WWF urges collaborative effort on sustainability from animal health competitors

12:04 PM | March 11, 2021 | Joseph Harvey

The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) believes animal health companies need to set aside competitiveness to start partnering on sustainability issues. Jason Clay—WWF’s senior vice president of market transformation—said the COVID-19 pandemic is a dress rehearsal for the problems that will arise from climate change.

At the recent Animal Health Innovation Europe conference, Dr Clay stated: "We have seen supply chains are brittle. A lot of food has been stuck in supply chains. We should build back better. But what is better? How do we make sure it isn't just business as usual with a little tweak? Every farmer in the world and every protein producer focuses on efficiency. The ones that have survived have done it well. The problem is what we need to be efficient about is changing."

He said climate change is only going to get worse—bringing issues such as water usage, animal welfare, workforce health and safety, feed sources, emissions reduction, and global temperature to the fore. Climate change will also impact feed conversion, morbidity, mortality, parasites, and reproduction from an animal health standpoint.

Dr Clay called on animal health companies to anticipate climate change and use it as a way of redefining new product development.

"What are you doing as an individual company or as a sector to reduce on-farm emissions?" he asked conference attendees. "Are you working with producers to measure benefits and are you finding a way to mutually benefit from those changes? We have to think about how to create opportunities with customers so that it is a two-way street along the value chain."

Dr Clay said firms not only have to work out how to collaborate more closely with protein producers but also with their competitors. He suggested forming partnerships, providing transparency, sharing information and thinking differently about R&D risks will help to address producers' problems in the fastest manner possible.

”If we can’t find ways to work together, then my concern is we’re not going to be able to respond in a timely way to the challenges that are coming much more rapidly in the 21st century,” he stated. “Effective action comes from awareness and consensus.”

By way of example, Dr Clay highlighted the progress made by the Global Salmon Initiative (GSI)—a consortium of companies that make up 40% of the farmed salmon sector. The goal of the GSI is to drive real and measurable improvements in the sustainability of farmed salmon.

Dr Clay suggested players in the animal health industry should actively pursue similar consortia to collaboratively help reposition the animal protein sector in the eyes of the consumer, by telling "a different story" through data tools and providing transparency along the supply chain. He said this kind of clarity can go a long way to muting negative or unjust press for the whole sector.