Bel and WWF towards a sustainable dairy production

From 2012, WWF and Bel decided to join forces in order to reach a common objective: limit the impacts on the environment linked to milk production.

In the framework of this partnership work focused first on gaining a deeper understanding on the feed composition (ingredients, quantities, origin, etc.) and assessing its environmental footprint.

After concentrating the work on those components with the biggest impacts, the partners identified and are now taking various mitigation actions to increase the sustainability of the current animal feed mix.

Act to fight deforestation linked to animal feed

The 2,700 Bel dairy producer partners feed their cows mostly with fodder, maize silage and fresh grass usually growing on their farms. Parts of the dairy feed, however, are purchased from the feed industry. WWF is concerned about the feed production threatening high conservation value ecosystems.

To reduce the impacts of animal feed production, the NGO has identified the dairy sector as a priority engagement target. Bel Group is aware that the scope of its environmental responsibility also extends to the upstream level of its activity (milk production) and identified that upstream milk production accounts for the largest part of its products’ environmental impacts at life cycle level. Sharing the same vision, WWF and Bel recognize that animal feed is a key component towards sustainable milk production and work together to achieve more sustainable animal feed procurements.

Understanding the hidden impact of dairy cow feed

When evaluating the effects linked to each dairy cow concentrate feed component, two ingredients stick out in terms of their environmental impacts: soy and palm (palm kerner expeller [PKE]). Both are associated with deforestation in their countries of origin and are furthermore linked with negative effects on their eco-social systems.

Support responsible production of soy and palm

In order to be able to take specific actions, WWF conducted an assessment of the quantitiy of soy and PKE needed to produce Bel’s annual milk volumes entering in cheese production.

Together with WWF, Bel decided to join the Roundtable on Reponsible Soy (RTRS) in 2014 and the Roundtable on Responsible Palm Oil (RSPO) in 2015. Bel supports RTRS and RSPO via buying so-called credits to offset the volumes of soy and PKE used in cow feed by its dairy producers.

Support sustainable soy production in Brazil and palm in Indonesia to access to the certification of their production

Since the beginning of the partnership, Bel has supported two projects of WWF to ensure biodiversity conservation through sustainable soy production in the Area of Mato Grosso in Brazil and palm in Borneo in Indonesia.

A continuous progress approach

Every year WWF assesses the performance of 133 European companies on their use of responsible soy in the animal feed used to produce their meat, farmed fish, eggs, dairy and other animal products. In 2016, Bel score was 20/24 and the Group is continuing working with WWF on studies to use alternative to import soybeans in France, complementary solution to existing certificate purchase.

New programs are being studied in Europe to encourage local solutions in three areas, including replacing the soy imports used in dairy cow feed with local soy when possible, supporting good farming practices in terms of environmental footprint reduction, and lengthening the grazing periods of dairy cows in regions with a grazing tradition.

Magali Sartre

CSR and Corporate Relations Director at Bel