. As sustainability is a differentiator to the consumers, sustainability investments are not only the right thing to do, it is also a financially sound thing to do for businesses, and that is very good news for the global fight against climate change.

Developed market governments have through the Paris Agreement committed to mobilizing $100 billion to climate finance, and despite the significance of this amount it will not be enough to keep the world well below the 2 degrees Celsius threshold. Private capital is needed, and private businesses are needed to pave new ground, find innovative solutions and finance them all the way through the value chain to reach the consumer.

At Danish Crown we are convinced, that the fight against climate change is lost, if private companies cannot participate. And we are committed to deliver on our sustainability promise; 50 % reduction in GHG footprint by 2030 and climate neutrality by 2050. Therefore, we will continue communicating about our climate efforts and let the consumers know, that when they have decided to include meat in their diet, there is a more sustainable alternative from farmers and producers, that have committed to sustainability and who will continuously strive towards a vision of a climate-neutral food sector.

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