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  • Writer's pictureMeyrick Consulting

Sustainability; does it actually affect your staff retention too?

This week I am turning my attention to sustainability. We hear about it most days and gradually it’s seeping into every sector of our lives. However, it seems that many companies involved in the food and beverage sector have not implemented a sustainability strategy according to Analysts Food FW. Having surveyed 178 companies their research lead them to the conclusion that most companies do not actually publish any such strategy. That doesn’t mean the others are paragons of good practice. Most simply had a statement on their website. So that led me to think about what sustainability really means when it comes to recruiting and retaining staff.

Are you paying lip service to sustainability?

That might seem like a long leap but actually the two things are intertwined. For example a candidate was recruited for a top level job in sustainability. The candidate was offered an additional £30 000 over and above the stated salary to attract and retain them. All good you might imagine. However, this was not the case. The company had promised much regarding sustainability and supply chain provenance etc. When the new member of staff tried to implement the kind of strategies they had been brought in to develop they discovered the board did not buy in to these aims. After twelve months in post they left. Is it any surprise? They had been treated to a great sales pitch at interview but when it came to practicalities the rhetoric was very different.

Sustainability affects everyone and everything in the supply chain and surely cannot be ignored?

I don’t write about this to discuss the cost of such a short hire or even the disappointment for the candidate. I am thinking that this is a much bigger issue. Sustainability affects everyone in the supply chain and in the world at large. Our inter-connectedness means that we need to take responsibility for all aspects of what we do. It’s a two way street after all and the impact of our actions can have some dramatic effects. Companies need to reappraise their approach to sustainability and ethics and think about the bigger picture not just its impact on cost. Ironically the costs may appear where you least expect.

We all know that sustainability is actually a market lever.

You may not be the cheapest supplier or producer but your USP may well be the provenance of your supply chain or the way you work intuitively with suppliers. What do I mean? Well, perhaps the issue of child labour is uppermost in my mind as I write this. Can child labour ever be justified? You will probably say no. Yet what happens when it’s an historic tradition within a culture? What happens if you need to positively compromise and offer educational opportunities or even a higher price to allow children to be educated instead?

Has your company ever really delved right down into the supply chain?

Have you examined in minute detail just what consequence business decisions have on the suppliers of raw materials for example? Can you justify every aspect of what you do to anyone that asks? Not only does this impact on people’s lives across the other side of the globe it affects all of us. Therefore working with local farming communities and supporting them to make a difference and improving health, education, housing, working conditions, safety etc. will make a difference to everyone.

Surely it is a balance?

Not only should we be considering sustainability but it’s all about sensitivity, sensibility and empathy. Can we really justify the excuse that there are insufficient resources to deal with this? Company philosophy is more than a statement on a website or in a brochure it should run through the supply chain from beginning to end. From safety processes to engineering, corporate responsibility to communication responsibilities, environmental issues and basic humanity we have an impact on everything.

Are we afraid of failure?

Perhaps the reason why companies do not want to commit themselves is because they are afraid of not hitting targets or achieving aims. That shouldn’t stop them from actually making some improvements with regard to sustainability.

I read an article about coffee grounds and how we show insufficient respect for ingredients that have, in effect, cost the earth to make. Quite often the people who produce the coffee beans never actually drink the beverage as they cannot afford it. Ironic really, when coffee is the livelihood for millions of people globally. Consider how much we pay per cup whereas there are farmers living on less than $2 per day. So, if you are not doing anything else at least put coffee grounds in the compost; they help put back nitrogen into the soil. However, perhaps it’s time to revisit sustainability for everyone’s good.

What do you think about the issue of ethics and also sustainability? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Meanwhile if you would like to access the top 1% of candidates, operating in the sustainability arena within the food ingredients sector, please email at or Click Here to book an appointment directly with me at a time to suit your needs. I'd be delighted to help.

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