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Where’s the (Sustainable) Beef?

By APICS CEO Abe Eshkenazi, CSCP, CPA, CAE | 0 | 0 | March 28, 2014



While my vegetarian friends may not think about this, I sometimes wonder where my beef comes from when I'm deciding between a burger and steak. While that decision isn’t complicated, defining “sustainable beef” is. Last week, Bloomberg Businessweek highlighted the draft principles and criteria for global sustainable beef put out by the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (GRSB).

“Menu buzzwords like ‘grass-fed’ and ‘antibiotic-free’ beef are not mentioned,” Venessa Wong writes. “Instead, the draft breaks down the sprawling concept into 36 loosely defined criteria, organized under five basic principles: natural resources; people and the community; animal health and welfare; food; and efficiency and innovation.”

The proposal isn’t specific; but, instead, it seeks economically maintainable practices to raise and process beef with less impact on the environment. Plus, it urges that more respect be paid to both workers and the animals themselves.

“To ensure ‘sustainable beef’ is a meaningful designation, it will be critical to come up with standards that are measurable and can be regulated at the local and regional level,” says Heidi Carroll, a South Dakota State University livestock stewardship extension associate.

In its draft principals and criteria, GRSB acknowledges the importance of the triple bottom line, which the APICS Dictionary defines as “an approach that measures the economic, social, and environmental impact of an organization’s activities with the intent of bringing value for both its shareholders and society.”

Members of GRSB fit into one of five groups: producer, commerce and processing, retail, civil society (academic institutions, nongovernmental organizations), and roundtable (local, national, and regional stakeholders). According to the draft, the organization will continue working with national and regional groups around the world to extend its work and promote “meaningful, on-the-ground improvements throughout the global beef value chain.”

The value in value chain

Consider what GRSB is doing for beef, and then consider the “sustainable roadmap” as it is defined by the APICS Operations Management Body of Knowledge Framework. A sustainable roadmap “refers to establishing a vision, or roadmap, of sustainable principles for a business. The process includes steps such as

  • placing sustainability and social responsibility at the core of processional practices
  • educating stakeholders on sustainability concepts, including all employees and partners throughout the supply chain
  • developing and improving practices, processes, products, services, and standards that lead to a sustainable supply chain
  • incorporating the waste principles of reduce, reuse, and recycle into all resources
  • measuring performance and setting targets for improvements.”

As I look through the GRSB draft principles and criteria, the importance of supply chain—and, by extension, supply chain professionals—is clear. Expertise is required to implement any sustainable business practices, whether it’s for beef, clothing, or another one of the myriad industries seeking meaningful change.

Are you ready to lead a sustainability implementation in your company or industry? APICS can help you gain the skills required to be a supply chain leader. First, consider earning your APICS Certified Supply Chain Professional (CSCP) credential. Not only is it the most widely recognized educational program for supply chain and operations management professionals around the world, it also is the designation that is sought by thousands of employers and recruiters.

Next, think about attending APICS 2014, October 19–21, 2014, in New Orleans, Louisiana. This premier event features thought-provoking content on a variety of supply chain and operations management topics and it offers unparalleled networking opportunities. Go to apicsconference.org to find out more.

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