I recently teamed up on a panel with Kim Stackhouse-Lawson (director, sustainability, JBS USA; and chair of the U.S. Roundtable for Sustainable Beef) and Carlos Saviani (VP, markets and food, World Wildlife Fund) to assist in establishing a sustainability initiative in the food supply chain facilitated by the Context Network.

We were asked to feature the best and worst practices to avoid in establishing a sustainability program and strategy. Our presentation sparked an eye-opening dialogue with the audience, so in this column we teamed up to share our insights. We’ll start with the worst practices. The next column will feature the best.

1. Single-impact-driven decisions

Under pressure, some companies make decisions on just one aspect of sustainability. Animal welfare is an example. An important issue, for sure, but all factors should be considered beyond the welfare of animals, such as environmental, human health and economic considerations. Be sure you understand the tradeoffs for the longer term.

2. Lack of robust, transparent, measurable and time-bound commitments

Generalities don’t work any more. There is still a smattering of practicing the 7 Sins of Greenwashing.

3. Failure to assign a monetary value to sustainability

As AT Kearney has reported (PDF) regarding supply-chain management: If companies cannot quantify the value of a sustainable supply chain, they aren’t able to justify investments. Producers and suppliers are not incentivized for sustainable production. The development of the business case is key. Your company needs to know and believe in why you’re developing a sustainability strategy and also believe in its positive business outcomes.

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