Breakfast cereals giant Kellogg’s offers an appetising serving of sustainability in its latest report, though materiality and a few other ingredients are missing
This Kellogg's report is rather upbeat, following a rethink of Kellogg's sustainability approach and the establishment of new commitments to 2020, a new declaration on the value of breakfast and “Project K”, designed to reduce operational efficiencies and impacts. The report follows a traditional structure of sections – marketplace, workplace, environment and community – with the encouraging addition of an entirely new section on responsible sourcing.
This report is a full-length, 84-page GRI-based report, which Kellogg's publishes every two years, alternating with a shorter summary report in interim years. While this report is well stocked with food for thought, it does not include a materiality analysis, relying on a map of impacts throughout the value chain that was developed some years ago. Kellogg's confirms that it is developing a new materiality assessment as it transitions to G4 reporting.
Kellogg's new 2020 commitments are in the areas of responsible sourcing and conserving resources. Many of the responsible sourcing commitments are qualitative, such as, "continue to help agricultural suppliers, millers and farmers adapt and be resilient to climate change", and "develop programmes to provide resources and education that improve the livelihoods of women farmers/workers, their families and their communities".
These are directionally positive, but more specificity would have been a good thing here. A target to responsibly source 10 global food ingredients by 2020 is a strong step forward, although Kellogg's does not disclose the percentage of these ingredients that is responsibly sourced today, with the exception of palm oil.
On the conserving resources side of the equation, targets are quantifiable, with energy, emissions and water use reductions of 15% per ton of product promised by 2020, and other commitments on waste and packaging. These targets build on environment intensity metrics that have improved consistently since 2010, and 12 sites that have achieved zero waste to landfill, which is impressive progress.
Food for consumers
By far the most interesting section of the Kellogg's report is the "marketplace", which mainly means consumers, their behaviours and the context relating to what we eat and how it impacts our health, the healthcare system and national economies. Kellogg's presents a fascinating selection of research that supports, not surprisingly, the company's product offering: eating regular breakfast, consuming more fibre and vitamins, fewer empty calories and less sodium.
Some examples: if all adults in the US increased fibre intake by 9 grams a day, the US healthcare budget could reduce by $12.7bn in avoidance of treatment for constipation; 67% of Americans think they consume enough fibre each day while 95% actually do not; and sharing three or more family meals (including breakfast) each week has a positive impact on the way children eat, with a 35% reduction in the development of eating disorders. In this way, the Kellogg's report does a great job in linking marketplace impacts to real social needs that we can all identify with.
Kellogg's pledges to increase nutrients, reduce sugar and sodium and increase nutrition education and lifestyle communications. Kellogg's also launched an "Open for Breakfast" website with information about Kellogg's sustainability initiatives, nutrition and health, providing an open invitation for consumers to ask any question of Kellogg's staff. This is a bright, accessible and informative engagement platform – it will be interesting to know how many consumers actually do engage.
Kellogg's relates in passing to one of the most significant challenges of the food industry – the challenge of giving consumers the tastes they want when reducing the less healthy ingredients. Consumers want to buy products that taste good, not necessarily because they're healthy.
Kellogg's says its formulators have been reducing sugar and sodium in "stealth mode … gradually and without fanfare – so consumers wouldn’t notice we had enhanced the nutrition profiles of their favourite cereals”. Perhaps Kellogg's plan to improve nutrition communications may help to rewire consumer mindsets so that healthy content of foods becomes a competitive advantage that consumers actively seek, rather than something that food companies do in "stealth mode".
Overall, this report from Kellogg's is well put together, and addresses a comprehensive set of sustainability topics in terms of impact on consumers, agriculture and supply, employees and communities. The headlines are big and bold, and several case studies from around the world provide additional glimpses of Kellogg's plans in action. It's a good news report – no inclusion of any serious challenges, only positive progress. But there is much positive progress.
In future reports, we might expect to hear more about how Kellogg's is helping to change consumer perceptions about healthy foods. Similarly, the question of food waste in the marketplace could be another relevant consideration. As a food manufacturer, pack sizes and expiry dates have a significant effect on consumer behaviour and avoidable food waste. This might be an area Kellogg's could review as part of its new materiality assessment.
- Follows GRI? Yes, GRI G3, Application Level B including Food Sector Supplement
- Assured? No
- Materiality analysis? No
- Goals? Yes
- Targets? Yes
- Stakeholder input? Some stakeholder quotations
- Seeks feedback? Yes
- Key strengths? New responsible sourcing section
- Chief weakness? No current materiality assessment informed by stakeholder input.
- Pleasant surprise? Great marketplace context.
November 2015, London
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