Our Ongoing Sustainability Journey
December 21, 2020
In the last decade, consumers, governments, businesses and other groups have become much more attuned to the once-niche topic of sustainability. Rising temperatures, changing weather patterns, supply chain disruptions and a growing global population have forced all of us to evaluate how the decisions we make impact the wider world. This evaluation has become especially central to the food and agricultural industries, which face the heavy responsibility of feeding more and more people in a truly sustainable way.
OSI's latest Global Sustainability Report offers our most comprehensive look yet at how we think about sustainability and what we are doing to manage our impacts both within and beyond our facility walls. It reflects the work we did in 2019 and 2020, but is the culmination of years of strategizing and formalizing our approach to sustainability.
In this year's report — the third we've published since 2016 — OSI Chief Sustainability Officer Nicole Johnson-Hoffman summarizes OSI's view of sustainability as issues that "matter most to our stakeholders: how animals are treated, how environmental and social impacts are mitigated, how workers are kept safe."
The report elaborates on how OSI came to determine and refine its six sustainability priority areas, what its goals are within each area, and how well the company is progressing toward those goals. The level of detail in our report reflects the maturation of our sustainability strategy and the giant leap we've taken in the last few years on a "sustainability" journey that began long before we formally adopted the term.
Since our founding more than 100 years ago, OSI's leaders have shown interest in and commitment to a number of issues that we would now classify under the banner of "sustainability" — investing in good causes, giving our workforce opportunities to grow and thrive, upgrading our facilities to mitigate environmental impacts and elevating animal welfare standards.
In the 1990s and early 2000s our "sustainability" initiatives began to roll out at a steadier clip, as we sharpened our focus on key issues. Across the company, we expanded benefits and professional development opportunities to employees and made notable commitments to various causes — women's health in India, childhood nutrition in Japan, feeding the hungry around the world. Beginning in 1999, OSI Spain became the first of our many plants to achieve ISO 14001 certification, the international standard for energy management systems.
By the early 2010s, OSI's current sustainability strategy was very quickly taking shape. Though we still hadn't published our first global sustainability report, we took important early steps to align our sustainability ambitions across the company and unify under a common set of water, energy and waste-reduction goals. We also began taking concrete steps to more accurately track our environmental footprint. That involved identifying global sustainability priority areas to focus and align our work, and establishing a sustainability committee — an early iteration of our Global Sustainability Team — to oversee company-wide progress toward our goals.
Much of the work from that period is detailed in our first global sustainability report, which was published in 2016, and laid the groundwork for our sustainability work to come.
NEW LEADERSHIP SHARPENS SUSTAINABILITY FOCUS
On the heels of that important disclosure, OSI welcomed its first Chief Sustainability Officer, Nicole Johnson-Hoffman, whose vision and commitment to sustainability leadership has guided us to where we are today.
Under Johnson-Hoffman's tenure, OSI has made significant strides in aligning our approach to sustainability, measuring progress toward our goals and, notably, working more proactively with stakeholders to foster industry progress, or as she has said, "bring them along with us on our sustainability journey."
The Global Sustainability Team is the engine driving OSI's sustainability vision. It consists of dedicated sustainability professionals who work with a network of colleagues from across OSI’s regions of operation and key departments to track the progress of OSI’s global initiatives, share best practices across the group and keep stakeholders informed about our activities.
A separate network of internal and external subject-matter experts also play an important role in informing our sustainability work. These experts help us develop activities aligned to industry standards and best practices. Our internal experts also support our work in their respective departments and regions, and ensure that OSI’s goals and priorities are incorporated into day-to-day business and operations.
Using guidance from this global team, OSI facilities are constantly pursuing specific sustainability improvement projects. Each region also uses guidance from the Sustainability Team to develop its own action plans, integrating regional sustainability ambitions with those of the broader OSI organization.
WORKING TOWARD A MORE ALIGNED AND COLLABORATIVE FUTURE
Going forward, we're setting our sights on even more alignment and collaboration. Within our walls, we're looking forward to implementing new Key Welfare Indicators for poultry in our supply chain. We're anticipating great outcomes from our newly-formed Environmental Health and Safety Committee, which will allow EHS experts from across our organization to exchange ideas and align on common goals. And we look forward to a number of activities stemming from our recently-formed Global Beef Sustainability Working Group. Johnson-Hoffman and OSI Global Sustainability Leader Anna Baron lead the group, which collaborates with global regions on GRSB-informed beef sustainability work. This includes everything from regenerative grazing projects to on-farm carbon footprint measurement.
Externally, we're ramping up our collaborative work on a number of fronts. We'll continue to roll out our Sustainable 365 Farmer Recognition program, collaborate with groups like the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef to reduce emissions at the farm level, and deepen our partnerships with customers, industry groups and experts, who are enabling us to grow more sustainably, together.
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