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U.S. dairy industry publishes biennial sustainability report

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Despite challenges, dairy industry made progress in its social responsibility commitments.

The checkoff-founded Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy recently released its biennial 2020 U.S. Dairy Sustainability Report inclusive of progress made in 2019 and 2020 within environmental stewardship and broader social responsibility commitments to people, animals and communities.

The report provides a transparent accounting of the progress and impact that the dairy community has made against the U.S. Dairy Stewardship Commitment since its launch in 2018. Those dairy companies and processors that have voluntarily signed onto the Stewardship Commitment represent 75% of U.S. milk production and are dedicated to nourishing a growing global population with responsibly produced dairy foods and beverages.

“The U.S. dairy industry has continued to prioritize social responsibility, helping people and communities thrive, while advancing sustainable practices and becoming an environmental solution,” said Lisa Watson, social responsibility officer of the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy. “It’s the result of cross-sector collaboration among dairy farmers, companies and other key stakeholders working together to address complex sustainability challenges and accelerate positive change.”

In 2020, the U.S. dairy industry experienced significant disruptions to its individual businesses, dairy farms, cooperatives and companies brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the challenges, the report shows the progress the dairy industry made by collectively standing by its social responsibility commitments.

Key highlights include:

  • More than 95% of resources from processors was recovered, redirected and put to beneficial use such as donated to feed hungry people, repurposed for industry purposes and to feed animals and sent to composts (vs. sent to landfill).
  • U.S. dairy provided 1.538 billion servings of nutritious milk, cheese and yogurt in 2020 to food banks in the Feeding America network, a 33% increase over 2019 and a 107% increase since 2016.
  • The dairy industry supported 3.3 million jobs in the U.S. and contributed $752.93 billion in total economic impact.
  • By making use of the water present in milk, U.S. dairy processors were net positive for water, returning more than they withdrew from municipal and other sources.
  • The U.S. Dairy Net Zero Initiative was launched as an industry-wide effort to make sustainable practices and technologies more accessible and affordable for dairy farms of all sizes and included initial corporate partnerships with Nestlé and Starbucks.

A first for U.S. dairy, the report incorporates nationally aggregated processor data against Stewardship Commitment metrics. Dairy processors developed and provide ongoing support for a reporting tool to serve as a credible and consistent way to calculate and track processor sustainability progress. Aggregations on GHG and water intensity, as well as other sustainability metrics, will serve as a baseline for future reporting.

For information about the industry’s sustainability work and the dairy checkoff, click here.

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