First of all, it is important to understand that sustainable development is not only linked to environmental issues. The sustainable development concept is interested in all economic, social, environmental and ethical issues. In other words, it has broader impacts in terms of economic benefits, governance, environmental protection, and contributions to society. And to put it even more simply, you could say that sustainable development strives to meet current needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.
A sustainable development strategy is built on a series of goals and actions. It establishes which goals and actions have the highest priority and are the most meaningful for an organization. It is an ambitious project! Many businesses and organizations have one. This tool is essential if we want to show what we are already doing well and what our commitments are for the future. According to recent surveys, 86% of consumers expect farms to play a key role not only in resolving climate change, but also in reversing social inequality. 91% of millennials say they are willing to change their consumption habits to support businesses that contribute to society. That is a considerable percentage!
To help us with the process we began in the summer of 2021, we brought in specialists from the Chair in Eco-Consulting of the Université du Québec à Chicoutimi. Our strategy is guided by the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Program and its 17 goals. These Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were adopted in 2015 by all UN Member States. They are the most comprehensive and recognized sustainable development criteria.
We are currently finishing up the first step in the process, which is to set up an organizational diagnosis model that factors in the actions that have already been taken collectively and individually toward the relevant SDG targets for us. In other words, we are in assessment mode! With this comprehensive profile of our strengths and weaknesses, we will be in a strong position to develop our action plan, which will identify the actions that should be given priority, continued, strengthened and adopted.
We, as producers, already have the desire to keep doing better. We are firmly rooted in our society not only because we help feed our fellow citizens, but also because we are involved in its culture and economy.
As dairy producers, we are already doing quite a lot to promote sustainable development. Think of all the actions we take on our farms for animal welfare and the environment. Think of our proAction program and our innovation and research-related initiatives. Also, think of our huge contribution to the economy, i.e. $3 billion to Canada’s GDP, and the fact that we provide nearly 65,000 jobs for the entire industry. Think of our sponsorship program that enables us to support cultural, sports and social events such as the Francos de Montréal, the Quebec City Summer Festival and numerous hockey tournaments across the province. Think of our milk donation program, which is helping to eliminate hunger and ensure food security.
Our list of actions is long and our diagnosis model will help us promote the actions we have already taken. When all is said and done, we will have credible and unbiased arguments that we can communicate to consumers, elected officials and our partners about all the good we are doing on our farms. This plan will also allow us to identify aspects that we need to work on in order to improve our performance, provide sustainable solutions and prospects in our sector, and meet the public’s growing expectations.
We, as producers, already have the desire to keep doing better. We are firmly rooted in our society not only because we help feed our fellow citizens, but also because we are involved in its culture and economy. Not to mention the other initiatives that are under development in conjunction with the sustainable development strategy, such as the life cycle assessment of the entire dairy industry, research projects on carbon sequestration, the development of a tool that assesses greenhouse gas emissions from samples in milk, and much more. These initiatives will help reach the goal of net-zero emissions announced by Dairy Farmers of Canada, a goal that will also be taken into account as we develop our plan and actions. Collective and individual efforts will continue to be necessary in the coming years if this ambitious project is to come to fruition.
The entire industry will need to work together to keep improving, but support from the government will be necessary as well. We cannot say it enough: To bring about change, we need financial support and investments in research and knowledge transfers. We will need these resources to reach our goals! This process, which aims to keep our lands in good stead for future generations and ensure dynamic regions, will benefit society as a whole. That is why we must all, individually and collectively, continue to work on improving our environmental, economic and social impacts. By working together, we will be able to build a sustainable world.
 Wunderman Thompson, Regeneration Rising (2021)
IBM, Meet the 2020 consumers driving change, why brands must deliver on omnipresence, agility and sustainability (2020)
Daniel Gobeil, Chairman