As part of a focus on sustainable food production at scale, Tyson Foods has committed to expanding efforts to create a better workplace at its production facilities.
“We believe sustainability is about continuous improvement and solutions that last, and this includes a healthier workplace,” Noel White, chief operations officer at Tyson Foods, said. “We’ve always been committed to supporting our employees and have sound workplace practices in place but also want to do better. That’s why we’re taking steps that include expanding training, improving workplace safety and compensation, increasing transparency and helping workers with life skills.”
By investing in sustainability, Tyson Foods expects to create a beneficial cycle of contributing to the future while paying for itself in the present. Investments in sustainability are expected to fund themselves through reduced waste and costs.
Tyson Foods employs 114,000 team members, including more than 95,000 who work in the company’s U.S. production facilities. This includes chicken, beef, pork and prepared foods operations. Highlights of Tyson Foods’ expanded workplace efforts include:
- A continuing commitment to a goal of zero worker injuries and illnesses, striving to achieve a 15% year-over-year reduction in worker injuries and illnesses;
- A commitment to a goal of zero turnover, striving for a 10% year-over-year improvement company-wide in team member retention;
- Plans to hire 25 or more poultry plant trainers, adding to the more than 260 trainers and 30 training coordinators the company has hired for its poultry business since 2015;
- Expansion of the We Care safety communications program to all poultry plants;
- Continued participation of hourly workers in plant safety councils;
- A pilot compensation program at two poultry plants that involves significantly increasing base wages and shortening the time it takes new workers to move to higher wage rates (the company had already implemented pay increases at all poultry plants in November 2016 and millions of dollars in benefit improvements in January 2017);
- Expansion of Upward Academy, a life skills program for workers, and
- Publicly sharing the results of third-party social compliance audits of Tyson plants, which the company initiated in fiscal 2015.
Tyson Foods said its purpose is to raise the world’s expectations for how much good food can do. As part of that purpose and Tyson Foods’ new approach to sustainability, the company is collaborating with external organizations such as Oxfam America and the United Food & Commercial Workers Union (UFCW). UFCW has 22 labor contracts with Tyson Foods, representing more than 24,000 workers.
“Tyson Foods’ commitment to worker safety and worker rights should not just be applauded; it should serve as a model for the rest of the industry,” UFCW international president Marc Perrone said. “Through our ongoing partnership with Tyson Foods, we have already made valuable progress. We look forward to these new and expanded initiatives and to continuing to work together to provide a better, safer workplace for the hard-working men and women at Tyson Foods.”
Tyson Foods has also been working with the Cisneros Center for New Americans on a program called Upward Academy. It was developed by the company and the nonprofit agency two years ago and is designed to help immigrant workers with life skills through such things as English as a second language and General Educational Development classes.
“We appreciate the leadership Tyson Foods has shown by investing in its workforce through programs like this,” said Nicolas Perilla of the Cisneros Center. “It’s fundamentally good for business and the community by helping new Americans be successful and feel at home. More companies should replicate this program.”
A holistic approach to delivering sustainable food at scale is one of Tyson Foods’ “twin growth engines,” with the other being a portfolio of protein-packed brands.
Chief executive officer Tom Hayes has previously said, “We will use our reach, capabilities and resources to drive positive change. Trade-offs will be minimized as we solve for healthier food, healthier animals, a healthier environment and a healthier workplace. All of these areas must advance together if we are to create a more sustainable system.”