BBFAW 2016 - Benchmark ranking global food companies’ performance on farm animal welfare released

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The Business Benchmark on Farm Animal Welfare (BBFAW) has just launched its fifth Annual Report (Monday 23rd January 2017) – the full report can be found on their website (click here). The BBFAW is a global measure of food companies’ farm animal welfare management, policy commitment, performance and disclosure. It was created to improve corporate reporting on farm animal welfare and drive change amongst global food businesses to improve their animal welfare practices. This article pulls out some of the key messages from the 2016 benchmark and explores some of the key challenges faced by businesses in meeting the benchmark criteria.

BBFAW 2016 - Benchmark ranking global food companies’ performance on farm animal welfare released

Food businesses and Farm Animal Welfare (FAW)

According to projections by the FAO, global demand for livestock products is projected to increase by 70 percent by 2050, which will put the food industry under pressure to significantly increase production[1]. At the same time, animal welfare is becoming a higher profile issue and an increasingly important part of being a responsible business. There are a number of drivers for this including incidence of food fraud; tightening regulatory requirements on animal welfare, food safety and quality; investor pressure; and consumer interest in issues around provenance and traceability. The food industry needs to work together to provide the transparency, continuous improvement and clear measurement needed at every stage of the value chain to improve animal performance and respond to the growing demand for animal products, while also delivering high farm animal welfare standards.

Developing a strategy on farm animal welfare

Key findings from the BBFAW 2016 summary report

Since its inception in 2012 the benchmark has steadily expanded from 68 companies to 99 companies, broadly spread across the three food industry sub-sectors, i.e. (a) food retailers and wholesalers, (b) restaurants and bars, and (c) food producers. Companies are ranked from Tier 1 (Leadership) to Tier 6 (No Evidence that it’s on the Business Agenda) on the basis of their published information. The key messages from this year’s report are:

Many companies have yet to establish robust systems and processes for managing, measuring and reporting on farm animal welfare. While, 87% of the companies covered by our assessment acknowledge farm animal welfare as a business issue, only 73% have formalised their commitment in overarching policies or equivalent documents, 65% have set farm animal welfare-related objectives and targets, and 45% have described their management responsibilities for farm animal welfare.

Significant progress being made by existing companies in the Benchmark. The overall scores for 2016 (on a like-for like basis) have increased by an average of 5%. There are now 13 companies in Tiers 1 and 2 (up from just two in 2012). These are companies who have made strong commitments to farm animal welfare, have well developed management systems and processes, and have a clear focus on farm animal welfare performance measures.

Increasingly companies describe farm animal welfare in terms of the opportunities.

Companies in the benchmark have begun to position farm animal welfare as an integral part of their approach to corporate responsibility rather than simply as a compliance requirement.

There are growing signs that investors are prepared to act on farm animal welfare.

Currently 22 institutional investors have signed the BBFAW’s ‘Global Investor Statement on Farm Animal Welfare’ representing approximately £1.73 trillion in assets under management. The level of investor support for the statement is evidence that farm animal welfare is now recognised as an important source of investment risk and opportunity.

Companies are increasingly being assessed on performance rather than exclusively on management processes. Weighting of the Performance Reporting section has increased from 10% in 2015 to 17% in 2016 and is expected to go up to 35% by 2018.


Challenges faced by food businesses

Farm Animal Welfare (FAW) has become a more strategic issue for many companies, with many making strong corporate commitments to higher animal welfare practices.  However, adopting a continious improvement approach to farm animal welfare can be a challenging undertaking for food businesses. Key challenges include:

Overcoming supply chain complexity and increasing visibility | Large food companies need to maintain a robust supply chain, which often involves the development of intricate supply chain networks. As a result, modern supply chain networks are usually faced with a considerable number of drivers of complexity, originating from diverse sources (internal processes, suppliers, consumers etc.),   which companies are increasingly expected to proactively manage. Companies need to tackle this inherent complexity by engaging with their supply chain to increase their visibility, and by adopting proactive initiative towards complexity reduction (e.g. the shortening of supply chains, the effective use of sustainability standards or streamlining internal processes).

Setting minimum standards | Whilst animal welfare legislation might be strong in the UK and in the EU, food businesses (and the private sector in general) are a key driver for enhancing animal welfare in countries with less stringent animal welfare laws.  They can do this by working to increase the minimum performance of their suppliers / producers across their entire supply chain. Minimum requirements could be set in line with international trading standards (OIE, GLOBAL GAP or FAO).

Embedding animal welfare in buying practices | Procurement decisions are mainly based on price and it can be hard to incorporate other measures of success. Where possible, companies should look to further embed ethical trading principles (such as enhancing farm animal welfare) into their buying practices. More fundamentally, a company should avoid undermining the capacity of suppliers to respect social and environmental standards through their contractual terms and look to build long term relationships with their suppliers that offer greater certainty and stability.

Establishing performance metrics | Because of industry benchmarks (like the BBFAW) and reporting requirements (like the GRI), companies are under ever increasing amounts of pressure to capture data on production practices and to report annually – measuring performance against commitments or targets. Food companies should pursue greater collaboration with their suppliers to improve transparency and information flows in the supply chain. Many projects are achieving this by developing innovative tools for collecting data and sharing knowledge (e.g.

ADAS supports businesses

With its expert knowledge across all farmed animal species, ADAS has worked with retailers, foodservice, processors, universities and animal welfare organisations to set the agenda, assess, monitor and improve animal welfare across the supply chain. Our experts understand the drivers across the supply chain, from farmer to retailer and are well placed to help your business make progress on animal welfare.

For more information please contact:

Federica Monte
Livestock Consultant

Jon Walton
Livestock Consultant


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