Case Study: Addressing Opportunities and Risks – Smithfield Foods

At Smithfield Foods, an integral part of the business strategy is to operate as a vertically integrated company.  As a pork processor, that means managing the raw material supply by raising the hogs for processing. This provides opportunities in terms of the quality and quantity of hogs for processing but also provides risks in terms of proper care for the several million animals in hundreds of farm locations.

Smithfield built its sustainability program around the environment, employee health and wellness, food safety and quality, and community outreach.  It also became apparent that animal care was important from both a resource and reputational perspective. Programs for animal health, diet, and bio-security that would help ensure supply were well documented and managed. However, even though animal care and handling practices were generally in place, a fully documented program with specific procedures, requirements, accountability and training was not yet at a sufficient level to address all reputational risks.

The company developed programs based on a ‘plan, do, check, adjust’ process. Additionally, sustainability leaders created a policy with specific procedures and processes implemented to address the policy. Management and employees were trained where they had responsibilities and/or potential impact. Internal and external audits were integrated into the process. Stakeholders and subject matter experts participated to be sure that concerns and latest concepts were included. In addition, the effort included a response plan.

When a mistreatment, based on undercover video, was alleged, Smithfield was able to implement the response plan that was already in place and address the matter quickly and efficiently. Communication with customers and stakeholders took place in a timely and transparent fashion. Afterwards, the program was reviewed for potential improvement and recommendations implemented.

A situation that could have resulted in a significant negative impact on the company’s reputation resulted in a positive impact. The transparency, timeliness and completeness of the response and use of a sustainability program model in addressing opportunities and risks showed employees, customers and stakeholders that the company took sustainability seriously.

[This case study originally appeared in the GEMI Quick Guide on Cultivating Sustainability within an Organization]. 


Image source: Smithfield Foods


Sustainability 101 Case Example: P&G

Launched in 2004, the P&G Children’s Safe Drinking Water program is reducing illness and death caused by drinking contaminated water, particularly among children in the developing world. At the core of the program is P&G’s water purification packet – developed in collaboration with the U.S. Center for Disease Control. The packet contains a “powdered mixture that removes pathogenic microorganisms and suspended matter, making previously contaminated water clean.”

  • Proven to eliminate disease-causing microorganisms.
  • Removes more than 99.99999% of common waterborne bacteria (including those that cause cholera), 99.99% of common waterborne viruses (including those that cause hepatitis A), and 99.9% of protozoa.
  • Proven to reduce diarrheal disease incidence in the developing world by up to 90%.
  • Removes dirt and other pollutants.
  • Can be used to make clean drinking water for the entire family, including infants, and is considered an effective technology by the World Health Organization.

Global emergency relief organizations, such as AmeriCares, CARE, IFRC, PSI, Save the Children and World Vision, have provided clean drinking water using the P&G packets since 2004.

[This case example originally appeared in GEMI’s Sustainability 101 Quick Guide.]

Sustainability 101 Case Example: Smithfield Foods

Smithfield Foods is the world’s largest pork processor and hog producer, with revenues exceeding $15 billion in 2014. In early 2010, the company “adopted a set of goals and sustainability targets to exceed all regulatory guidelines or previous achievements.” The following year, the company “expanded some of these targets and put more focus on value creation,” which underpins the company’s sustainability strategy.

With an underlying objective to “keep all animals safe, comfortable, and happy,” the company reached several targets ahead of schedule. In early 2015, they adopted a new series of goals and targets. Company management considers a facilities-based target as “achieved” for 2014 if 100 percent of locations have met the standard. Targets are noted as “on track” if they are less than 100 percent achieved but making appropriate progress.

Targets are established, for example, for Employees, Animal Care, Environment, Food Safety & Quality, and Helping Communities.

Two example targets (and 2014 results) include:

  • Remain 100% Pork Quality Assurance Plus compliant at all company-owned and contract farms. [Results: 100% of company-owned and contract farms were PQA Plus compliant.]
  • Maintain PQA Plus certification for all suppliers and move toward site assessments. [Results: 100% of live animals were delivered by PQA Plus certified suppliers. 100% of supplier locations were site assessed.]

[This case example originally appeared in GEMI’s Sustainability 101 Quick Guide.]

Sustainability 101 Case Example: Union Pacific

Founded more than 150 years ago, Union Pacific Railroad connects 23 states in the western two-thirds of the United States by rail, which provides a critical link in the global supply chain. For the full year 2014, Union Pacific reported net income of $5.2 billion.

More than 90 percent of the company’s greenhouse gas emissions come from locomotive fuel to transport customers’ products. While as a company “we had frequently communicated that trains were four times more fuel efficient than trucks, we learned that statistic wasn’t as valued as a public goal.”

“When we proposed a goal to improve fuel efficiency, our senior management understood how such a goal clearly states the company’s commitment to sustainability.”

[This case example originally appeared in GEMI’s Sustainability 101 Quick Guide.]