First of all, I would like to wish you a very happy and successful New Year!

This note provides a summary of how we at the CGF have been working on your behalf in 2018, as well as a look ahead to our priorities for 2019. If you would like to know more about anything in this note, please just reach out with an email. I would be delighted to help you get more involved.


2018 was another challenging year for much of the industry. Digital competitors continued to disrupt traditional retail business models and so-called challenger brands continued to steal growth from traditional CPG brands. Meanwhile, the disruptors themselves faced challenges of their own – such as the need to meet rising expectations for good environmental, social and governance (ESG) practices. And the entire industry has had to contend with difficult geopolitical and macroeconomic environments in several of the world’s markets.

Yet, against this backdrop of continuing short-term pressures, something else has been going on that is equally relevant to CGF members. Somehow, positive change has now become mainstream. A survey published in October showed that a majority of consumers in both developed and developing markets and across all age groups, now say they choose brands based on their social purpose. Increasingly, institutional investors are making valuation judgements based on similar criteria. And 2018 proved that a single positive change issue (such as plastic waste) can suddenly dominate media, government and consumer attention around the world.

The CGF exists to help you navigate your business through the opportunities created by both the disruption within our industry and the growing imperative to drive positive change. We do this in two ways:

  • Driving positive change on the ground
  • Helping you to network and learn from your peers


The CGF has long been committed to action rather than just talk. Our focus on retailer-manufacturer collaboration makes us uniquely equipped to help you drive positive change at scale.

Last year, led by the CGF Board of Directors, we took this focus on implementation a stage further. Below are four examples of how, with your help, we have been working to drive more impact on the ground.

Plastic waste – three coalitions for change across the value chain.

In October, the CGF launched three pre-competitive coalitions of companies, each aimed at addressing a part of the global problem of plastic waste:

  1. Optimising packaging design: this task force is focusing on pre-competitive collaboration to enable higher recycling or recovery rates through optimised packaging designs. The initial focus will be on flexible film packaging (wraps, sachets, pouches, etc.) with the aim of enabling recycling of flexible film back to new film packages.
  2. Consumer engagement: this group aims to make recycling a cultural norm, by shaping public understanding of recycling practices. It will seek to focus the debate on waste as the issue, not plastic, and to empower people to become ambassadors to help spread the word. The model currently used by the CGF Collaboration for Healthier Lives initiative is one inspiration for this project.
  3. Enabling recycling systems: here we are working with other organisations to scale existing infrastructure pilots and to facilitate additional investment.

Product Data – accelerated action through Leapfrog Pilots

In today’s digital environment, products will go unsold unless they are associated with accurate, timely information that enables online consumers to make a purchase decision. Today, up to half of that information is missing or inaccurate. In June 2018, the Board sanctioned a new approach to the problem, involving so-called Leapfrog pilots. Now, with the support of around 40 member companies and tech pioneers, as well as GS1, we are demonstrating how new technologies and new approaches to industry collaboration can drive faster progress.

Collaboration for Healthier Lives – community level engagement in 7 countries

Through collaboration, retailers and manufacturers are uniquely positioned to help shoppers and consumers everywhere make healthier choices. We believe that such collaboration can also bring significant business benefits to participating companies. The Collaboration for Healthier Lives (CHL) initiative provides a framework for this collaboration, bringing the industry together with public health bodies, academics and civil society organisations at the community level. The first CHL initiative began in Colombia in 2017. Eighteen months later, the initiative is now in a second phase in Colombia and currently live in another six countries around the world: Costa Rica, France Japan, Turkey, UK and USA.

The Sustainable Supply Chain Initiative – making compliance easier. If as an industry we are to sell more sustainable products, we need to encourage our upstream supply chains to follow consistently high standards for social and environmental compliance. The Sustainable Supply Chain Initiative will enable this by harmonising what is currently a vast array of different technical standards and auditing approaches. As such it will help to ensure that the CGF’s positive change agenda is incorporated into the daily work of the industry’s

purchasing and supply chain professionals.


In the face of dynamic external change, our members tell us that the CGF’s four global events remain critical opportunities to get inspired, reflect and do business. Last year we made some changes to each event, in order to provide more value to you, our members:

The Global Summit – a much wider menu of engagement opportunities.  In addition to the plenary presentations for which it remains famous, the Global Summit in Singapore offered a much wider range of more intimate opportunities to network and learn, such as:

  • Side events – additional Pillar-specific events, held before the start of the Summit, focusing last year on Forced Labour and Health & Wellness
  • Special Sessions – eight separate sessions run in two parallel tracks covering a wide range of current technology and consumer issues
  • I-Talks –discussions on Deforestation, the Future of Work, the Sustainable Supply Chain Initiative, and developments in Blockchain
  • CEO-Chats – discussions led by one Board member and focusing on the role of the CGF agenda in their company
  • CEO Breakfasts – hosted by global experts on topics such as the future of food retail, the Chinese consumer and geopolitics


The Global Food Safety Conference – a step-up in public-private partnerships. The GFSI Conference in Tokyo attracted a record 1,200 delegates from 53 countries. It remains the pre-eminent meeting place for the global food safety community – including multinationals, SMEs, retailers, manufacturers and research labs. But it is also now becoming the place for regulatory agencies to meet each other and the industry – a record 40 such agencies attended in Tokyo.


The Sustainable Retail Summit – a more joined-up approach to implementation. Members attending the first two Sustainable Retail Summit editions loved its practical focus and ability to attract the industry’s most senior sustainability executives. Last year’s conference in Lisbon went a stage further – exploring the connections between different sustainability issues and the cross-functional challenges of implementation. It focused on two themes that run through much of the CGF’s implementation work on sustainability-related topics: transparency (both to consumers and across the supply chain) and consumer engagement. The event, held in Lisbon was a sell-out.

The FLP Congress – now also a social network. The theme of the FLP remains “Building Leaders for Companies with Purpose” – an angle on leadership that we believe is unique to the CGF and that complements the leadership development programmes of our member companies.  This year, we added a social network dimension to what has historically been just an annual event. The FLP Network is supported by the Workplace platform. Our aim is to help young leaders build professional relationships that serve them throughout their careers.


Our number 1 objective for 2019 is to have more of our members engaged in more of our work and our events, so that you get more value from your membership. Here are some examples of other changes you can expect to see this year:

More regional engagement opportunities. Our regionally-based working groups make it easy for our members to implement the CGF’s Pillar initiatives, no matter where they are based. This year each of our regional offices will be adding more opportunities to get engaged:

  • China – in addition to our existing working group on the Global Food Safety Initiative, we will explore setting up groups on Collaboration for Healthier Lives, Environmental Sustainability and Data Leapfrogs.
  • Japan – in addition to our current work on Collaboration for Healthier Lives, the Global Food Safety Initiative and Environmental Sustainability, we will be investigating opportunities in Social Sustainability and Data Leapfrogs.
  • Latin America – here will be exploring opportunities to work together on Food Waste, in addition to the existing working groups in Collaboration for Healthier Lives and Global Food Safety Initiative.
  • North America – we are investigating opportunities to help members implement our Food Waste and Refrigeration initiatives, adding to the current work on Collaboration for Healthier Lives and Global Food Safety Initiative.


More tailored implementation support. Some of you have told us that you are not sure where to find practical help to implement the CGF’s positive change agenda in your company. This year our regional membership teams will offer each retailer and manufacturer member a structured conversation to identify your most pressing implementation needs and then connect you to the relevant Pillar support.


More external communication. At a time when trust in business is falling worldwide, we think it is important to talk publicly about how our members are driving positive change on the ground. You can expect to see us cover initiatives such as Deforestation, Plastic Waste and Collaboration for Healthier Lives.


I hope this summary has been helpful and encourage you to let me know if you would like more information on any aspect of our work. All of us at the CGF look forward to working with you during 2019.

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


This post was written and contributed by:

Peter Freedman
Managing Director
The Consumer Goods Forum