On “Food Talk with Dani Nierenberg,” Justin Whitmore of Tyson Foods talks about his holistic approach to sustainability, directing big food companies to be the agents, rather than the enemies, of positive change in the food system. “Big food companies have not done a good job of being transparent in their practices[…] And over time, if that transparency is not being done effectively by the companies that are providing the food, trust will erode.”
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“The most important thing is that our company moves out from behind the sort of opaque shroud of big food and opens up our doors, transparently setting goals and talking publicly about how we set to achieve those goals,” says Whitmore. As Executive Vice President of Continuous Improvement and Chief Sustainability Officer, Whitmore helps set ambitious goals for Tyson Foods, to raise the world’s expectations for how good food impacts people and the planet. “It’s about leading, and everyone leading for a shared mission, in this case, reshaping our global food system for good,” says Whitmore.
In pursuit of goals such as reducing company water use by 12 percent by 2020 and reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent by 2030, Whitmore notes that Tyson Foods must involve every stakeholder in the food system to reach progress on shared missions. “It cannot happen on our own. We will have to partner with the leading researchers, leading policymakers in government, influencers of policy, and thought leaders who are helping to inform and provide transparent information,” says Whitmore. “Every single stakeholder needs to feel a personal responsibility.”
One of the most important stakeholders are farmers who, says Whitmore, have contributed to crucial gains in the food system such as improved land use, water use, and yield. Rather than abandoning the food system farmers have helped build, Whitmore encourages people to embrace them. “A lot of the discussions that happen are about how we move beyond today’s food system—I would encourage people to think about how we reshape, revitalize, leverage what farmers have done in the past and make them a part of the story of change.”
Photo courtesy of Tyson Foods.