Ontario Pork ushers in era of change and accountability with release of inaugural Social Responsibility Report

GUELPH, ON, March 22, 2016 /CNW/ - As stewards of the land and caretakers of animals, Ontario pork producers have long understood the importance of adopting sound environmental and social practices to grow their business. Striving to meet the evolving needs of the marketplace, they continue to challenge themselves to further enhance their commitment to sustainable farming.

With the release of its inaugural Social Responsibility Report, Ontario Pork has taken an important step in addressing the growing expectations of consumers, retailers and policymakers in areas that measure economic, environmental, social and governance performance.

"We are proud to be the first livestock group in the province to commit to setting benchmarks that will allow us to monitor the improvements of the sector over time," said Amy Cronin, Chair of Ontario Pork. "There is great appetite from a wide range of audiences to learn more about what we do and we needed to tell the stories that shape our industry in a way that was meaningful and transparent. Our members have embraced this process and they are invested in leaving a positive legacy for future generations."

Based on internationally recognized methodologies and standards, including the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations' Sustainability Assessment of Food and Agriculture systems (SAFA) guidelines, the social responsibility approach of Ontario Pork is based on six dimensions:

  • Farm Management
  • Economic Performance
  • Environmental Stewardship
  • Animal Care and Food Safety
  • Relationships with the Community
  • Workers' Well-Being

"I am very encouraged by Ontario Pork's leadership in strengthening the industry through sound environmental and social responsibility practices, and look forward to following the program's progress," said Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne. "Ontario's pork industry is a key partner as we continue to work toward our goal of creating 120,000 new jobs and doubling the agri-food sector's annual growth rate by 2020."

As a major contributor to the province's economic growth, Ontario Pork is engaging the entire sector in its social responsibility journey through a set of commitments to be achieved over the next three years.

The organization is focused on bringing greater awareness about social responsibility through teaching tools and training resources, while consistently assessing new trends and best practices.

"We commend Ontario Pork for leading the way in making the industry – one which abides by strict on-farm regulations and produces some of the highest quality pork in the world – even more accountable," said Jeff Leal, Ontario Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Minister.

One of the highlights of the report was the Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) that was carried out to measure the carbon and water footprint of pork production in Ontario. The results, which show that Ontario is on par with the continental average and compares favourably to the world average, provide a baseline to benchmark current practices and impacts, and identify opportunities for progress on climate and water challenges.

"Few people are more dependent on soil and water than farmers," added Cronin. "Preserving ecosystems and minimizing negative environmental impacts of on-farm activities are part of a pork producer's DNA. By measuring progress towards specific targets and goals, our industry is showing its ongoing commitment to being best in class and building strong relationships throughout the entire value chain."

For retailers such as Loblaw, who has been at the forefront within the agri-food industry in adopting sustainability strategies and responsible procurement practices, the path taken by Ontario Pork sets an important example that should inspire others to follow.

"Loblaw's commitment to Corporate Social Responsibility is ingrained in the way we do business, including ensuring the products in our stores are sourced responsibly and with integrity," said Brad Porter, Vice President, Meat/Seafood, Produce & Floral, Loblaw Companies Ltd. "What Ontario Pork is trying to achieve aligns with these priorities. We applaud their efforts and look forward to them working together with the other provinces to expand this program nationally."

To view the full Social Responsibility Report and get more details about the data and methodology, visit Ontario Pork website at www.ontariopork.on.ca

About Ontario Pork

Ontario Pork represents the 1,369 farmers who market 5.17 million hogs in the province. The organization is engaged in many areas, including research, government representation, environmental issues, consumer education and food quality assurance. Ontario Pork is the first livestock commodity group in the province to set social responsibility benchmarks, demonstrating pork producers' commitment to sustainable farming. Ontario's pork industry "farm to fork" generates $3.2 billion in economic output and 20,459 in full-time equivalent jobs. For more information, visit Ontario Pork's website at www.ontariopork.on.ca.

SOURCE Ontario Pork

Image with caption: "Ontario Pork (CNW Group/Ontario Pork)". Image available at: http://photos.newswire.ca/images/download/20160322_C1693_PHOTO_EN_646591.jpg

For further information: Mary Jane Quinn, Manager, Communications & Consumer Marketing, Ontario Pork, Phone: 519-767-4600 x1303, Email: maryjane.quinn@ontariopork.on.ca; Alexa Znidarec, Argyle Public Relationships, Phone: 416-968-7311 x258, Email: aznidarec@argylepr.com

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