According to the Innovation Center, this guide provides “a voluntary, science-based framework for the dairy value chain to measure and communicate sustainability progress.”
The organization has been undertaking a science-based effort, led by the Innovation Center's Sustainability Alliance, for the last many years to ensure they are finding sustainability indicators that matter the most. The current version of the report, version 1.3, has been reviewed by farm cooperatives, dairy processors and manufacturers.
This version of the report can be found online here for industry professional review. Comments can be submitted through March 16, 2016.
Barbara O'Brien, president of the Innovation Center for US Dairy, said that consumers and other stakeholders are now more interested than ever in finding out how food is made and where it comes from.
"The Guide delivers on our commitment to work collaboratively, from farm to retail, to advance and communicate dairy's environmental stewardship and social responsibility,” she said.
The “guiding principles” for the Innovation Center in creating the guide include:
- Consumers access to safe, high-quality products
- Contribution, participation and investment in dairy land communities
- Respect, care, health and comfort of the industry’s cows
- Safe and respectful workplaces for dairy employees
- Stewardship and responsible use of the planet’s natural resources
- Long-term economic vitality of dairy businesses
“We employ leading business practices and meaningful partnerships to enhance the value chain of our products from farm to table,” version 1.3 of the report said. “We manage for risk, prosperity and quality of life of our farms, families, communities and stakeholders. We strive to ensure our businesses are attractive to successive generations.”
Indicators of sustainability
The report goes into details of sustainability measurement, looking at aspects of the farm such as energy, greenhouse gas emissions and cows. On the importance of measuring indicators of greenhouse gas emissions on the farm level, the report said:
“Reducing emissions will not only help meet environmental sustainability goals; in many cases, it will also strengthen the economic sustainability of dairy farms. Several practices could reduce GHG emissions—ranging from maintenance or replacement of equipment, to changing the feed ratios of the cows, to the generation of renewable energy through installation of an anaerobic digester—while potentially providing cost savings and additional revenue for the producer.”
Other indicators centered on processes and manufacturers, including water, employees, and energy.
Joan Behr, senior director of communications and brand management at Foremost Farms USA, said the guide provides a unified system for measuring and communicating the industry’s progress thanks in large part to these indicators.
"The indicators allow us to support our customers' sustainable sourcing goals, and the industry-wide alignment is essential to remain competitive,” Behr said.