Collaboration Highlights Sustainability Show

ARLINGTON, Va. — The Food Marketing Institute and the Grocery Manufacturers Association expect to show next month that sustainability is a topic that lends itself to a combined trade conference that both retailers and manufacturers can mutually leverage.

ARLINGTON, Va. — The Food Marketing Institute and the Grocery Manufacturers Association expect to show next month that sustainability is a topic that lends itself to a combined trade conference that both retailers and manufacturers can mutually leverage.

The Sustainability Summit, taking place Dec. 6-9 here at the Crystal Gateway Marriott, is being sponsored by the Trading Partner Alliance, a joint industry affairs-industry relations leadership group that was formed by GMA and FMI in January 2009. The Sustainability Summit was previously sponsored separately by GMA (in 2008) and FMI (in 2009).

"We all have a lot to gain by sharing our collective knowledge base on sustainability initiatives," said Bob Branham, director of customer sustainability for General Mills, Minneapolis, who is co-chair of the conference. The other co-chair is Tom McIntyre, director of R&D, energy and environmental for Supervalu, Minneapolis.

Branham believes that sustainability in the food industry can be advanced through collaboration between retailers and manufacturers. "We are now at a time where collaboration will be a great way for both manufacturers and retailers to move their mutual objectives forward faster," he said.

He cited waste management, including packaging and food disposal, as an area where trading partners can collaborate and share strategies. "For those companies interested in speeding up their own waste management programs, this will be a great conference to hear new ideas and have a discussion on moving forward."

Retailers who are also involved in manufacturing will particularly have an opportunity to learn about best practices "they may not have easy access to," he said.

Branham noted that General Mills is sharing information with Wal-Mart Stores about what it is doing to reduce packaging as part of the retailer's effort to develop a sustainability index for suppliers. "Wal-Mart may have an end result that is slightly different from ours, but the process of getting there will have tremendous benefits for us," he said.

General Mills is also interfacing with other major food retailers on environmental initiatives, including Publix, Safeway and Target, he said.