Dairy Industry Sustainability

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When one thinks of sustainability frameworks and standardized reporting there are a few big names that dominate the landscape.  The Carbon Disclosure Project is backed by 722 institutional investors that manage $87 trillion in assets who are interested in uncovering and mitigating risk in their portfolios.  The Carbon Disclosure Project recently rebranded to CDP since it now has disclosure mechanisms for both carbon and water.  The other large player is the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) whose sustainability reporting framework is used by over 5,400 organizations worldwide.   Though these two reporting standards get most of the press there are other standards being developed to address the needs of a specific industry.   The first we’ll highlight here is the Stewardship and Sustainability Guide for U.S. Dairy developed by the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy.

Development of the Stewardship and Sustainability Guide for U.S. Dairy began in 2011 with the goal of enhancing the sustainability performance of the farmers, processors and other companies in the supply chain that bring dairy products to the consumer.  The Guide is intended to help farmers, processors and manufacturers:

  • Communicate about sustainability
  • Demonstrate progress where it matters most
  • Create long-term economic growth
  • Build consumer trust

The Guide includes indicators for both farmers, processors and manufacturers.  Development of indicators and their relevancy was informed by the GRI reporting standards and covers all aspects of the triple bottom line: environmental, social and economic.  Indicator development was also informed by Life Cycle Analyses conducted by the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy, which helps to target indicators on those aspects of the farm and dairy industry that have the greatest impact.  For example, over half of the greenhouse gas emissions in the dairy supply chain occur on the farm.  The second largest contributor at over 20% is feed production.  The balance of emissions comes from transport, processing, packaging, retail, and consumers.

The Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy also developed three tools to use in conjunction with the Guide.  The Farm Smart tool helps farmers calculate and manage their environmental footprint.  The Plant Smart tool helps dairy processors and manufacturers improve the efficiency and lessen the impact of their facilities.  The Fleet Smart tool helps improve transportation efficiencies and reduce fuel use in order to reduce environmental impact and create competitive advantage.

Version 1.2 of the Guide is currently out for comment until July 14, 2013.  It is expected that subsequent versions of the Guide will add additional indicators of interest to stakeholder audiences.

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