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What is Sustainability? Part Two in a Series

Telling Your Story

What do consumers expect regarding sustainability?

Published on: March 25, 2013

Last week we talked about how any business, regardless of their practices, needs to be profitable to be longer term viable or economically sustainable.  But, does it matter to consumers if any business is profitable?  It probably should, but that is a discussion for another day. 

More likely, most consumers view economic sustainability similar to safety.  For example, we expect our workers in plants to be safe while producing products for consumption.  Safety is a cost to the employer, it's the right thing to do as an employer, and consumers expect that products will be produced while providing employees a safe environment. Does sustainability have a similar expectation? 

As I mentioned last week, a major theme of the 2013 Commodity Classic was sustainability.  Christopher Brown, who is the Head of Ethical and Sustainable Sourcing for ASDA stores in Europe, was a presenter during one of the sessions.  He talked about in their grocery stores they have labeling of "good," "better," and "best."  He discussed the thought process as, why would we buy something that's not environmental? 

His message: customers care about sustainability, green is normal and income is not a barrier. 

Christy Slay co-leads the research activities for The Sustainability Consortium to develop a global, transparent, scientifically-based measurement and reporting system for product sustainability.  She shared a project that she has been working on to consider all steps in products to determine the biggest areas not sustainable and address those areas.  The concept is similar to Walmart's scorecard for suppliers.  Their goal is to be able to tell customers the level of sustainability. 

Does this sound similar to the "good," "better," "best" labels discussed by the representative of ASDA? 

Roger Wolf is the Director of Environmental Programs and Services for the Iowa Soybean Association.  He talked about a farm gate's perspective and project that he works on for farmer's to document their sustainability.  The sustainability conversation is occurring, perhaps on a larger scale worldwide than in the United States. 

The bottom-line by several of the speakers was that if you want to have input on how sustainable farms are, farmers need to be involved in the conversation.  These groups are seeking farmers input. 

Considering that this review of sustainability is occurring anyways, do you want your input heard or leave it up to someone else?