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  • nkiedrowski

In Times of Uncertainty, OSI Holds Fast to Our Sustainability Commitments

June 25, 2020

The new decade was set to be this century’s Roaring 20’s and a milestone year for many sustainability commitments, but the first half of 2020 has brought levels of uncertainty not seen in a generation. The COVID-19 pandemic and its associated shutdowns have caused businesses around the world to adjust, pause or end their operations altogether. OSI has also had to make changes as a result of the pandemic, but our sustainability mission remains unchanged and the commitments we’ve made have helped to clarify our response in changing times. As we continue to advance our sustainability goals, we know we have to work harder than ever to foster trust with our partners so we can continue providing the world with nutritious food that families and businesses are proud to serve.

At OSI, we have worked to earn trust since our founding more than 100 years ago. The strong partnerships that developed as a result have allowed us to grow into the global company we are today and to advance sustainability objectives within our company and industry. During these uncertain times, OSI is placing even more of an emphasis on engagement. We are building our plans by communicating with our customers, suppliers and employees. We are listening to their needs so we can work through challenges together.

The partnerships we have with our customers are not simply transactional. These relationships are built on years of honest discussions, which has only been reinforced during this pandemic. It is in these difficult times, when we are all grappling with vulnerabilities and making hard decisions about tradeoffs, that those trusting ties get strengthened and new partnerships for the future are forged.


Our dedication to earning and maintaining trust does not only apply to our business partners. We are just as committed to deepening the confidence our neighbors around the world have in OSI. Our suppliers and factories have been operating in some areas for decades, becoming fixtures in communities we naturally have a stake in supporting. These communities provide us with the talent, land and other resources we depend on to feed the world. We are grateful to every community we work in and believe it is therefore our duty to help our people and our shared communities, especially when times are tough. These community relationships are the driving force behind so many of our sustainability goals and initiatives, which are proving more relevant than ever during these challenging times.

The importance of our sustainability mission continuing during these times exists throughout the supply chain and in our communities. One of OSI’s key sustainability priorities is caring for people in our communities, especially in times of need. OSI is distributing millions of servings of cooked meat to food banks across the Midwest through the Farmers to Families program to help American farmers, food producers and families through these challenging times.

As David McDonald, OSI President and Chief Operating Officer, said in a recent letter to the OSI family, “This is an event that asks all of us to do our very best to care for one another.” OSI staff around the world had already been taking that message to heart, with some beginning their charity closest to home. Donations have been made to workers and vulnerable people in the United Kingdom, medical institutions and workers in China and a hospital in Australia.

Within our supply chain, OSI has established partnerships to better support multi-paddock grazing. This, and sustainable farming practices like it, strengthen the health of both land and animals giving farmers more immunity to disruption. Additionally, these kinds of sustainable farming practices reduce farming inputs and increase profits, which is critical when the economy stagnates or contracts.


Our sustainability goals are wide-ranging and encompass many of the things our stakeholders care about: how animals are treated, environmental and societal impact, workplace safety, and nutrition.

What we have seen during this pandemic is that these sustainability initiatives have become even more important. For instance, the pandemic has shone a brighter light on what companies are doing to keep their workers safe. While just a few months ago, workplace safety mostly pertained to accident prevention, the pandemic has shifted focus to adequately protecting essential workers from illness at a time when others are sheltering in their homes.

OSI has taken this moment as an opportunity to be transparent about this and other tradeoffs we make as we balance our business mission to provide quality food to our customers — which is more urgently needed than ever —with our responsibilities to our workers, our communities and the Earth's resources. We have been open about steps we have taken to mitigate risks. This transparency enables us to learn from feedback and, crucially, to deepen the trust we've been cultivating for years with our stakeholders.

The pandemic has also amplified calls for increased transparency in the food industry that have guided much of OSI's sustainability strategy. Consumers are not only paying more attention to essential workers reporting to their critical food production jobs. They are also interested in the entire process of how their food gets to their tables — during ordinary times and especially during the challenging times we're experiencing now. That is why OSI has continued implementing — and communicating about — our sustainability work during this time. We know it's crucial that our nutritious food remains on shelves, and just as crucial that our stakeholders know how it got there.


Consumers expect businesses to learn from the challenges of 2020 and not just come back in the same way, but instead rebound to be better and smarter. At OSI, we believe sustainability is a part of our resurgence and are working to study and apply lessons from 2020 to our business and operations.

Our sustainability mission, which mandates us to take stake of our impacts and tradeoffs, will guide us as we continue to march toward our goals. The mission will also help guide us as we prioritize what is most important to our people, business, operations and the future of the industry.

We are proud of our long history as a company and a member of communities around the world. As such an established business, we have to stand behind our actions for the long-term, answer questions from our partners and neighbors, and make our sustainability commitments visible for the world to see.

If the pandemic has taught us one thing, it is that trust is at the center of our ability to do anything meaningful, from keeping our employees safe, to maintaining the health of our land and our animals —all of which will foster more trust with our stakeholders. When we aren’t sure about what will happen tomorrow, we turn to the values that have guided us for a century and the sustainability priorities that will give us and our partners the resilience we'll need to continue on our journey for a century more.

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