As an example, hopefully you will by now have had the chance to have a look at our new website. Many people have said they find it much simpler and easier to access than our previous (multiple) websites. It continues to evolve, week by week. Importantly, we have brought everything together under one roof – a symbol of a much larger change across the CGF. We want to make sure that everything the CGF does – from the Global Food Safety Initiative and the Global Social Compliance Programme to the Global Summit – are in future seen as central to the CGF family while building on their existing external profiles. Not only should this make it easier for our members to understand what we do, it helps the outside world to connect the dots and see the full scale of the consumer industry’s work to drive efficiency and positive change.
Externally too, we have been starting to build our profile. If you look at the “Around the Web” section of our website, you will get a sense of a recent step change in press and social media coverage of the industry’s and the CGF’s activities. That said, it was a step change from a very low base – so we recognise we have a lot more to do. At its recent meeting, your CGF Board members spent some time debating the topic of consumer trust in the industry – why it is at risk and what we as an industry can do about it. By and large the Board felt that through our Pillars we were at last starting to act collectively on the right issues but that, for sure, we were not communicating well enough what the industry is already doing. This is a very delicate journey – but one on which we must make faster progress in 2015.
Early in the year, many of you told me that you did not find it easy to engage with whichever of the CGF’s activities you found most valuable – whether that was our Pillars or our events.
Starting with our Pillars, we have been working on their “governance”. This may be a boring topic for most of us. But I believe it is a crucially important topic for an organisation like the CGF that is – and must be seen to be – run by its members. As you know, each Pillar is typically led by a Board or Steering Committee, and then gets its work done through a series of Taskforces, Working Groups and Local Groups. In this context, we have been working this year with each Pillar on a number of different aspects of their governance:
  • Opening up Pillar membership. Some Pillars have been seen as “cliques” – run by a small group of companies and closed to newcomers. This may be a little unfair, but perception is reality. All the Pillars now have plans to be more inclusive. Also, we in the CGF have set up a “member engagement planning process” to introduce some science into the complicated act of balancing the constraints of limited capacity with our members’ wants and the needs of the Pillar. 
  • Introducing more objectivity and balance. At the same time some Pillars are seen as having a composition biased to manufacturers (or retailers), too dominated by large companies, or too focused on one industry sub-sector. Again we are working with each Pillar to introduce more objective processes for term limits, rotation and decision-making. The CGF’s role is to be the guardian of all our members’ interests in these processes.
  • Making the Pillars more transparent to our members. Lastly, the Pillars have been trying to get better at communicating with you, planning their activities in advance, and making sure you know who sits on which committees and taskforces. These are just very basic elements of making the Pillars more transparent – and I know we have more to do on each.
We are also working to make our events easier for you to engage with. Last year our two largest events – the Food Safety Conference in February and the Global Summit in June – both attracted record numbers of attendees, over 1,000 in both cases. But numbers are not everything. We are also trying to make our events more logistically accessible, rather than asking our members to fly half-way around the world. This year, given the escalating importance of food safety to everyone on the planet, we held a record number of regional events – in India, China, Japan and Mexico – to help members in these countries access global food safety best practices. Lastly, we have been working to increase the value added from all our events. As an example, our new IT Study Tour gave members an opportunity to engage first-hand on innovations and best practices in Silicon Valley. Our Future Leaders Programme and our Supply Chain conference also got exceptionally high ratings for relevance and value added.
Looking forward, the CGF’s Governance Committee recently took some decisions that will help us accelerate progress on engaging all our members. Two examples:
  • Strengthening Board governance. The Governance Committee has developed concrete proposals that will introduce some rotation into the composition of the Board and confirm the duties of Board members. These proposals, if approved by the full Board in June 2015, will help to strengthen the linkages and accountabilities of the Board to you, the members.
  • Integrating with ECR Europe and ECR Asia Pacific. The Governance Committee also approved a proposal to integrate the two regional ECR organisations into the CGF. While we will need some time to work through the practical details of this decision, I believe it will bring at least two benefits to all our members with activities in these two regions. First, it will help the CGF get closer to the national ECR and GS1 organisations, many of which are very vibrant and play a crucial role on the topics covered by the CGF’s Pillars. This will improve efficiency for you but also, by being more joined up, the industry will be able to have more positive impact on the world. Second, it will allow the CGF to offer you more regionally accessible events and engagement opportunities, without duplicating other events. 
The overarching objective of everyone at the CGF is to deliver more value to you, our members. Here more than anywhere, we are on a journey – as it is only if we get everything else right that you will be able to extract the maximum benefit from your membership. I know this will not be the last time that I ask for your support and patience as we work to get it right. 
Here are four ways in which you can get value from the CGF and on which we have been working this year:
First, improving the industry’s – and your – reputation. With trust in the industry under threat, many of our members know there is a benefit in being able to state that they are part of an organisation whose unique mission is to drive positive change. Furthermore, actions speak louder than words and in a few cases you can already claim that we are “part of the solution” rather than being perceived as “part of the problem”. For example, the CGF’s work on deforestation is widely recognised as being ahead of most other industries. As a result, the CGF Board’s public statement in June was very well received by the UN, several governments and NGOs. At the same time, the Global Food Safety Initiative is making a difference on an issue that is in the news almost every week. In recognition of this, senior government food safety officials from China, Japan, Mexico and the US have all engaged directly and publicly with the GFSI this year.
Going forward, some more decisions at the recent CGF Board meeting will set us up to do much more. In 2015 the CGF will:
  • Lead the global scale-up of two programmes to support healthy living and position the industry as driving positive action on obesity and diabetes.
  • Establish a social agenda for the first time, leading collaborative efforts to improve the treatment of workers in the industry’s supply chains
  • Promote a set of Consumer Engagement Principles to signal the importance that the industry places on protecting consumers’ digital data
  • Launch a global initiative to accelerate the reduction in food waste across our industry 
Second, providing you with operational support and best practices. We have launched or upgraded initiatives to bring you operationally relevant best practices in a wide range of fields including: eliminating HFCs from refrigeration equipment; training food safety auditors; monitoring social compliance; and delivering employee health & wellness programmes.
Third, establishing global standards that improve quality and save money for the industry. Both the Global Food Safety Initiative and the Global Social Compliance Programme are working to improve auditing quality and efficiency.  The End-to-End Value Chain Pillar is working with GS1 on data quality and getting better product information to consumers.
Fourth, giving you access to unique global insights and networks. As one example, our 2014 Summit gave us all the chance to pick up insights into the opportunities presented by digital. This year the Summit will do the same on the issue of consumer trust.  
I am lucky to have inherited a great team of people here and we have been joined this year by some new talent across our Pillars and Events teams. I am very grateful to them for all the hard work they have put in this year, on your behalf.  But to move faster we will need to invest in some quite basic things, three examples being: developing our people; improving our communications; and upgrading our IT infrastructure. All these things will take investment and the Board at its recent meeting agreed some increases in our membership dues. We’ll be writing to you separately with the details but I hope you can see from this note that we always strive to spend your money wisely and are working just as hard as we can to deliver yet more value for you.
On that note, may I wish you a very happy and successful 2015.

Peter-Freedman--MD-CGF_transpThis post was written and contributed by:
Peter Freedman
Managing Director
The Consumer Goods Forum