Friday, 12 February 2010

TRUST comes by Food and leaves by Horse

A deliberate typo in relation to last week’s Global Food Safety Conference. Yet a relevant typo, as the issue is “who do you trust?” I will explain later.
It has struck me that GFSI has been very successful in creating awareness and acceptance in bringing food safety on the management agenda. Even so successful, that many customers today are regaining confidence that food safety risks are being managed. This is a great achievement and is a direct result of tremendous efforts across the entire supply chain. We at LRQA pride ourselves in being part of this success. It does not mean that we now can relax. Maintaining rigorous food safety standards, performing independent and experienced audits, and supporting our clients in continuous improvement and management of change, all remain as much a challenge as they were before.
A single lapse of attention and controls, and a major food safety incident may hit the market with devastating impact on the parties involved. We at LRQA set ourselves clear goals every day at every audit; avoid these disasters, within the scope of our work. Companies, their clients and their suppliers need to have trust in our work, and in the work of our clients.
Food incidents can have tremendous impacts on lives, the health of people affected, corporate share prices, revenues and even top management career opportunities. Trust leaves by horse…
We do not want to have our name associated with this.
Today, I now wonder as to what is next?
If we accept that we manage to control food safety. Are we done? No
Our clients, within and outside the food sector, see themselves faced with questions on their “sustainability”. What is their impact on the use of scarce resources like water, energy, land and also labour? How much CO2 are they emitting? Are they causing deforestation? Do they employ small children at excruciating working hours, without proper payments and decent labour conditions.
NGO’s, governments, customers and their own employees ask for transparency. This applies also in the food sector. The GFSI - Global Food Safety Initiative may even consider changing their name to the Global Food Sustainability Initiative.
The question again arises, when they come forward with their claims on sustainability: “who says so?” A very valid question. In other words – whom do you trust? In a time when every day a new “green” label comes to light. Carbon foot prints of products, claims of carbon-neutrality.
Would you trust a company supplying “green” energy from their wind mills, if they at the same time produce 100 times more energy from other, climate-unfriendly power plants? All without effective countermeasures? What does a claim of x CO2 per product tell you, if you have no idea about the overall behaviour of the supplier?
We at LRQA are heavily involved in working with our clients to define clear and reliable criteria for their sustainability and, even more important, of their suppliers. We apply the same audit process and audit qualifications to verify and certify the claims on sustainability of our clients, to build trust.
We believe that the market will respond in a similar way to a major breach of trust of sustainability of their supplier. Be it child labour, be it environmental pollution, be it excessive CO2 emissions or any other number of complex areas of business, LRQA will help our clients in building trust, but not by granting a certificate only. A company making serious claims should be open for serious audits. Together we build trust – whether it may come by foot or by food.

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