Spain's Commitment to Food and Agriculture Sustainability
New markets, expanded opportunities and more-exacting demands; Spanish food and agriculture companies have incorporated sustainable practices into elements of their corporate identities and internationalization strategies. Many of them are already committed to environmental management criteria, but the current challenge encompasses even broader horizons. As a backdrop, the United Nations' Goals for Sustainable Development
Representing 8.3% of the country's GDP and elevating Spain to the rank of the seventh most important food and beverage exporter in the world, the Spanish food and agriculture industry is currently facing the challenge of broadening its commitment to an expanded concept of sustainability.
Talking about sustainable practices means contributing solutions that respond to world challenges like ending poverty and eradicating hunger, promoting healthy living, guaranteeing clean water and sanitation for all, promoting sustained and inclusive economic growth, committing to gender equality and fomenting innovation.
The new Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations offer a new dimension to the term "sustainability", which in recent years has been narrowed by its continual association with the environment. This new agenda is structured around the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), which build on the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) and establish the agenda from now until 2030.
The environment, the starting point
Two examples of Spanish agro-food companies with a steadfast dedication to sustainability – particularly with regard to the environment – and with an intense focus on export are COATO and Grupo Mahou-San Miguel.
José Luis Hernández Costa, the general manager of COATO (the first Spanish company awarded the European Commission 'European Award for the Environment') affirms that at a certain point, after taking stock of the company's work processes and installations, we decided to "redirect our 27,000 hectares of crops towards two models: integrated agriculture and organic agriculture; combining them with programs that combat erosion and adhere to protocols required by large distributors like GlobalGap, as well as a pioneering initiative that involves developing parcels of organic cultivation within the Red Natura 2000, a protection program that takes more than 27% of Spanish territory into account".
For his part, José Luis García, the Environmental Director for Grupo Mahou-San Miguel, confirms the company's advanced plans to streamline its transportation network for commercial deliveries in Europe, "with the objective of reducing energy costs and emissions of contaminating gases". This strategic decision combines two objectives: "To improve the economic profitability of the company and its adherence to environmental goals".
According to Carlos Moro, the president of Grupo Matarromera, international markets are particularly sensitive when it comes to these types of sustainable practices. Moro, who is confident about the link between international strategy and sustainability, states: "These types of actions increase the prestige of our modus operandi beyond our borders and give us the confidence to approach those consumers and importing countries that are most committed to environmental sustainability".
The Matarromera Group, which has wineries in five denominations of origin and a division dedicated to extra virgin olive oil, annually updates its "Sustainable Matarromera on Planet Earth" plan, which, according to Carlos Moro, includes, "measures like the creation of eco-efficient installations, promoting the use of renewable energies, calculating the carbon footprint and controlling the water footprint, making a commitment to vineyards and olive plantations under the criteria of organic agriculture, and new certification and traceability processes".
The company Ángel Camacho, which is dedicated to the production and sale of table olives in more than 40 countries, also holds environmental sustainability as one of the pillars of its international expansion. This is of particular importance in its commercial relations with large-scale distributors. Juan Carlos Sánchez, the director of Global Marketing and Communication, explains that, "the main international players in large-scale distribution are more and more committed to the environment and, for this reason, are seeking out sustainable suppliers". The conditions imposed by international buyers have changed in recent times: "A few years ago they demanded certifications from external auditors like BRC and IFS, centered primarily on quality and good manipulation practices. Now, in addition to these certifications, large distributors focus on the sustainable production and energy efficiency plans that we, the different suppliers, design".
Representing 8.3% of the country's GDP and elevating Spain to the rank of the seventh most important food and beverage exporter in the world, the Spanish food and agriculture industry is currently facing the challenge of broadening its commitment to an expanded concept of sustainability