THE sustainability director of one of the world’s largest meat processors says producers are likely to need to know their carbon index by 2030 – calling for national supplier declarations include this information.
Tyson’ Foods Ian McConnell, who is the chairman of the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef, told a Droughtmaster conference in Brisbane last week that “ethical investors” were driving the company’s sustainability goals. Tyson is aiming for a 30% reduction in emissions by 2030.
“Right now, access to finance is by far our biggest driver of sustainability,” McConnel said.
“We have ethical investors and shareholders who tell us ‘you have to be good for me to feel good about giving you my money’. We also have companies that buy our stock for votes on our board to ensure we set and meet goals.
“But that’s good because it means we’ll be able to respond to consumer trends.”
Mr. McConnel said communicating environmental sustainability improvements to consumers was one of the company’s biggest challenges.
“We have a traceability system in Australia, but that traceability system doesn’t allow me to tell a consumer anything about what you’re doing,” he said.
“I think it should be enabled to do that and if there’s anything we should ask MLA and ISC to look at, it’s putting that information on NVDs.”
Opportunity for Australia
Tyson Foods is one of the largest meat processing companies in the world and operates a plant in the Brisbane Valley, Queensland. Mr McConnel said the company was likely to look favorably on Australian beef if the country met its climate targets.
“We are committed to being carbon neutral by 2050 and as members of the Australian beef industry you will be carbon neutral by 2030,” he said, referring to the goal of carbon neutral red meat industry by 2030.
“So as we head into 2030 and we have to reduce our footprint, there is a good chance that Tyson will come knocking in Australia – and a lot of other companies will be the same if the numbers coming from the farms are numbers that we can use. and they comply with international standards.
Mr McConnel said the company was keen for verification of carbon claims to happen industry-wide.
“Our strategy is not to put in place ‘Tyson-branded’ verification systems because that means producers who invest in them are tied to us,” he said.
“It may seem nice to have, but it actually becomes a limitation. What we need are industry-wide systems that help get those claims verified – ideally on an NVD.
Can beef be part of a sustainable meal?
Mr McConnel said carbon claims were becoming increasingly important as consumers were not as keen on claims like “sustainable”.
“We just did a little consumer survey in the United States, they know what the challenges are and they want details,” he said. “That’s why organic is always a strong claim, because it’s exactly as it says on the label.”
“But our new biggest consumer is millennials and the claim most willing to pay more is a carbon claim. They have the biggest problem in the world: decarbonizing the economy.
Wearing his other hat as chair of the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef, Mr McConnel said he was heading for the next COP summit in Egypt later this year – where the idea of “that is a sustainable meal” will be explored.
“We’re going to demonstrate that beef can be on that plate and we have to prove that beef can be there,” he said.
“We need to be able to prove it to policymakers and consumers, because they don’t want sweeping claims.”