Sustainable brand and product features like carbon footprints, clean labels, regenerative agriculture, and ethical sourcing are all driving the sustainability movement forward in consumer packaged goods (CPG). But though companies may want to make sustainable changes to their business, they don’t always know where to start or what’s best for their growth plans.
Brian Nash, vice president of corporate sustainability at Ingredion, will give a presentation at next month’s in-person Fi Europe event in Paris that discusses how brands can leverage sustainability and make the right moves to drive growth.
Ingredion is a Fortune 500 global ingredient maker that supplies food, beverage and other industries, and will be among the many companies leading sessions at Fi Europe 2022.
Why is sustainability a relevant topic in the ingredients industry today?
“Sustainability is about doing business today in a way that doesn’t inhibit our ability to grow and do business in the future. And there’s a whole range of broad topics that are covered under that. So, when we built Ingredion’s 2030 All Life plan, we really looked at what was critical and where we thought sustainability was going for our customers and our other stakeholders, so that we’ll be aligned and we’ll be able to support growth.”
What are the biggest goals that ingredient buyers are trying to reach by making more sustainable choices?
“I think it’s an evolving landscape. We’ve seen in the last few years, particularly coming out of the pandemic, that the focus has shifted. We see a lot of customers asking about carbon footprint recently. I think [this is] in light of a lot of our customers having science-based targets. But there are other topics that are always there as well; sustainable and regenerative agriculture is a big focus area where we have a lot of conversations. Human rights, or ethical sourcing, is always a big one, and also sustainable innovation.
“When you look across the board, where we’re really having a lot of conversations is the complexity of making sustainable business decisions, or sustainable product decisions. It’s not always straightforward, it’s about balance and trade-offs. If somebody wants to go ‘clean label,’ that may mean a higher carbon footprint. If somebody wants to lower their carbon footprint, then there might be considerations about resourcing, and where those products are coming from.
“More than ever, this year I’ve been having conversations with customers about that complexity, and really trying to understand what’s driving business value for them and what are the priority areas where they want to make their ingredient decisions.”
What are brands risking if they don’t make sustainability-focused changes to their business?
“I think you’re always going to see the consumer segment divided. There will be people who always make a cost-based decision, and then you’ve got a more conscientious consumer on the other side of that spectrum who is willing to spend more for a sustainable product, or a product that they feel good about purchasing.
“I think that the trick is [determining] how you serve both ends of that spectrum by having more sustainable products. I think what companies risk by not incorporating sustainability into their products and their decision-making is [putting] themselves out of the game in the future.
“For example, if climate change [accelerates] and everybody is forced to go to net zero, companies that aren’t aligning their products and their operations with that now run the risk of becoming irrelevant.”