Cultivating OSI’s Sustainable Farming Journey in Poland
March 5, 2020
For a long time, no national quality assurance or farm-level scheme existed in Poland to promote sustainable farming practices. There was nothing like the long-established, Sustainable Beef and Lamb Assurance Scheme (SBLAS) in Ireland or Red Tractor in the United Kingdom. This presented an opportunity for OSI to create a new program in Poland that would work with the entire supply chain to drive more sustainable practices across Polish farms. Last July, OSI Poland introduced “Cultivate” as a recognized program based on the same best practices and sustainability criteria as those in its other core markets.
Cultivate is the successor to the ‘SFS’ program that OSI had used in Poland since 2005. The original program’s core focus was on maintaining high animal welfare standards. The new program encompasses sustainability targets and uses those targets as a guiding light when helping farmers improve their sustainability outcomes on their own farms. The goal of Cultivate was to not just act as a standard, but to guide farm management practices holistically and drive progress toward shared sustainability goals.
The program and its sustainability criteria and goals are centered on four critical targets in sustainability: animal health and welfare, animal medicines, environment, and farm management. In practice, Cultivate aims to engage farmers in implementing, monitoring and measuring these core sustainability outcomes on the farm.
HOW OSI POLAND’S SUSTAINABILITY PROGRAM CULTIVATE BEGAN
In 2018, OSI conducted a review of the SFS program. OSI’s sustainability team and Polish stakeholders engaged in a materiality assessment of the Polish supply chain. They identified the issues that were most pressing within the beef value chain. They also sought to include sustainability priorities that consumers demand. Lastly, the review enabled them to evaluate best global sustainability practices and the cornerstones of the European Roundtable for Beef Sustainability (ERBS) to ensure the new program would be aligned across the industry and OSI’s network.
Through experience, OSI’s sustainability leadership know that while there are industry best practices, something that works in Australia might not necessarily work in Poland. That is why they took great efforts to consider lessons from the Polish market and recommendations from partners on the ground as they developed the review and, ultimately, the foundation for the new program.
BECOMING A SUSTAINABILITY CHAMPION IN POLAND THROUGH OSI’S CULTIVATE
Today, there are approximately 6,000 farmers that are leading the sustainability charge in Poland by participating in Cultivate. This is impressive considering the dedication it takes to become a Cultivate farmer. First, farmers have to pass the program’s audit, which is administered by an independent third party or an OSI supplier. These auditors visit each farm to conduct the audit and measure the farmer’s performance against Cultivate’s sustainability criteria. If a farmer passes the audit, OSI enters their operation into the program.
Not all applicants pass the audit on the first try. This is where feedback becomes important. OSI provides audit reports from the visit that highlights areas in need of improvement. The farmer can then use the results as a guideline to improve practices and, ultimately, become an OSI Poland Cultivate farmer.
The auditing criteria are grounded in industry best practices, the local market in Poland and lessons from OSI’s global network. But OSI knows that what might be the gold standard of sustainability criteria today might have to evolve or improve tomorrow. That is why re-auditing the new sustainability criteria and supporting the improvement of farmers will remain a focus for the Cultivate program.
OSI POLAND’S CULTIVATE AIMS TO BENEFIT THE ENTIRE INDUSTRY THROUGH SUSTAINABILITY
When farmers and the entire supply chain use industry-leading sustainable farming practices, everyone benefits. The animals enjoy a better quality of life and health through improved welfare and medicine practices. The environment benefits from improved water management, fertilizer use and biodiversity on farms, which collectively reduce Polish farming’s overall carbon footprint.
Farmers, of course, also benefit by adopting more sustainable farming practices. Results across the industry have shown that farmers increase their productivity, minimize their inputs, reduce their costs and increase their income as a result of implementing sustainable farming practices. And finally, the consumer, who is becoming more food conscious, will benefit knowing that the supply chain responsible for bringing food to millions of people aligns with their values and expectations.
THE FUTURE OF SUSTAINABLE FARMING IN POLAND THROUGH CULTIVATE
The Cultivate journey in Poland is just getting started. What began in 2004 as primarily an animal welfare standard has grown into a program that includes animal welfare, worker safety, the environment and the economic viability of farmers. Through this comprehensive sustainable farming approach, the goal of making best practices and sustainability performance commonplace in the mind of the Polish farmer is attainable.
As a next step, OSI Poland hopes to double the number of farmers that are currently participating in Cultivate with ambitious growth plans that include direct engagement with farmers across the country. Boosting the number of farmers in the program will help Cultivate maintain its goal of continuous improvement on farms throughout Poland.
OSI understands that there is a business case for Cultivate and supplier initiatives like it. Growing awareness of environmental and social challenges facing our planet has made sustainable sourcing an increasingly mainstream request. People care more about where their food comes from and the journey it took before it got to their plates. This creates an opportunity for companies looking to earn the trust of their customers.
Companies that do not champion sustainable initiatives will lose out on this opportunity. Fortunately, for OSI, sustainability is a business priority.
Cultivate is helping Poland and its farmers tell some of the many good stories that exist about how animals are treated, the ways farmers are caring for the environment and how farmers and other stakeholders are collaborating across the supply chain to continuously improve their practices.