Sustainability is a term on everyone’s lips—from consumers and brands to governments and suppliers. The United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals are a collection of 17 interlinked global goals designed to achieve a more sustainable future by 2030. Identifying which goals align best with any given business or industry can be a challenge; however, the International Alliance of Dietary/Food Supplement Associations (IADSA), has tackled the issue with the release of Guiding Principles on Sustainability for the Supplement Sector. The new principles are an extension of IADSA’s Code of Ethical Principles, taking the call for businesses to integrate sustainability practices into their organisation and offering more specific tactical guidance for the full supplement supply chain. Simon Pettman, IADSA’s executive director, joined the Vitafoods Insights sustainability podcast to dig into the why behind this new initiative.
Tune in to hear more about:
- Defining the term ‘sustainability’ in a global market
- Opportunities for associations, companies and regulators to collaborate
- How companies in different parts of the supply chain can take proactive steps to address sustainability in their operations
- Why the topic of claims is a cornerstone for sustainability and transparency
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Vitafoods Insights 00:06
Welcome to the Vitafoods Insights Sustainability Series podcast. From responsible sourcing, to supply chain logistics, this dedicated podcast addresses some of the industry's greatest challenges and champions the stories of sustainability success. Today's host is Heather Granato, Vice President of content.
Well, welcome to the Vitafoods Insights Sustainability podcast series. My guest today is Simon Pettman, the Executive Director of the International Alliance of Dietary Food Supplement Associations, or IADSA. Welcome, and thanks for joining me today.
Thank you very much, Heather.
Simon has been closely involved in IADSA since its creation in 1998, and currently works building strategy to shape regulation and policy around the world related to dietary supplements. But today, we're going to focus on an exciting initiative from IADSA: the creation of guiding principles on sustainability for the global supplement sector. The principles aligned with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, and are designed to help all of those involved in the supplement sector to accelerate action and collaboration toward a more sustainable present and future. The new principles are an extension of IADSA's code of ethical principles, taking it further to drive sustainability across the full supplement supply chain. Simon, I'd like to start with perhaps a fairly basic question. We hear a lot about the term sustainability. When thinking about it in relation to the supplement industry, what does that encompass?
And of course, you're absolutely right, it's extremely broad. And for companies, sustainability of varies according to where you are on supply chain and your focus will be different whether you're an ingredient supplier, whether an encapsulator, whether you're a finished product manufacturer. But, I think, where we're coming from on this is it we're dealing with this as a trade association as the advisor, and our primary task is really not to leave anybody behind in this discussion, and work to bring everyone up to speed by providing as much guidance examples of good practice, for example.
So why did IADSA feel compelled to develop this set of sustainability principles for this particular sector?
You mentioned it earlier. You actually mentioned our code of ethical principles, and this clearly states that companies should strive to integrate sustainability practices into their operations. So we recognise we had to give more direction around this, we had to put more substance onto this one sentence within the code of ethics. And that is why we developed our guiding principles on sustainability.
Were you getting feedback from your member organisations that they were looking for more on this?
I think we were getting a lot of feedback, some associations and some companies. But we were feeling also that this was coming from governments. Government is increasingly looking for industry, for sectors, to really engage in this area, and particularly looking for trade associations to work with small medium sized companies and try and do exactly as I said before, ensure that we don't leave people behind. So I think there were pressure points, but I think it's a recognition that now is the time for us to move forward in this area.
Great. So, who was involved in developing these principles? And how long did the process take?
Well, the process itself took approximately five months. But once we put a draft together here in London, the text was then discussed within the whole membership. Obviously, people are at different stages in their internal discussions. We have major companies who have been addressing this with large teams for many years. We've got associations for whom this is a relatively new topic on the agenda. But the critical thing was to really give people time to reflect and feel comfortable with both the principles themselves and the direction we would take as an organisation.
So how do you suggest companies at different parts of the supply chain could apply these principles and associations, you know, are there differences for different types of suppliers or different types of associations?
Yeah, of course, there are differences. You're absolutely right. And you know, depending where you are, as we've said already, but we don't feel it's our role to prescribe how companies should do this. It's really up to each company to work out how to integrate but also make a decision at a first stage to integrate sustainability into their operations. But at the heart of this, it's really, they have to accept and it is where we are as an organisation that there is a need to be committed to playing your part in helping to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals. That is really the start of it, then you have the commitment within the companies. And then companies need to build this into their systems.
So, two of the eight principles relate directly to claims. Why did you feel that was such a key consideration?
Yeah, that's a really good question. Of course, it comes out quite strongly in their guiding principles. We're seeing an evolution in the discussion on sustainability. As more and more companies get engaged, they naturally want to see how they can communicate this. And it's vital that communication around sustainability is accurate. We therefore decided that we had to, it's logical for us, to give considerable weight to this in our guiding principles. But it's not just because it's the right thing to do, it's also because we're aware the governments are watching this space carefully, which is good. And for example, the Codex Alimentarius committee on food labelling, under Codex's the global food standard setting body, this committee recently agreed to bring together a global mapping on approaches to sustainability claims, and then identify where further guidance may need to be provided. So, it's incumbent on us to make sure that as a sector, we're getting this right, we're getting our communication right,
Fantastic. So, given IADSA's global perspective, can you see any regional differences in commitment to, or adoption of these types of sustainability principles?
Funnily enough, in many issues, we would see patterns, patterns in regions patterns across groups of countries, but not in this. Our sector, in a way, it's still very diverse. We have different people in different countries at different stages in this evolution, we don't see a clear pattern. I think what is clear, is that, everybody is working every day to try and bring better health to consumers, through better nutrition, through supplementation, where that can play a role. And we also recognise that the need to achieve this to achieve a healthy planet in healthy societies. And therefore, I believe it's becoming increasingly clear, and it's obviously it's reflected in the guiding principles that we must play our part in helping achieve the sustainable development goals.
I love that, and in part because it's so very consumer centric. As we're looking as a sector to try and support better health, that really comes down to, you want to make sure that people have a healthy world, that they have products that are clean. And that's incumbent upon our industry to really do that.
Exactly. And we're an industry, of course, that has grown quite significantly over the years. We are positioned very well for the next stage of evolution of economies and our role within those economies, both in health and well-being. But it is also important for us to recognise not just the demands of the consumers, but what the demands also of governments and society as a whole are. So, that, therefore means we really have no choice but to engage in these goals. And that's something which we will continue to work on as the adds are moving forward.
It's an exciting time absolutely. And our listening audience can find more on this that the IADSA website?
Have a look there, they'll see the principles. And obviously we'll be building that part of our site quite substantially over the coming months and years.
Simon, anything else that you'd like to share about the development of these principles or sustainability in general for the supplement sector?
We will certainly be having other initiatives, which we'd love to discuss with you whether it's another occasion, but I think for today, those principles are already quite a lot for companies and associations across the world to digest, think about, and work with.
There's a lot to chew on, and certainly bringing everyone to the table is a perfect way to look at it. So thank you again for joining me, Simon. I certainly do appreciate it.
Thank you, Heather. Nice to talk to you.
Vitafoods Insights 09:10
Thank you for tuning in and don't forget to check the shownotes that will allow you to link to the information discussed in today's podcast as well as any sponsorship opportunities. The Vitafoods Insights Sustainability Series podcast happens monthly, so be sure to stay tuned, subscribe, and even suggest the series to a friend