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More than 1,200 of the CGF’s members met in Berlin last month for the 61st Global Summit – the best Summit ever, to judge by the feedback. If you were one of those able to attend, I hope you also found it both valuable and fun. If you were not able to join us, you can find here a summary of the inspiring main plenary sessions.

All of us continue to experience extraordinary disruptions, both in our industry and in the geopolitical landscape. One of the things that struck me forcibly from the conversations in Berlin was that if the CGF did not already exist, we would definitely need to invent it now. The hard business case for driving positive change – the CGF’s core mission – is made more compelling every day by the purchasing behaviour of younger shoppers and the values of younger employees. As one speaker in Berlin put it, unless we accelerate the shift to more authentic, sustainable products and retail propositions, consumers and employees will drift away from us. Your membership of the CGF is thus an important way to accelerate growth in your business.

In this context, I would like to report back to you on what we have done over the last six months to bring even more practical value to your company. If you are interested in getting involved in any of the activities described below, please reach out to me or my colleagues.


Many industry CEOs emphasised in Berlin the urgency of implementing the CGF’s Pillar agendas. We provide you with practical help in several ways:

a) Inspiring your colleagues to action

This year we published two new sets of case studies – “Healthier Lives” and “Business Actions Against Forced Labour” – adding to the existing ones on Food Waste, Climate Change and Refrigeration. These, together with a wide range of webinars, blogs, online videos and other formats provide simple, accessible summaries of what CGF members are doing in practice to implement the Pillar agendas in their companies. I encourage you to take a look at them (they are all accessible on our website) and pass the word on to your colleagues. We would welcome your own company’s contribution to these good practice summaries, if you are not already represented.

b) Innovating through pilots

One of the lessons we can all learn from the disruptors in our industry is their willingness to fail – to try something, learn from it and improve an idea until it delivers. In this spirit, during the last six months we have set up three new sets of pilots to help you accelerate the pace of implementation in your company: 

  • Collaboration for Healthier Lives (Health & Wellness Pillar). These involve multiple retailers and manufacturers (food and non-food) working together in-store and digitally to help shoppers make healthier choices. Pilots so far are running in Bogota, Colombia and Hagerstown, USA and are planned in Costa Rica, the UK and Japan.
  • Supply chain transparency (E2E Value Chain Pillar).  These manufacturer- retailer pilots were set up to assess the organisational and commercial barriers to sharing data on product provenance and sustainability. These pilots also successfully tested the CGF’s OpenAPI, an approach to making existing proprietary transparency and traceability systems interoperable.
  • Blockchain share group (E2E Value Chain Pillar). Many CGF members believe that Blockchain and similar technologies may in future play a valuable role in providing greater traceability and assurance in the supply chain. This share group provides a mechanism for CGF members to learn from early pilots across the industry. 

c) Implementing regionally – local Pillar working groups

While the CGF Board sets a global agenda, it recognises that our members will prioritise that agenda differently in each region. We also recognise that many members want local implementation support. To meet these objectives, we have been expanding the number of local working groups for member companies, and these now look as follows:

  • Latin America: Health & Wellness; Food Safety (Mexico, South LatAm); Soy (Brazil)
  • North America: Health & Wellness; Food Safety (US/Canada)
  • Japan: Food Safety; Sustainability (in development)
  • China: Food Safety; Sustainability (future development)
  • Europe: Food Safety; Health & Wellness (UK)
  • Africa: exploratory stages

d) Scaling up what works regionally

At its meeting last month, the CGF Board endorsed the global scale-up of two initiatives that have already got traction in different regions:

  • Simplified food date labelling. In many countries, food products still carry a confusing array of different date labels and this has contributed to the world’s food waste crisis. Some countries have already successfully adopted a simplified date labelling scheme and the CGF Board has now resolved to lead the global rollout of a harmonised approach  -  working with Champions 12.3, we will develop and announce concrete actions in time for New York Climate Week in September.
  • Digital consumer transparency. In the US and Canada, retailers and manufacturers are already adopting SmartLabel™ as a digital approach to give consumers far more information on their products than they can get from the package. Several other countries are implementing similar solutions. Learning from these experiences, the CGF will now promote the rollout of a globally harmonised approach to digital transparency.


Our events and working groups allow you to engage efficiently at senior level with the industry’s most important external stakeholders. Below are examples of the new stakeholders with whom we have started to engage over the last six months:
  • The Global Food Safety Conference in February brought together over 1,200 food safety experts from 56 countries. In a further sign of the CGF’s unique convening power, we brought together the senior food safety regulators from 30 countries to discuss partnership with the private sector in the interests of food safety and reduced non-tariff trade barriers.
  • In April, the CGF signed an MOU with the PAHO Foundation to collaborate on improving public health in Latin America.
  • In June, we held a joint event with the International Labour Organization and the US Department of Labor on how to combat forced labour.
  • Also in June, we agreed to work with the Ellen McArthur Foundation to improve the recyclability of plastics packaging

And plans are well advanced for the second annual edition of the Sustainable Retail Summit, to be held in Montreal, Canada on 2nd-3rd October. The SRS will bring together NGOs, governments and academic institutions as well as CGF members to cement partnerships on food waste, forced labour and healthier lives.


We welcomed 26 new members to the CGF during the last six months. They come from 10 different countries across four continents and range from a few million euros in turnover to close to 100 billion. But they are united by their belief in the CGF’s mission of positive change and efficiency, as well as the benefits of collaboration. To that end, we continue to innovate and extend the opportunities for all members to network with and learn from each other:

a) New global working groups (non-food)

Your Board has decided to form three new working groups, all of which are relevant for non-food manufacturers and retailers:

  • Product ingredients – personal care & hygiene categories. This group will provide a collaborative forum for manufacturers and retailers to share perspectives on the safety and health of key ingredients.
  • Sustainable Supply Chain Initiative. This initiative will seek to harmonise the multiplicity of supply chain standards and ensure that they fully reflect the CGF’s own Sustainability Resolutions. At the same time we will be closing the current Global Social Compliance Programme.
  • Counterfeiting. We will set up a small taskforce to assess whether the CGF should play any role on this issue.

b) Share groups 

These small groups of members provide fora to share perspectives, experiences and best practices on key industry issues that are decided by the groups themselves. We currently have three such share groups. Foro Latino, for the CEOs of Latin American retailers, and the IT and Supply Chain Share Groups, which bring together the heads of these two functions to learn from site visits and peer-level experts.

We are now just about to launch a Digital Share Group. This will bring together digital business leaders from retailers and manufacturers in the Americas to share best practices on topics such as consumer engagement, emerging technologies and new omni-channel business models.

c) CEO breakfasts at the Summit

These breakfasts, held each year during Summit week, provide an opportunity for the CEOs of member companies to meet industry peers from around the world and learn from each other as well as another CEO “host”. In Berlin we recently held five breakfasts, each with 10-15 attendees and focusing on the following themes:

  • Reigniting growth from mature brands
  • Competing with hard discount
  • Leading cultural change
  • Making sustainability the driver of growth and efficiency
  • The future of work

I hope this note has been helpful to you. If you have read about anything that you think could add value to your company, please do get in touch!

In the meantime, best wishes – and “bonnes vacances” to those of you able to take some time off during the Northern summer.

peter freedman 2016 profileThis post was written and contributed by:

Peter Freedman
Managing Director
The Consumer Goods Forum

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