GFSI: Actions, not theories
New Food’s Joshua Minchin summarises the key points of the CGF’s Managing Director Wai-Chan Chan as he opens GFSI 2022.
Here at New Food we have read, spoke, and written the phrase ‘time for action, not words’ many times in recent years. For an industry that is measured, more often than not in quite concrete terms, there is often a tendency to create grand strategies and appealing buzzwords. But how often is success measured against these strategies and ethos?
It was therefore both interesting and reassuring to hear Wai-Chan Chan, Managing Director of the Consumer Goods Forum, speak about “impact at scale” as one of his passions and key objectives. GFSI does amazing work in every corner of the food and beverage industry, but what Chan expressed was a desire to see more of that strategic thinking (of which there was no shortage on display from the talented Steer Co.) translated into action on the ground.
A running theme in the conference was the shift from global foods systems to more localised ones – the world is once again fragmenting. For many decades now there has been a strive for globalisation and cooperation, but with everything that has beset the world in the past two years, and indeed everything that is challenging it today, perhaps what it is not always possible to extrapolate all aspects of food safety policy across every territory. Put simply, what works in the US might not work in China or France.
This theory is also reflected in GFSI’s local groups, which were presented to the conference in Barcelona one by one to feedback on their progress and explain their goals for the future. Their core purpose? To ensure GFSI policy works on the ground where they are and if it does not, to feed back to the Steer Co.
This localised way of thinking should not be seen as a negative. On the contrary, it is refreshing. There is no harm at all in creating globalised, homogenous food systems – harmonisation across countries and continents is what keeps our food safe, otherwise we would be forced to consume only what our countries produce. But an acknowledgement that food systems are not the same around the world and sometimes need an individual approach is important. GFSI will no doubt continue doing wonderful work leading and indeed uniting the world when it comes to delivering safe and secure food, but perhaps as an industry we are learning that we must adapt to different work and regulatory cultures if we are to succeed in our mission to feed everyone with safe food.