Sustainable farming

We at Bel are committed to sustainable farming and livestock practices that are friendly to people and the environment. To that end, we focus our efforts on the key raw materials used to make Bel products: dairy raw materials (milk, butter, cheese) and fat.

Working for a sustainable dairy industry

To make our products, we collect nearly two billion liters of milk each year from 2,500 dairy-producer partners in ten supply basins around the world.

We want to make our industry sustainable. To do that, we have to conserve the planet’s resources and build lasting relations with Bel partner producers. Accordingly, we prepared our Global Sustainable Upstream Dairy Charter jointly with the WWF France. This charter will guide our practices through 2025 to meet the dairy industry’s economic, social and environmental challenges and changing consumer expectations.

Nutritional quality and safety

Ambition: Guarantee high quality and safe milk, and develop innovative solutions to seek greater nutritional quality.

2025 Target: 100% of dairy supply basins have explored means to improve the nutritional quality of their milk.

Sample achievement: A bibliographic research was conducted to uncover dairy production practices likely to improve milk’s nutritional profile. It showed the positive impact of pasture grazing and oilseeds in lipid composition. We are now experimenting a pilot site under real-life conditions.

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Farmer sustainability

Ambition: Build on our ongoing relationships with dairy players to deploy more effective farming practices that contribute to a better quality of life and better working conditions for dairy farmers.

2025 Target: 100% of dairy farmers who supply milk to Bel have access to innovative societal schemes.

Sample achievement: The APBO and Bel strengthen their agreement for a profitable and sustainable dairy industry.

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Animal Welfare

Ambition: Promote animal welfare practices and share demanding, common standards to ensure the well-being of livestock.

2025 Target: 100% of dairy farmers who supply milk to Bel are certified by a third party as compliant with the Bel Animal Welfare Charter.

Sample achievement: The Happy Cows Milk program, in which 100% of dairy producers who supply milk to Bel in the Azores are involved, was awarded the Good Dairy Commendation from CIWF in 2016.

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Sustainable and local animal feeding

Ambition: Promote the use and production of sustainable animal feed that combines benefits for farmers, local economy and the environment.

2025 Targets: 100% of animal feeding is non-GMO. 100% of imported soy and PKE comes from sustainable, traceable and certified supply chain systems (RTRS, RSPO or equivalent).

Sample achievement: Dairy farmers in France and Slovakia feed their dairy herds with 100% GMO-free feed. Studies are under way to extend this practice to all our dairy supply basins.

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Environmental footprint

Ambition: Encourage dairy farming practices that reduce the environmental impact of milk production, lower overall greenhouse gas emissions and increase resilience against climate change and hydric stress.

2025 Targets: An average 8% decline in global greenhouse gas emissions from farms in our networks, versus 2017, based on targets designed as part of the Science Based Targets initiative. 100% of dairy supply basins have action plans to strengthen their resilience against climate change and hydric stress.

Sample achievement: Training and sharing workshops have been held with dairy farmers and independent experts to promote best farming practices in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the impact of dairy production on water resources.

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Pasture grazing

Ambition: Encourage pasture grazing for raw milk production whenever feasible under local conditions, e.g. climate, grazeland availability and local cultural practices.

2025 Target: 100% of milk is collected from pasture-grazed cows whenever feasible in regions with pastoral tradition.

Sample achievement: 78% of the milk that we collect in supply basins with a grazing tradition comes from pasture-grazed cows. At a minimum, the cows graze 120 days a year in the Netherlands, 150 days a year in France and 365 days a year in the Azores.

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At the same time, we have set up the “Farming for the Future” project to establish increasingly innovative practices adapted to the various regions where we procure our supplies. The goal is to identify innovative approaches to sustainable dairy production already put into place by volunteer producers and assess their sustainability, profitability and feasibility. The most virtuous practices are then shared and deployed to other dairy farms.

Beyond raw milk, we are also committed to other dairy products used in our products, such as cream, butter, cheese, and milk powder. We work on production conditions with our main suppliers and encourage them to follow the same commitments we require of raw milk producers.

Using vegetable fat within strict limits

With products available in more than 130 countries worldwide, our 100% dairy product ranges have not always been affordable for consumers with lower purchasing power. In order to make our products accessible to all, we have chosen to develop new ranges of products combining dairy and non-dairy raw materials.

A set of strict commitments governing the use of vegetable fat entering in our recipes has therefore been defined. Vegetable fats must ensure a superior standard for the consumer in terms of taste, nutritional qualities and responsible procurement.

We wish to promote the use of sustainable and local vegetable fats to support short supply chains and to encourage the creation of local added-value. We have thus committed to attain 100% responsible sourcing of vegetable fats by 2020, through a three steps approach based on the sectors present locally:

  • Our priority action is to procure certified fats (RSPO or equivalent) that are grown and processed locally;
  • In cases where the local production is not certified (RSPO or equivalent), we have committed to fostering the development of local sectors that are sustainable and certified by working with producers and processors;
  • When there is no locally produced vegetable fat that meets our specifications, we pledge to choose procurement solutions to optimize the positive local impact, such as working with local processors.