In recent years, the grain and feed industry has recognized the need for a sustainable approach to ensure environmental stewardship, social responsibility, and economic viability.
As the global population continues to grow, the demand for grain, grain co-products, and oilseeds increases. It becomes crucial to adopt sustainable practices to minimize the ecological impact and secure the planet’s resources for future generations and remain economically viable.
The term “corporate sustainability” refers to an approach to conducting business that creates sustainable, long-term shareholder, employee, consumer, and societal value by pursuing responsible environmental, social, and economic (or governance) strategies.
Sustainability in the grain and feed industry carries a multitude of benefits that extend beyond the immediate economic impact. While businesses will focus on the economic benefits of sustainability, here are a few non-economic reasons why sustainability is crucial in our industry:
• Environmental conservation. By embracing sustainability practices, we can minimize water consumption, reduce carbon emissions, lower energy usage, and contribute to the conservation of vital ecosystems.
• Climate change mitigation. Grain and oilseed handling and processing contribute to greenhouse gas emissions. Sustainable handling and processing methods promote carbon-neutral or even carbon-negative operations.
• Social responsibility. Today’s consumers are becoming more conscious of their purchasing decisions and demand transparency, ethical sourcing, and safe food. By adhering to social responsibility principles, the industry builds trust, enhances its reputation, and meets the evolving market demands.
An effective sustainability program relies on a well-managed supply chain that promotes responsible sourcing, fair trade practices, and traceability. By monitoring the entire supply chain, the industry can mitigate environmental risks, ensure product integrity, and ensure compliance with sustainable agriculture standards
When looking at successful sustainable companies, there are key success factors they share. Their leadership is committed to sustainability and leads by example. Sustainability efforts are integrated with core business strategies that support company visions and goals. They collaborate within and outside the industry for solutions and they are willing to invest in innovation.
Economics is part of sustainability, and some its influential factors are: customer satisfaction, costs reduction, developing economies of scale, and efforts to gain profits for stakeholders.
1. Voice of the Customer
• The best way for sustainable growth and success of any relevant strategy is to identify and meet customer needs for service and products.
• Be sure you are providing value to your customer with all services and products.
• Growth is largely related to client satisfaction and geographical footprint. Client satisfaction can be achieved by delivering a better experience and innovating new services.
Geographical footprint is related to how you manage cash flow, margins, and investments to expand into new territory that will lead to growth.
2. Communicate With Customers
Be conscious of the fact that returning customers dictate sustainability, and new customers dictate growth. Customer communications is critical when implementing new programs related to the sustainability effort.
3. An Outside-In Look
Management often spends time looking at the world from where they sit – an inside-out look. To achieve sustained growth in the marketplace, they need to have an outside-in look; they need to understand the world in which they operate. Management should have realistic recognition of the value their company provides or can provide.
4. Clear Articulation of Goals
Clearly articulate business objectives, goals, and expectations within the company hierarchy.
5. Team Buy-In
Be sure all team members know how they fit into the plan, what is expected of them, and get a commitment.
6. Lean Manufacturing
Continuous improvement and sustainability are two approaches toward a common goal. In operations for the grain and feed industry, Lean Manufacturing techniques can be very helpful for supporting sustainability efforts.
Lean principles can be applied to sustainability efforts in a number of ways, such as reducing waste, improving resource efficiency, and increasing social responsibility. By adopting a lean approach, companies can not only improve their environmental and social impact but also enhance their long-term business success.
Lean Manufacturing in the production system focuses on reducing or eliminating operational wastes and losses, while sustainability aims to eliminate the wastes and losses that affect the environment.
“Wastes” are defined as any activity that consumes resources and does not add any value for the company.
The grain and feed industry needs to address consumer concerns on sustainability. By implementing sustainable practices, the industry can secure environmental conservation, confront climate change challenges, address social responsibilities, and meet consumer expectations.
Furthermore, by integrating continuous improvement techniques such as Lean Six Sigma, the industry can drive efficiency, reduce waste, and foster a culture of continuous innovation.
Embracing sustainability is not just a responsible choice but a strategic opportunity for the grain and feed industry to thrive in an ever-changing world, while preserving our planet for future generations to come.
Jim Voigt is the president of JFV Solutions Inc. and has over 49 years of experience in management and operations in the feed, grain, and grain processing industries. Jim is also trained in and has over 10 years’ experience in continuous improvement methodology.