What's the news right now about an environmentally sound,
socially responsible and economically viable beef value chain?

It was great to meet so many GRSB members at Cattle Con in Orlando last week, and also a great pleasure to see the emphasis placed on sustainability and traceability there. We had many conversations that need to be followed up on over the coming weeks.

One of GRSB’s founding principles is that we work collaboratively on sustainability, using a scientific basis and that the work we do is pre-competitive.

That last term is particularly important, because it means that GRSB members recognise and have committed to the fact that making the beef industry more sustainable is an imperative, not an option.

So what does pre-competitive mean, and how does it relate to sustainability? Simply put, pre-competitive refers to actions that companies and partners they work with, that are aimed at systemic change and which are not aimed at creating a competitive advantage.

Improving the sustainability of beef production across the board benefits the whole industry, and is in my opinion an imperative. If we do not make it happen together we can expect increasing levels of regulation that will impose it. In that sense pre-competitive can also mean proactive and pre-emptive.

Where supply chains source from the same pool of producers, and there is a need for sustainability work to take place with those producers, it is clearly the interests of both producers and those further up the supply chain to work on sustainability together. It is not in the interests of a primary producer to get locked into a supply chain with only one buyer. They need to be able to access the whole market.

It is also inefficient for buyers further up the supply chain to be individually investing in areas where collaboration would share costs and result in a general improvement in sustainability across the industry, allowing them to source from the whole supply base and not just a small subset of it.

Sustainability today is a cost of doing business, and it is far more efficient to share that cost than to try and go it alone. Large corporations around the world, including those that are members of GRSB, have made numerous commitments to improving sustainability. In the case of the beef industry, the majority of these include climate commitments that align very well with GRSB’s own climate goal of a 30% reduction of emissions intensity by 2030 on a pathway to climate neutrality. They also include commitments to biodiversity and to animal welfare.

When GRSB set our Global Goals, and our members voted overwhelmingly to adopt them as goals for the whole beef industry, we made it clear that these are pre-competitive.

That is to say, it is in all of our interests to make sure that we reach these targets together as soon as possible. These are now expectations that the world has of us and of our members.

We recognise that the pace of change in different places is not always the same. This reflects another founding principle of GRSB, continuous improvement. Wherever we are today, we can be better tomorrow.

A reduction of 30% in emissions intensity is actually simpler to achieve in a supply base that is only just starting on improvements than it is in one that has been working on efficiency for decades, and in either case it is far simpler to achieve when the whole industry is working on the improvements together, than when only a small subset of producers are involved.

I remember many years ago asking Cameron Bruett when he was GRSB president, why on earth would we want to offer a meat case in which consumers were given the choice between sustainable meat and the other, putatively un-sustainable meat? Consumers have the right to expect that the products we sell them are at the very least, sustainably and responsibly produced, just as they do with food safety.

This is why it is clearly an area in which pre-competitive partnerships are the most efficient way of meeting our shared goals.

Sharing knowledge, data and experience helps producers and companies learn more quickly what works in different environments and contexts, accelerating the benefits of innovation. Avoiding locking producers into segregated or siloed supply chains is undoubtedly better for the producer, but is also better for companies when solutions work across the board and recognise the imperative for systemic change and flexible sourcing.

Industry wide collaboration results in clear and easily communicable frameworks for reporting. Without such frameworks, we know that government regulation will step in and impose standards.

Collaborating as an industry means that we are proactive and can offer solutions to governments, regulators and international organisations for policy guidance, rather than being reactive and defensive.

We can take the lessons we learn together to the world, to impact meaningfully in countries where availability of high quality food is not a given, where even the basics such as food safety, or of animal health and husbandry may not be guaranteed, where zoonotic diseases are a challenge, and where we can expect the biggest impact on global sustainability figures.

Remember that 66% of large ruminants are in Africa and Asia. Certifying a niche supply chain in a wealthy country will not change global cattle emissions intensity by even 1%. Don’t be tricked into thinking that there is a niche for sustainable beef and the rest can remain unchanged; this industry needs to move the bottom, not capture the top.

Thank you, 

Ruaraidh Petre
Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef
Executive Director
07 February 2024

In today's Connect, I would like to talk about our Working Group and other initiatives, of which we are members, who are discussing Nature Positive.

The term Nature Positive has grown significantly since 2020 when we set our goal. The term has risen on political agendas (i.e. COP 28), as well as corporate agendas.

GRSB, as Ruaraidh says, works collaboratively and pre-competitively in terms of systemic changes. The question I would like to analyze here is, what does a systemic change in Nature Positive Production (NPP) mean towards the year 2030? And how can GRSB accelerate action on these issues?

First I would like to analyze the definition of the term:

We define in our PPN goal that we are intentionally seeking for "The meat chain to be a Net Positive Contributor to Nature," that is, to generate a general impact (2030) that is positive. Net Positive simply means that there are more positive impacts than negative ones in a given time period.

Another global PPN initiative defines Net Positive as: "Halt and reverse nature loss by 2030 on a 2020 basis, and achieve full recovery by 2050", which means ensuring more nature in the world in 2030 than in 2020 and a continued recovery after that.

Once NPP is defined, it is important to establish the necessary points for production to be considered Nature Positive.

For this we set priorities:

  • Stop illegal deforestation
  • Reduce the conversion of ecosystems of high conservation value
  • Adopt land management practices
  • Improve ecosystem service
  • Maintain healthier soils
  • Generate additional sequestration of carbon
  • Promote more efficient use of water
  • Increase biodiversity
  • Improved traceability

Also, promote practices that help recover degraded pastures, improve productivity and increase resilience.  

However, there is still much to do in practical terms and to demonstrate clear progress in the chain and contribute to this systemic change delineated above.

For this, efforts must be coordinated to guarantee genuine positive results for nature. GRSB is the space to do it. It is through project design that we want to move forward. We have identified solutions that companies cannot implement individually and GRSB would have an important role to play in coordinating this at a sector level.

A clear example is in compliance with standards such as the new European Regulation and the multiple existing solutions, how to evaluate them and use the different options proposed by each country.

GRSB can also work to help identify high-level actions that member companies can take to implement the long-term goal in a credible and practical manner. There are already existing Guides that we can bring to our members.

I think there is still much to do, and we would like to listen to you even more through your active participation in our working groups or meetings of the Constituencies.

The years that follow will be years of action, measurement and reporting, where we must demonstrate the active and pre-competitive work of the beef chain.

Join us!

Thank you,

Josefina Eisele
Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef
Regional Director for Latin America 
7 February 2024


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