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Dawn Meats Q&A: The impact of Sustainability on the Agri-Food Industry

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The Green Awards 2020 recognise the best sustainability businesses and the initiatives they are leading to create a greener Ireland.

As part of Cpl's upcoming sponsorship of the Green Awards 2020, we interviewed the Team of the Year nominees about how corporate sustainability shapes their business.

Our first interview is with Richard Clinton, the Group Commercial Director of Dawn Meats. Dawn Meats is a leading European food company, committed to sourcing its livestock and meat products in a sustainable way.

Their publicly stated ambition is to be 'Europe's most sustainable meat company' and have been recognised for their responsible business practices.

How do you find the drive on sustainability is impacting the Agri-Food industry in Ireland?

At Dawn Meats, we consider sustainability in the context of continuous improvement and are always striving to do better.

Sustainability for us is about resource use efficiency, within our own operations and in our supply chain. Our investment strategies and business plans are evaluated in terms of return on capital and alignment with our business purpose of 'providing consistent quality meat products from sustainable sources to support of our rural communities, human health and nature's ecosystem'.

The Irish Agri-Food industry is implementing our local response to the global climate challenge through Origin Green. There are many research projects, demonstration farms and development programs operated by the industry. These focus on improving practices in areas like grassland management, breeding, manure management, biodiversity and lean management.

Can you give some examples of the best sustainability practices you have adopted in your organisation?

We prioritise resource use efficiency and we typically pilot new technologies on one site before roll-out across the entire estate. We have rolled out Lean Six Sigma across our business over a five-year period following a successful pilot in 2013/2014.

By taking this holistic approach, we compromised on initial implementation to optimise for business impact over the medium term. This has enabled us to fast track projects on heat recovery, heat exchange, fossil fuel elimination and ISO50001 achievement which have delivered in excess of 66% of our 2025 Scope 1 and 2 emissions reduction targets.

You've been nominated for Sustainability Team of the Year at the Green Awards 2020. How has your team worked together to achieve this accolade?

Responsible and sustainable activity has always been at the core of what we do. Being a member of Origin Green however, has provided us with the structures around which we plan resource deployment to deliver on our sustainability strategy and measure our own progress against best practice models.

Our adoption of Lean Six Sigma focuses on the contribution each team member can make towards the elimination of waste streams and the achievement of our broader sustainability goals.

Our progress towards becoming 'Europe's most sustainable meat company' has been helped by our membership of BITC Ireland, and the achievement of the Business Working Responsibly mark for all our Irish sites in 2019. This resulted from significant input from both the sustainability executive in updating policy and with the cross-functional teams involved in implementing new practices and demonstrating performance. Teamwork is the essence of how we operate.

Has your increased focus on sustainability changed your hiring needs?

In 2015, we recruited our first CSR Manager and in 2019 we appointed a Group Head of CSR & Sustainability to co-ordinate policy, practice and performance across the business in the area of sustainability. This has streamlined our approach and focused resources in the areas of greatest impact which will help to deliver on our Science Based Targets approved in November 2019.

What 3 pieces of advice would you give companies in your industry who are trying to become more sustainable?

Focus on waste, collaborate and communicate success to all your stakeholders.

How important are the people you hire and those in leadership in creating a sustainable company?

We are a people business and the essence of how we operate is within teams. Through our outreach program, CONNECT, we engage with primary, secondary and third-level schools and agricultural colleges to create a greater awareness of what we do.

We can't achieve our goals if we don't attract and retain the right people and by supporting their efforts and recognising good work, we make tangible progress. The sustainability executive may decide policy and set targets, but it is the cross-functional teams and departmental leads that manage delivery and performance.

What do you see as the top sustainable working trend for 2020 in the Irish meat industry?

The growing affluence of the developing world is driving demand for quality meat and it's important this demand is met in the most carbon-efficient way.

The Irish agriculture system has been studied and recognised by the EU commission and the UN's FAO as one of the most efficient systems in the world. This means we are better positioned than other countries to meet this demand with a lower environmental impact.

What do you see as the biggest challenges for sustainable working within Agri-Food in the coming years?

From a resource perspective, Irish livestock production has a natural advantage over most other countries which would be socially irresponsible not to fully utilise.

We export 90% of the beef we produce as a country so our percentage of national emissions arising from agriculture is high due to the way in which emissions are attributed. Our atmosphere does not recognise national boundaries so it's important that we do not take decisions which lead to more adverse outcomes elsewhere.

In carbon accounting terms, agriculture does not get credit for the carbon sequestered in grasslands nor from the relative performance of methane emissions compared to carbon emissions from other industries. Policymakers should account for emissions from food production in net terms. This, of course, does not absolve us of our responsibility to be more carbon efficient.

Richard is the Group Commercial Director of Dawn Meats, an Irish owned provider of quality meat products globally. The winner of the Sustainability Team of the Year will be announced at an awards ceremony on the 25th of February. Visit: www.greenawards.ie

If you're interested in learning more about sustainability policies or methods you can download Cpl's Responsible Business document. For more information on hiring trends or recruitment queries get in touch, our consultants would be delighted to advise.