David O’Flynn is Group Head of CSR at Dawn Meats one of Ireland’s leading meat processors. Dawn Meats recently released their latest Sustainability Report in which they outline their ambition to become Europe’s most sustainable meat company.
How much meat do Dawn Meats process annually?
At Dawn Meats we source from 20,000 Irish and UK farmers, process 300,000 tonnes of meat annually (beef and sheep) and have a turnover of about €1.2bn. Of this we inject close to €1bn back into the rural economies in Ireland the UK.
What are the main markets that you operate in?
Europe represents more than 95% of our sales: our main markets are Ireland, UK, France, Scandinavia, Germany, Iberia, Italy and the Benelux countries. Outside Europe our focus is on items which have a greater value placed on them by consumers in Asia and the USA as compared to European consumers.
When did the business first engage with Bord Bia on Origin Green?
We submitted our first Origin Green sustainability plan in 2012 and have been a strong supporter from the start. We are one of eight sponsors of the Origin Green Ambassador programme which we have backed since it was launched in 2013.
Was there much of an appetite for sustainability before the development of Origin Green?
Sustainability has been important in Dawn Meats since our foundation. In the early days we worked with farmers to develop more sustainable practices, an initiative that is now known as ‘the better farm beef programme’. In 2009/2010 we launched our first formal strategy ‘Sustainability today. For all our tomorrows’. This strategy continued to look at supply chain issues but also set targets for energy, water, and emission reductions and strengthen our initiatives around community engagement.
What has your greatest learning been since joining Origin Green?
The importance of having a robust system for data management. We have all heard of the adage ‘what gets measured, gets managed’. If you don’t have robust systems in place for accurate measurement, you can’t monitor or report on progress. This is particularly important when assessing if projected returns on investments are being achieved. And of course in an Origin Green context, when an external party audits progress, evidencing this is critical.
What has been the greatest benefit of being Origin Green accredited?
External accreditation and auditing allows us to report with credibility on progress towards the objectives we have set ourselves. Having to submit a report annually that is externally audited, brings a discipline that is useful to empower conversations internally and deliver on the targets we have set ourselves.
From a marketing/commercial perspective what is the value of Origin Green to your customers?
Our customers appreciate the holistic and collaborative nature of the programme; that it has Government, farmer and industry support. They also value the open and transparent sharing of information about our sustainability journey and the progress we are making.
What advice would you give to someone starting on their sustainability journey?
Sustainability is just a different lens through which to view business decisions. Typically what is good for the business is also sustainable. In a 2% margin business, a €1 saved is €50 earned. My advice would be not to look at this as a separate process. Sustainability should be knitted into every role across the business. To do this companies can develop in-house expertise or look externally for help. For food companies Origin Green have developed a guide to help you prepare your sustainability plan – you can also attend workshops. SEAI (greenbusiness.ie), EPA (stopfoodwaste.ie) and SMILE provide great resources.
Dawn Meats have had massive success with their sustainability programme to date, what next?
Yes we have achieved a lot and are delighted to have won numerous industry and customer awards. This success, coupled with our stakeholders support has solidified our commitment to sustainability. Dawn Meats in 2015/2016 established a CSR committee. The committee comprises the CEO, Head of CSR, and seven senior directors in operations, commercial, engineering, technical, food safety, and HR. This committee developed our latest sustainability strategy and have set a goal ‘to be Europe’s most sustainable meat company’. We aim to realise this goal by attaining excellence across five pillars: resource management, people and community, sustainable sourcing, animal welfare, innovation and nutrition. We are also publishing our first CSR report this year to share our successes and ambitions.