According to the Cambridge English dictionary, a very simplistic definition of sustainability is “the quality of being able to continue over a period of time.” When you look at the history of the poultry and egg industry, we can claim with great confidence we meet that standard. Of course, today’s paradigm for the concept of sustainability is much more holistic. It is no longer sufficient to base claims of being sustainable solely on being net neutral on the consumption of natural resources. An organization’s focus on sustainability must consider every link of its value chain and address the broad spectrum of societal concerns. This fact has made sustainability and social responsibility one in the same.

While the concept of social responsibility has been a critical component of the business plans of privately held companies for some time, only recently has society expected it to be addressed on an industry level. In response to these expectations, the poultry and egg industry recently crossed a milestone on its path to be more sustainable. After working for several years to structure an organization that will examine and expand efforts to be socially responsible, the poultry and egg industry recently formalized the creation of the Poultry and Egg Sustainability and Welfare Foundation. The foundation is composed of two groups that were at one point working simultaneously, but individually, to create multi-stakeholder programs to address animal welfare and sustainability issues for the poultry and egg industry. Rather than compete for engagement from the same pool of companies and organizations in the industry’s value chain, the two groups, the U.S. Roundtable for Sustainable Poultry and Eggs (US-RSPE) and the International Poultry Welfare Alliance (IPWA), decided to unify their efforts.  

In the past two months, the foundation has established a board of trustees that will prioritize and coordinate program development coming from IPWA and US-RSPE. In addition, the foundation hired Ryan Bennett to serve as the executive director. Bennett formerly served as the senior director of industry and environmental affairs at the National Milk Producers Federation, where he managed the National Dairy Farmer’s Assuring Responsible Management Program, which evaluates animal care, antibiotic use, environmental stewardship and worker health and safety. In his new role, Bennett will build membership through recruitment within the shared value chain constituency groups for both organizations, including production and processing, retail and food service, allied industry, and research and civil society.

With the development of the foundation, the poultry and egg industry’s aspiration to advance, support and communicate continuous improvement in sustainability and animal welfare through leadership, innovation, multi-stakeholder engagement and collaboration is much closer to becoming a reality. NP