How the consumer goods industry is emphasizing sustainable production

A large portion of companies' efforts toward sustainable sourcing and manufacturing happens behind the scenes, out of the public spotlight. Often, consumers only become aware of the environmentally conscious practices of the firms they patronize by reading product labels or  from the occasional sustainability-focused advertisement. 

But companies are now competing more hotly for customers' attention when it comes to matters such as energy efficiency and green manufacturing. As a result, sustainability has become too important a consumer concern for people to remain content with easy-to-make assurances that ingredients are locally sourced and production processes don't harm the environment. The public is getting smarter, and businesses in the consumer goods space need to become more vocal about their sustainable operations.

Hershey moves toward eco-friendly sourcing

More companies are now opting to make real, measurable commitments to which customers can hold them accountable. Food industry giant Hershey recently announced that it plans to ensure that 100 percent of the palm oil it sources for its products is sustainable and traceable by the end of 2014.

"The Hershey Company is committed to continuous improvement and transparency in our sustainable sourcing efforts," Hershey's Vice President of Global Commodities Frank Day commented. "Our move to source 100 percent traceable palm oil is the latest step forward in our efforts to ensure we are sourcing only sustainably grown palm oil that does not contribute to the destruction of wildlife habitat or negatively impact the environment."

The company said that it intends to exercise sustainable supplier management in this endeavor, working with its global partners to ensure that the goal is met. The emphasis that Day's comments place on transparency will have to go two ways: between Hershey and consumers, as well as between the company and its supply chain.

The consumer conscience boom

Hershey's recent efforts couldn't come at a more opportune time. Customers are expecting an increasingly high standard of visibility into the way their foods and goods are sourced - and those on the ground floor are noticing the change.

In an interview with The Guardian, Kath Dalmeny​, policy director of food and farming nonprofit Sustain, discussed the demand for more intelligent choices on the part of retailers.

"When surveyed, most shoppers say that, on key ethical food issues, they want their supermarket to make those choices for them, before the product even reaches the shelf," Dalmeny noted, according to the news source.

Spend management and sustainability have a natural kinship - Dalmeny pointed out that cost-effectiveness is a primary feature of companies' eco-friendly initiatives - so firms can find ways to meet consumer demands without breaking the bank.

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