Friday, July 30, 2010 by Lee Mannering
While getting caught up on industry trade press the other day, I came across an article in the July issue of Progressive Grocer that addressed sustainability in the supermarket meat case. In it, representatives from the beef industry shared perspectives on how technology-driven sustainability can serve as both a business strategy and as a means to leverage positive consumer perceptions.
They recognized how sustainability components (e.g. increased efficiencies, reduced carbon footprints) can often clash with public perceptions of how food is to be sustainably grown, processed, and sold. The article noted that: “There’s a serious gap between the proven strategies the industry deploys to support sustainability and the warm and fuzzy feelings consumers connect with the concept.” To communicate sustainability effectively to consumers, the representatives recommended retailers:
- Build the business case for sustainability by using initiatives that support their brands.
- “Own” their commitment to sustainability by investing in marketing of sustainable products.
- Use labeling smartly, but don’t rely on buzzwords. Instead, use metrics that speak to both stakeholders and end users.
- Become better educated on sustainability practices and become better communicators of the sustainability message and story.
Even though the story focused on beef, I think the ideas presented therein offer insights to the fresh produce industry. While many companies have invested time and energy in implementing sustainable practices (see our sustainability stories page for examples), and while efforts like the Stewardship Index for Specialty Crops are developing and piloting sustainability metrics, the key in capturing consumers’ attention is effectively communicating the sustainability story.
As one beef industry representative said in the article: “Whether it’s done for business, financial, or other reasons, I think there’s a great story to be told.”
For our industry, I couldn’t agree more.