@The Consumer Goods Forum Blog

On behalf of all of the staff at the CGF, I would like to wish you a happy and successful New Year! As usual at this time of year, I am writing with a summary of how the CGF has been working on your behalf in 2016 and a look ahead to our priorities for 2017.

Those of you able to attend the Global Summit in Cape Town last year will remember that the overall theme was “Seizing Opportunities in the Face of Disruption”. Little did we realise, when we chose that theme, quite how much disruption 2016 would bring. Amongst many corporate developments in our global industry last year, we saw the closing of the industry’s biggest ever M&A deal, several billion-dollar acquisitions of new digital business models by established players and announcements of investments in physical stores by the industry’s two largest ecommerce specialists. Each of these developments may prove to be a significant milestone in its own right. But no doubt, it will be the geopolitical disruptions of 2016 that will go down in history.  

Against this backdrop of extreme uncertainty, consumers are paying more and more attention to authenticity and purpose when they choose which brands to buy and how to buy them. Some companies have begun to publish hard data showing that brands with purpose grow faster and help them retain talented employees. Others have set up dedicated teams to communicate their social purpose to investors. All this explains why, for so many companies, membership of the CGF is not a “nice to have” but rather an integral part of implementing their long-term growth strategy. To that end, in 2016 we again worked to provide value to our members in three ways:

1. Supporting Implementation
Last year, we focused more resource on providing you with practical guidance and support for the implementation of our Pillar agendas. Additional material, developed last year included workshops, webinars, videos, toolkits and case studies on the following topics:

•    Eliminating forced labour
•    Stopping inappropriate marketing to children
•    Measuring and reducing food waste
•    Sourcing sustainable soy
•    Building food safety capabilities in small suppliers. 

We also continued to take the lead on the issue of consumer transparency, which many members see as the key to building consumer trust in their brands. We have been working to address both the technical and commercial barriers to transparency on product ingredients and ethical sourcing. On the technical side, the CGF brought together for the first time a cross-section of software providers to agree on how to make their systems interoperable. In parallel, we are helping manufacturers and retailers to work through the commercial issues that can also get in the way of genuine consumer transparency.

One of the things we have started to notice about our work on implementation support is that everyone benefits from it. Companies that put resource into codifying and disseminating best practices from their operations rightly get public credit for their leadership. Companies that make use of the guides find the CEO perspectives and operational detail of great practical value. 

2. Engaging Stakeholders
Even the largest companies in the industry often rely on us to communicate and collaborate with external stakeholders, such as NGOs and governments. Here are three examples from 2016:

  • Dialogue with upwards of 20 national governments, to explore ways in which the public and private sectors could work together to improve food safety and reduce costs. 
  • Collaboration with the world’s first Anti-Slavery Commissioner, along with many other stakeholders, on actions to implement our Forced Labour Resolution.
  • Continued dialogue with Greenpeace, the WWF, Oxfam and many others on the implementation of the industry’s environmental and social sustainability agendas.

3. Networking and Learning
This year we were delighted to welcome over 30 new members to the CGF. They included leading digital players, non-food companies, and several based in developing countries – all of which are important if we are to represent the industry of tomorrow as well as today’s.

For most of the CGF’s members, the opportunities that we provide for networking remain some of the key benefits of their membership. Our global conferences, local events, and working group meetings all serve to support the implementation of our Pillar agendas. But they also provide unique opportunities to maintain personal relationships, share commercial best practices and do business across the globe. 

Last year, we held the first totally new CGF conference for many years. The Sustainable Retail Summit, launched in Paris in October was designed to bring together senior practitioners in sustainability and health & wellness. Over 250 participants attended the two-day event, from retailers, manufacturers, service providers, NGOs, governments and academic institutions. Feedback from these participants was stronger than even we expected; they particularly appreciated the practical implementation focus on issues like food waste, forced labour and community-based health and wellbeing programmes. We plan to hold a similar event in October 2017.

Amongst our other events last year, the Global Summit celebrated its 60th anniversary at the same time as making its first-ever visit to the African continent. The Global Food Safety Conference again confirmed its status as the must-attend global event in its field by attracting over 1,000 attendees. And the Future Leaders Programme provided participants some fascinating lessons on leadership in the digital world.

Given the events of 2016, I will avoid the temptation to predict any external events this year! But you can be sure that, throughout 2017, all of us at the CGF will be focused on responding to your needs as members. Our priorities this year have been shaped by your feedback and include:

  • More segmented implementation support.We want to make it easier for all our members to implement the CGF’s agenda of positive change and efficiency – whether you run a small or large company and whatever region you operate in. To that end, we will be setting up more implementation pilots, with a wider range of companies in different regions. You can also expect to see more of our practical implementation guides and toolkits.
  • More engagement opportunities. You have told us that you liked our CEO-only discussion sessions and so we plan to run more of these. We will be looking for additional members of the CGF Board of Directors (whose maximum permitted size was increased last year). We will continue our focus on engaging our members in non-food categories as well as food. And you will see more regionally focused events this year, including workshops, share groups and Focus Days in selected countries.
  • More tailored communication. While many of you like our regular e-mails, you want us to make it easier to find information and technical support on demand – that is, when and how you want it, rather than when we send it. We have started to examine ways in which we can tailor our communication and bring our website up to date. 

As always, I encourage you to let me or my colleagues know how we can help you maximise the value of your CGF membership. We all very much look forward to working with you during 2017. 

Meanwhile, may I again wish you a very happy and successful new year!

Peter Freedman, The Consumer Goods Forum  This post was written and contributed by:

  Peter Freedman
  Managing Director
  The Consumer Goods Forum


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