Sustainability has been a hot topic across the diary and food industry, as more organizations are trying to ensure the health of the environment and the safety of food.
DuPont, a company with 50 years of history in the dairy industry by producing cultures, enzymes, fibers and more, recently announced its 2020 Sustainability Goals.
Dairy Farming Today says energy saving methods across dairy farms can be as simple as upgrading lighting. DairyReporter spoke with Sarah King, manager of corporate sustainability, about what the company, farmers and dairy industry as a whole can do to become more sustainable.
DairyReporter: What’s the most important part of this sustainability plan? What’s your main goal?
Sarah King: I think the real focal point of our 2020 goals announcement was the sustainable innovation goal. DuPont was one of the first companies to set voluntary sustainability goals and we continue to drive progress and set additional goals to reduce energy we use, the water, the waste and the emissions. We’ll keep doing that.
I think where we can have a more transformational [effect] is through our products. The sustainable innovation goals are built into a more concrete and formal way into our innovation process. It creates different hurdles at different stages. Our major new innovations in development, they present an opportunity to push the business and push our scientists figure out how we can, through our product, create a safer, healthier, more sustainable world.
DR: How can that be done?
SK: There are a couple of things. We’ve developed as set of criteria about how we define safer and healthier and more sustainable. We’ve worked with internal and external stakeholders and received feedback. Those will end up being at a very early stage in innovation process.
Things thought of as a concept or ideas are presented as a thought challenge. If a product delivers on performance and enables a new technology or change, or it will be an ingredient that will make something healthier, as we move closer toward commercialization, there will be a process to which we will quantify and measure that benefit that till be delivered to our customer or end consumers.
It will create a challenge and push our scientists and innovation community to consider how the product is delivering these society benefits … and it will take the next step to quantifying those benefits.
DR: DuPoint is investing $10bn in research and development food security; how can you keep sustainability in mind while new products or ingredients?
SK: We have been making a lot of good progress on that. We’ve historically been invested in a lot of R&D; it’s one of the reasons a sustainability goal is so important.
In the food security area, obviously agriculture is a major focus for DuPont. That’s an area where we have an expectation to continue investing our R&D money into innovating products that will be nutritious, will be drought tolerant and will just be able to produce more yields per acre around the world. We want to really deliver benefits to the growers and do that in a more sustainable way.
DR: Keeping the growers in mind, you’re targeting helping 3m farmers. How have you been working with farmers for greater level of sustainability?
SK: We’ve had a focus on food security for some time. We’ve had that goal around engaging with improving farmers livelihoods in rural communities. Part of that is around education. We’ve done some interesting collaborations with 4H locally to connect with the next generation of famers and the people who will grow our food in the decades that come.
I think there’s also been a lot of effort to just think about the communities, as agriculture in Africa looks a lot different than agriculture in Iowa. Benefits focused around creating some of those local partnerships that can identify key issues or barriers to progress can be in a given region. We’re looking from a value chain perspective, asking what role can we play in addressing some of those challenges or helping the farmers be more successful and improve yields.
DR: How have you noticed the dairy industry doing regarding? What else is needed to improve the industry?
SK: I am not knowledgeable enough to give a specific response about the dairy industry, but one trend that I can speak to is that … we look pretty far upstream in most cases. I think we’re seeing this trend in a lot of sectors, but especially agriculture and food and beverage: Companies want to produce healthier food in a more sustainable manner.
A lot of the big food brands making bold commitments. From our perspective, it’s not what any given industry needs to do, but there’s this overall trend. I think we’re seeing each industry [say] “How can we help make our customers deliver a more sustainable product to their customer and end consumers?"
I think measurement will be a big deal for all sectors, but I think that will be especially important in food and beverages. How are you driving real improvements and how are you demonstrating that through quantification? How are you communicating that to consumers in a way that’s transparent and helps them make decisions using that information?