- Tyson Foods is partnering with Proforest, a U.K.-based sustainability nonprofit, to identify deforestation risks in its global agriculture supply chain. The nation's largest meat processor said in a release the assessment will look at sourcing for cattle, palm oil, soy, timber, pulp and paper.
- Tyson said the assessment findings will contribute to a company forest protection policy next year and, if necessary, lead to actions to mitigate or eliminate any identified deforestation risks.
- The company did a sustainable sourcing risk assessment in 2017 that found its deforestation risk was minimal to low. However, Tyson's global footprint has expanded from two to nine countries since then.
Since Tyson is now doing business in nine countries — after it acquired Brazil's Keystone Foods last year and BRF SA's poultry businesses in Thailand and Europe this year — it makes sense for the company to reevaluate its exposure to risk from deforestation.
Proforest is an independent nonprofit focused on responsible sourcing of agricultural commodities and forest products. Since it works around the world, it may be a helpful partner to guide Tyson through the process. The group plans to work with Global Canopy, an international environmental non-government organization, and use a publicly available supply chain mapping platform called Trase, which was developed by Global Canopy and the Stockholm Environment Institute.
Companies wanting to enhance their transparency practices and sustainability credentials are wise to partner with a third-party organization to assess their operations. The credibility of the final product is likely to be higher, and such groups often have practical experience working with resources in a variety of countries and across sectors. Tyson didn't say whether its deforestation risk assessment will be publicly released, but will use the findings to develop its forest protection policy.
These assessments can have tangible results. In a 2016 report, Proforest said an assessment of 166 palm oil companies found more than 60% of them had sustainability policies, and more than 55% have forest policies. Once Tyson develops its own forest protection policy, it could change the way it does business. Those changes could result in a higher ranking on reports that evaluate companies' sustainability and deforestation efforts.
According to Ceres data, less than 1% of companies have traceability commitments covering the biggest commodities they impact. And a recent Greenpeace report claimed that "not a single company was able to demonstrate meaningful effort to eradicate deforestation from its supply chain."
If Tyson can be transparent about its results from this third-party evaluation and its plan to improve its deforestation risks, then it could stand out to consumers. The demand for sustainable, traceable food continues to grow and consumers are willing to pay more for products that meet those standards.
Tyson is focusing on deforestation as it faces challenges in other sustainability areas. A recent Ceres sustainability report said the meat industry is the lowest-performing of four sectors analyzed when it comes to managing risk factors related to water. Tyson scored 21 out of 100 possible points in this area. While that was one point higher than the group's 2017 report, Tyson was seen as having progress to make when it comes to assessing water-related risks to key commodities and encouraging suppliers to enhance water management practices.
Tyson is also likely feeling pressure as other food companies announce progress on their deforestation goals and make big commitments. Earlier this year, Nestlé said it achieved 77% of its goal to achieve zero deforestation within its agricultural commodities supply chain.
While Tyson may be a bit late in developing deforestation goals — both Nestlé and Mondelez have doubled down on their plans — solid information to back up its policy approach may help the company make more informed decisions about how to proceed.