The Challenges of Disclosing Sustainability in Business
Having a deforestation-free production chain is ideal for many companies. However, how is it possible to disclose the results, especially to investors and clients, without resulting in criticism for what still remains to be done, but rather by acknowledging the progress made? This was the theme of the second meeting of 2019 of the Collaboration for Forests and Agriculture (CFA), held in November in São Paulo.
CFA is a Moore Foundation initiative and it is developed by WWF, TNC and NFW. It provides support for companies who want to structure deforestation-free chains for meat and soybeans in the Amazon and Cerrado regions in Brazil and Gran Chaco in Argentina and Paraguay. In this collaboration, it is up to WWF to lead engagement with the private sector.
The “Deforestation Free - How to Tell Investors and Customers About Our Achievements” event (as the meeting was called) is part of the strategy of supporting these companies to achieve a deforestation-free supply chain management. At the occasion, 45 CFA participants - among companies engaged by WWF and its strategic partners - were present.
“For us, the big result was the perception that companies understand the need for transparency in the progress of their deforestation-free chain implementation plans, and that this needs to be done verifiably to give credibility and differentiate them in the marketplace, and especially for investors, says Daniela Teston, CFA coordinator for WWF in Brazil.
Agreed items include the need for sustainability reporting, with evaluation by a reputable organization; data disclosure at different levels for investors, clients and the general public; information sharing among members, calendar dissemination, and consolidation of numbers by sector and group as a whole. Joining the platform will be voluntary, as will all actions within the CFA.
Find out more about the event below:
The opening of the second major CFA meeting of the year was attended by two WWF-Brazil directors: Alexandre Prado (Green Economy), who emphasized the need for a strong participation of companies in the pursuit of the Paris Agreement goals, and Edegar Rosa (Conservation and Restoration of Ecosystems), which highlighted the strength of the work that the CFA group has been developing over the years.
“It is very important to see some of the largest companies in Brazil present and acting together against deforestation in their chains. We are no longer in the diagnosis stage, and several of them already have concrete action plans that will contribute to the achievement of this joint result. “Collaboration makes the group stronger to overcome challenges”, says Edegar.
Then, invited companies participated in two experience-sharing panels, which sought to expand on the purpose of the meeting - maintain the group's union to advance the implementation of planned actions. “By doing this, we can also develop joint solutions to challenges that are similar to all of them, such as communicating the theme”, says coordinator Daniela Telston.
At the first table were Abdias Machado (BIG Group Sustainability Coordinator); Henrique Borges (Danone Purchasing Manager) and Rodrigo Spuri (Conservation Coordinator - TNC Soy Chain Brazil, CFA's partner organization) bringing their experiences on sustainable chain management and analysis of deforestation risk exposure in soybean production. milk chain.
Abdias Machado, who, for six months, represented the Walmart group, which had its Brazilian operation sold and is now part of the BIG Group, shared the challenge faced by many of those present to promote sustainability within companies, showing that “it is about business opportunity, not just costs. ” To this end, he stressed the need to “Brazilianize” the discussion.
“We need to speak the language of our consumer and bring sustainability to the Brazilian family. In order to do this, these group moments are essential. Here we have all the necessary elements for this debate. It's time for us to come together, hold hands and discuss sustainability, push things forward for our consumers”, said Machado.
Henrique Borges, Danone's Purchasing Management Officer, shared the experience of tracing his suppliers' chain in relation to deforestation, both for dairy farmers (currently 315 farms) and for input procurement, which is done through a purchasing center that unifies orders and makes it easier for suppliers not involved in deforestation.
“Globally, Danone has signed a commitment not to buy from deforested areas. This is a major concern because of soy. Therefore, we are mapping these processes and we have a 100% traced chain. The Purchasing Center has allowed us to get better product prices and have more control over our suppliers. The result has been so good that, for the first time, we are making a local project go global”, he said.
Rodrigo Spuri, head of TNC's soy chain, brought in more information on the territorial intelligence system, Agroideal, which focuses on the soy chain in the Cerrado and the Amazon, but which already has a version for livestock in Brazil and Paraguay.
“The idea of the project is to fill a territorial planning gap, with risks and opportunities in the environmental area. By identifying these on maps, companies can decide whether to invest in that area or not, and if so, how to do it. It also shows the risk exposure in the regions it already operates”, said Rodrigo, explaining that the system is being used by Danone for soybeans.
In the second debate, Marcos Takaoka, BRF Sustainability Specialist, highlighted the market demand for a free production chain. “Over the last months, the demand for deforestation-related information has only grown, from investor to strategic clients. The relationship area has been increasingly demanding and this will not change”. According to Marcos, the work done with CFA was key to make the diagnosis. The question was how to turn the diagnosis into a tactical and strategic plan. Thus, from the 65 actions suggested by CFA, the company prioritized 15 for implementation, divided into five pillars, including communication, initiative and engagement with leadership. "It's not ideal, but it's feasible right now, and it is in line with the company's strategy."
On the other hand, Leonel de Almeida, Sustainability Manager at Marfrig, spoke about the importance of the environmental part in supporting the business, maintaining the business and resources. Leonel shared the company's pioneering initiative in monitoring its suppliers for deforestation through satellite imagery. “From this monitoring, we have the internal process of whether or not to maintain the supplier. This year, with the fires, our role was to see if any of our producers were in the affected areas, call them and ask how we could help”.
According to Leonel, the company has now been tracking indirect suppliers, asking their direct suppliers where calves come from, as well as other information. “All this work has received a lot of support from CFA. It's a huge initiative that might not have been so strong if done on its own”.
To close the discussion, Leonardo Lima, Director of Sustainable Development and Social Commitment at Golden Arches (McDonalds) also stressed the importance of working together and finding the best way to communicate to strengthen societal change.
“We are networking and making our organizations grow. It is no use talking about deforestation in your organization. You need to talk about deforestation and see how your business can support it. If we have consensual tools that everyone uses, everyone wins”, says Leonardo, stressing the importance of environmental education in the process. It is necessary to work with information for the consumers, to inform them on these matters with quality”, he added.
At the end of the panels, participants split into groups to discuss communication challenges and began to conceive the tool that should be created. In order to make it easier to work with supply chains, Instituto Food Service Brasil - IFB (which includes the largest food companies and is a partner of CFA), represented by its Executive Director, Ingrid Devisate, extended the invitation to join the second cycle of CFA implementation to new companies and their suppliers.
The next meeting will take place on May 7th.