Winning sustainability efforts depend on the four P’s - The Packer

Winning sustainability efforts depend on the four P’s

07/10/2009 11:10:42 AM
Jeff Dlott

For the right price, any company can retain one of the top software and management consulting companies to build best practices systems and business process maps to align strategy with metrics by which to manage for performance outcomes. 

Of course, it is no small feat to get the four P’s “right” in terms of customers, society, and global economic trends as is evidenced by the banking, real estate, automotive and other sector meltdowns. 

But by explicitly including a balance among people, profits and the planet, sustainability can be the lighthouse that guides companies through the rocks of single focus principles. 

Our food system is in transition. Food safety, traceability and sustainability are all top of mind for consumers, lawmakers, regulators, and the media. 

The opportunity to agree on sustainability principles for land, air, water, people, plants and animals, along with the metrics to measure on-the-ground performance, is at hand. 

The Stewardship Index for Specialty Crops is a diverse group of more than 200 specialty crop supply chain businesses, researchers, nongovernmental organizations and commodity groups working together to develop a science-based approach to performance metrics.

Because the Stewardship Index focuses solely on getting the metrics right, growers and companies will be free to innovate to find their own best Practices and Processes to achieve the highest level of Performance guided by the Principles.

The coming sustainability marketplace offers great potential. For individual growers and food companies, performance measurement offers the potential for better management of resources, leading to potential cost savings through efficiencies.

For agricultural producers, who have been producing not just commodities, but social and environmental “goods” as stewards of the land, water and wildlife, performance measurement offers the potential for these noneconomic contributions to finally be quantified, and then, valued.

Does that mean a higher price for raw commodities? There is that potential. It is likely that because of the strong consumer consideration of social and environmental factors in food purchasing decisions, buyers will seek out growers for whom sustainability is proven. 

As supply chains begin to align themselves around sustainability metrics and individual businesses see the benefits, both internally and in collaboration with their trading partners, the closer we will be to achieving true value chains — an honorable vision for our agrifood system.

By Jeff Dlott is president and chief executive officer of SureHarvest, Soquel, Calif. He can be reached at

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