Meristem Land and Science: Driving Progress in Sustainability


Q&A: Brewing up a fresh approach

Tim Faveri provides further insight on the company's recent commitments and why he believes the livestock production sector in Canada has a leg up compared to the U.S.

Posted: June 7, 2013

Tim Faveri, Director, Sustainability & Responsibility, with Tim Hortons

Tim Hortons is the undisputed king of home grown quick service restaurant chains in Canada. As a result it's a big, public target of the unprecedented, ever-rising demands corporations face today for transparency and commitment on a number of social and environmental issues.

Tim Faveri, Director of Sustainability and Responsibility at Tim Hortons, is on the front line of helping the company balance those demands with the complex realities of ensuring a reliable supply chain and competitive business model.

Farm animal welfare is becoming one of the high profile issues he needs to support, right up there with other sustainability issues such as ethical sourcing, environment and energy.

He provides further insight on the company's recent commitments and why he believes the livestock production sector in Canada has a leg up compared to the U.S.

Q: What has been going on behind the scenes to prepare for the commitments Tim Hortons has made on animal housing?


We've been engaging with our supply chain specifically on animal welfare to understand the issues, to look at opportunities and risks and challenges, and to really learn from the experts. It has been very important to us that all the players in the supply chain, including of course farmers as a main component, participate in the dialogue and provide input to the strategies we develop.

For me personally, it's really eye opening to have those conversations directly with producers, to really understand their needs and issues, to get a clear idea of what is realistic and what is the best path forward.

Q: One component that has defined Canada's approach to farm animal welfare, particularly at the livestock producer organization level, is participation in farm animal care organizations at both provincial and national levels. Tim Hortons in the past year became an associate member of the National Farm Animal Care Council (NFACC). What's your perspective on the value of this approach?


In our work the past few years we realized that NFACC and the groups that participate in NFACC are very unique to Canada. We've found in the U.S. that the system down there can be polarized and disconnected in many ways and the political system has a high influence.

What we see in the farm animal care associations in Canada is so refreshing to be honest. With NFACC, for example, it's robust, it's engagement-driven through a multi-stakeholder approach and it's science-based and credible. It's also forward thinking with work on things such as Codes of Practice for care and handling of farm animals. It's such a benefit to have frameworks where people can work together and agree on this type of outcome. We don't have everyone going in different directions.

Q: What is the greatest practical hurdle to meet the commitment on sow housing?


The 2022 target was based on talking with our partners and suppliers. But there's work to be done in that timeframe. There is currently no traceability system in the pork sector and that is going to be one of the major challenges over the next 10 years the industry has to deal with. We also recognize producers in the pork industry have been incredibly challenged the past few years and there needs to be a reasonable adjustment period.

Q: What about for hen housing?


More producers are moving this way and our plan is to shift at a pace that fits that evolution. I recently toured an egg laying farm with the producers and I was thoroughly impressed with the attention to detail not only to animal welfare but the huge focus on innovation and long-term thinking. This farm was like many that are already moving to an alternative housing system for hens as part of a clear business vision.

Q: What's the role of science and research?


We're a big supporter of science based approaches. We're also involved in supporting research as it relates to both eggs and pork, to help deal with all of the practical challenges and find the best solutions.

One thing we've done is set up the Tim Hortons Sustainable Management Fund at the University of Guelph. It is currently supporting a research project on production challenges but also other aspects such as understanding consumer perceptions. Some of the early results of this will presented this fall at a food management summit the university is hosting specifically on animal welfare for restaurant companies.

Q: What's your vision of the path forward the next few years?


With the recent commitments we've made, we feel that we've set forth on a journey and not all of it is going to be predictable. It's an ongoing process of working together.

Ultimately we want to move forward to approaches that are more sustainable in a balanced way for all of the actors in the value chain. With some approaches too much of the costs fall on producers, and we want to avoid that.

It's easier said than done, but like I said I think in Canada we have really helped ourselves by being further ahead on cooperative, collaborative approaches. I think the U.S. is going to be watching quite closely how we're doing things here.

Reprintable with credit. This article is available for reprint, with acknowledgement of the source as Meristem Land and Science, www.meristem.com.

Meristem is a Calgary-based communications firm that specializes in writing about western agriculture, food and land use. More articles at www.meristem.com.




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