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Sustainability 2022 – Cécile Beliot-Zind, Executive Vice President, Bel Group

In the most recent edition of ESM, as part of our Sustainability 2022 feature, we spoke to a number of top executives working across the global retail and consumer goods landscape about how they are seeking to set a high bar when it comes to sustainability.

Cécile Beliot-Zind, Executive Vice President, Bel Group

The pandemic has made our sector aware of the vulnerability of our global food system and the importance of society’s relationship with the environment and the planet's resources. At Bel, our sustainability roadmap was defined before the pandemic. But I would say that this crisis has reinforced our convictions and has been an accelerator of our sustainability initiatives.

Bel is a family business with values that have been passed down for five generations, and even in times of trouble we remain focused on long-term outcomes. Whether through diversifying our offer or supporting responsible agriculture, we choose not to consider it as a cost that we’d prefer to limit; rather it is as a vital investment for our future.

Sustainability And Accessibility

Sustainability is already a consideration for shoppers and younger generations are especially sensitive to the future of our planet.

Of course, we know that due to the crisis there is a need for affordable products. At Bel we want to manage both dimensions, sustainability and accessibility. The question is not about 'low prices' but about 'fair prices'.

For example, since 2017 in France we have a partnership with our farmers whereby we negotiate together annually a fair price for our milk supply, and work on the development of sustainable dairy practices.

We also want to give consumers the opportunity to adopt new habits. We know there is a real concern to rebalance animal and plant-based diets to meet the needs of a growing world population, while preserving our planet's resources, as recommended by IPCC. Thus, Bel has decided to diversify its healthy snacking products offering by developing a plant-based food offer.

Time For Action

Now is not the time to think about 'what to do' any more, but to act. At Bel, our model is based on responsibility and profitability. We are convinced that making both dimensions indissociable is the best way to ensure the long-term durability of our activity, of our ecosystem and to have a positive impact on the environment.

To make sure our sustainability goals are effectively implemented, we have transformed our strategy, our governance and our decision-making process. We aim to make it impossible to take any decision that does not consider both profit, environmental impacts and their connection. For example, the role of our CFO has changed by bringing together CSR and Finance within the same department. This means that today at Bel, all investments and innovation decisions are taken keeping both financial and CSR criteria in mind.

Sustainable Agriculture

At Bel, we want to have a positive impact on our entire value chain. The production of dairy raw materials accounts for almost 70% of the group's carbon emissions. But we are convinced that agriculture is not just a problem but an essential part of the solution. That’s why we are committed to promoting sustainable agriculture.

In collaboration with WWF, we have defined a "Sustainable Dairy Upstream" charter that is deployed throughout our dairy supply chain. The aim is to maintain long-term partnerships with milk producers to promote sustainable agricultural practices that have a lower impact on the environment.

A few years since its inception in France, for example, almost all of our partner breeders have now adopted free grazing for their cows and all have a GMO-free diet. They are on the path to protein autonomy which avoids, among other things, deforestation elsewhere in the world. And 50% of them have made a carbon footprint audit of farms.

Dairy is and will remain an important part of our activity. But, to reduce our carbon footprint we are also committed to developing plant-based products with the aim of achieving a 50% milk / 50% fruit and plant-based balance in the medium term.

Read More: Bel Group To Implement New Management System

© 2021 European Supermarket Magazine. Article by Stephen Wynne-Jones. For more A-Brands news, click here. Click subscribe to sign up to ESM: European Supermarket Magazine.

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