This month, Collective Responsibility was appointed by a global food and nutrition client to speak to their executives about the sustainability risks affecting their industries in China, with a focus on aquaculture, and the market opportunities available through strategic innovation and positioning.
Urbanisation continues to add pressure to the environmental and social systems of the food industry as consumer demands grow in Chinese cities, and the government’s latest Five Year Plan has stepped up its ambitions to ensure companies reduce their impact on the environment – with food and agriculture being a major focus.
Food demand, and in particular meat, rises considerably as individuals move from their rural hometowns into urban centres, something seen most visibly with pork as demand multiplies by almost a factor of six. This in turn has a chain reaction effect on pig feed and the raw materials such as soy beans which have to be imported from around the world to meet this seemingly insatiable appetite.
Fish and seafood are also increasingly sought after, and while still an indulgence for some, they are now a regular part of the Chinese middle class diet. Global imports of both fresh and frozen products have supported domestic demand in terms of volume and quality, but continued strains on local supply, in addition to over-fishing and illegal fishing, has led to a series of food safety and ecological issues.
While aquaculture (farming fish/seafood) globally has increased in recent years, China has been expanding its capacity for decades, as shown in the chart below:
As part of a case study exercise on the aquaculture value chain in China, the executives had to firstly identify critical stakeholders within the industry, and then discuss and align the motivations of the stakeholders with the numerous environmental and social problems that are widespread in aquaculture.
The following issues came up in the group discussions:
- Food Safety
- Food Security
- Food Quality
- Farmer Livelihood
- Fish Stock Management
- Resource Efficiency
- Water Quality
- Disease Control
- Labour conditions
Having created a matrix stakeholders and key sustainability issues, the executives could see how issues differed in importance based on the stakeholder, but how some issues were significant for a number of stakeholders, and that these could be used as an engagement opportunity for collaboration and creating shared value.
A discussion then followed about how companies need to look beyond their traditional and linear value chain to engage and learn from other external stakeholders such as NGOs and universities, building up business intelligence and ultimately developing new channels for market growth.
To learn more about how to arrange a similar briefing for your executive leadership or sustainability team, please contact Charlie Mathews ([email protected]).