Four of the nation’s largest food companies have launched the Sustainable Food Policy Alliance, a new organization focused on driving progress in public policies that shape what people eat and how it affects their health, communities and the planet. Founding member companies include Danone North America, Mars Inc., Nestlé USA and Unilever United States.
The launch comes after all four, along with seven other major firms, had previously dropped their membership from the Grocery Manufacturers Assn. (GMA) amid philosophical disagreements in 2017.
The four founding member companies have already made broad updates to their portfolios in recent years, collectively and voluntarily advancing issues like sodium reduction, responsible marketing and transparency and reducing their impact on the planet, including by cutting greenhouse gas emissions.
In a joint statement, Mariano Lozano, chief executive officer of Danone North America; Tracey Massey, president of Mars Wrigley Confectionery Americas; Steve Presley, chairman and CEO of Nestlé USA, and Amanda Sourry, president of Unilever North America, said, “The Sustainable Food Policy Alliance was founded on the principle that food companies can and should be doing more to lead and drive positive policy action for the people who buy and enjoy the foods and beverages we make, the people who supply them and the planet on which we all rely.”
The company leaders said they are committed, first and foremost, to leading by example, noting, “Each member company has independently proven a willingness to advocate for the long-term interests of the people who farm and supply our raw materials and people who make and consume our products.”
They added, “With so many pressing food policy opportunities on the horizon, now is the time to help steer America’s food policy and our food system on a better path for long-term success.”
Member companies of the Sustainable Food Policy Alliance will prioritize U.S. public policy advocacy and action in five key areas: consumer transparency, environment, food safety, nutrition and people and communities. At launch, two important policy areas on which the alliance intends to engage include nutrition labeling and carbon emissions.
They said they will develop and advocate for policies that help people make better-informed food choices that contribute to healthy eating while supporting sustainable environmental practices. Along the lines of consumer transparency, goals include improving the quality and accessibility of information available to consumers about the food they purchase for themselves and their families.
The alliance supports a comprehensive update of the definition of terms important for people, like “healthy,” including strong, science-based regulations on how these terms can be used on food packages and in marketing. The updates will help consumers make better choices for themselves and their families.
The alliance will also work to advance climate policies that have an impact on the environment while accounting for the specific business imperatives of supply chains, including farmers, ranchers and other producers, the alliance said in its statement.
This will include:
- Urging U.S. policy-makers to ensure that the farm bill and other farm policies reflect the pressing need to increase the scale of actions to address water quality and water conservation issues, focus on improving soil health and expand the deployment of renewable energy, particularly wind and solar. The farm bill should leverage all available tools, including research and public/private partnerships such as the Regional Conservation Partnership Program, to make smart investments in conservation and sustainability.
- Exploring the economics of sustainability, including financial incentives to reduce emissions and transition to low-carbon alternatives, with a particular focus on ways to create value for farmers, ranchers and others who implement leading-edge practices to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
- Advocating on behalf of smart, comprehensive energy and environmental policies at the state, national and international levels, including the Paris Climate Agreement, the Clean Power Plan or other commitments that result in change necessary to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in line with what evidence-based science says is necessary.
The joint statement added, “We are committed to a collaborative approach and to listen and learn about issues affecting all parts of our food system, from the field to the store shelf and beyond. We understand that we don’t have all the answers and will rely on the best available evidence-based science to inform our positions. We will be transparent about how we reach our decisions and what we hope to achieve."