A year after ten major members abandoned the Grocery Manufacturers Association, America’s powerful food lobby, four of the nation’s largest food companies have launched together the “Sustainable Food Policy Alliance”. This new organization was founded this summer by the US divisions of Mars, Danone, Nestlè and Unilver and is aimed at lobbying in five key policy areas:
consumer transparency, environment, food safety, nutrition, people and communities.
“The Sustainable Food Policy Alliance was founded on the principle that food companies can and should be doing more to lead and drive positive action for the people who buy and enjoy the foods and beverages we make, the people who supply them, and the planet on which we all rely. As an Alliance, we commit first and foremost to leading by example.”
All four companies have already endorsed internal policies to update their portfolios in the past few years, starting from sodium reduction, responsible marketing and transparency, cutting greenhouse gas emission to reduce their impact on the planet. Nowadays, more and more firms are taking action on climate change by cutting their emissions and committing to renewable energy. However, what often lacks in most sustainability programs is policy advocacy: today’s leading companies are expected not only to address these issues internally, by implementing measures across their operations and supply chains, but more importantly they should support policies that are aimed at ensuring both a thriving economy and a healthy planet. Stakeholders now expect companies to prove their commitment to sustainability by consistently engaging in public policy, since ultimately it is the only way they can achieve their climate and clean energy goals.
Moreover, consumers are now turning to products they consider healthier or produced in more sustainable ways, as demonstrated by the losses in market share by US top processed food companies in the past five years. Therefore, the foundation of this new organization might also be a way for the four major firms to differentiate themselves from the other large food companies, like Coca Cola, Pepsi and Mondelez, that have decided to remain in the well-moneyed Grocery Manufacturers Association.
But what does the SFPA advocate for specifically?
The organization will work closely with the FDA to implement the new nutrition facts label and an effective education campaign, aimed at helping people to understand it in order to make right and informed food choices. Moreover, National School Lunch and Breakfast programs will be promoted in schools to provide children with access to nutritious food and educate them to make healthy dietary choices. The Alliance is committed to reducing sodium levels and improving the nutrition of food targeted to families and children. It will advocate for policies at both the state and national level to enhance safety and well-being across the entire food and agriculture supply chain, including US ranchers, farmers and farm workers. As far as sustainability is concerned, Danone, Nestlè, Mars and Unilever will champion energy and environmental policies at the state, national and international level, including the Paris Climate Agreement and the Clean Power Plan.
It will be interesting to see how these companies will deal with environmental and public health policies, such as limits on bottling water from national forest, that might potentially threaten their bottom lines.
It is still too early to say, but we are hopeful that the Sustainable Food Policy Alliance will represent a new model for corporate policy advocacy and will drive a positive change in the food industry.