Dawn earns sustainability gong

Ray Ryan reports on the initiatives which have seen Dawn Meats chosen as the first Irish food company to win a coveted BITCI award

Picture caption: Fintan Slye, CEO of EirGrid; Tina Roche, CEO Business in the Community Ireland; Brian Dalton, RTÉ’s managing director for corporate development; and Niall Browne, CEO, Dawn Meats. Picture: Jason Clarke

Dawn Meats has become the first Irish food manufacturer to achieve the coveted Business Working Responsibly Mark at its Carroll’s Cross site in Waterford.

The mark is operated by Business in the Community Ireland (BITCI), the non-profit organisation dedicated to sustainability, and is third-party audited by the National Standards Authority of Ireland (NSAI).

When BITCI was established in 2000, corporate social responsibility (CSR) was based on corporate giving and engagement with charities and causes. Today it is about long-term sustainability and responsible business practices.

BITCI chief executive Tina Roche has seen a real sea change in the attitudes of Irish companies towards corporate responsibility during the 17 years it has been working in the area. Through its work with hundreds of companies, CSR is now seen as covering all areas of the business, from employee engagement and the supply chain to procurement, climate change, and human rights.

The organisations presented with mark certificates are leading in the area of sustainability. Having the distinction will help them benchmark their practices amongst their peers, she said.

A total of 25 organisations in Ireland have now achieved the Business Working Responsibly Mark. It is valid for three years.

In the latest certification announcement, RTÉ, along with Dawn Meats, achieved the mark for the first time, while EirGrid was awarded it for the third time.

Sustainability, customer relations, supply chain management, workplace, community, and environment are some of the areas assessed by the certification. To achieve the mark, companies must initially answer 280 online questions analysing operations on 26 different indicators. This is reviewed by Business in the Community Ireland experts to ascertain if the company has reached a preliminary standard that merits third party verification.

Successful verification of the inputs to the questionnaire by the NSAI is essential to achieving the Mark.

Dawn Meats CEO Niall Browne said the company has set itself the goal of becoming Europe’s most sustainable meat company.

“Over the last two years we have updated our sustainability strategy, published our first CSR report and broadened our engagement with stakeholders,” said Mr Browne.

“As a business we are committed to continuous improvement and are excited by what is achievable over the coming years.”

A comprehensive review of the business from corporate responsibility governance, to workplace, marketplace, environment and community practices took place at audit stage, completed over two days in May.

Dawn Meats has been widely recognised for its achievements in environmental sustainability. It also recently announced ambitious 2025 targets to reduce water and energy intensity by 40% and CO2 emission intensity by 50%.

The group has had its sustainability credentials endorsed by many external agencies to the highest international standards.

Mr Browne said that none of this would be possible without the commitment of staff. It has a really strong CSR committee at management level, but the buy-in throughout the organisation has been a credit to every member of the team.

David O’Flynn, Dawn Meats group head of CSR, said being awarded the mark is tremendous recognition of the company’s commitment to responsible business practices.

“Over the last 18 months, the team has worked with BITC’s Mark framework to develop a formalised and documented approach to responsibility and sustainability,” he said. “Dawn Meats knows that being responsible and sustainable works in harmony and synergy with business growth and it is this knowledge that ensures our continuation on this path.”

Dawn Meats works with 15,000 Irish farmers and 5,000 British farmers, contributing over €550m to local rural economies across Ireland, and €450m across the UK.

An example of how it is approaching the sustainability challenge can be found in the progress achieved with its Eco Drive initiative in 2016, which has seen hauliers achieve a reduction of 1m litres of fuel and saving 2,500 tons of CO2. These savings were achieved through an investment by hauliers in training and more fuel-efficient vehicles.

It has also launched more than 100 new and innovative value added meat products with major European supermarket chains and expanded internal communication around themes such as the environment, health, well-being, and food safety.

Employees came together to participate in events such as a dedicated Health Week in 2016, with more than 900 staff attending health clinics for check-ups.

The group also donated almost €200,000 to local charities, and its staff volunteered more than 2,000 hours to causes which are valued by employees and the communities where they operate.

Dawn is the supplier of choice to a range of leading super market, food service and restaurant businesses, exporting to 48 countries.

As a family-owned business, it remains true to its heritage through its close relationships with farmers from whom it directly sources grass-fed cattle and lamb for processing at its seven Irish plants.

Dawn Meats was established in Co Waterford in 1980 and has grown to a business with over €1.2bn in annual revenue, employing 3,300 staff in eight countries.

The company, which has won numerous environmental, sustainability and food awards, works with some of the world’s leading food companies who are attracted by a commitment to sustainability and quality.

It gained ISO 50001 certification for its development and implementation of an efficient energy use policy in accordance with the highest global standards at its retail packing plant, Dawn Cross Hands, South Wales.

The plant is a large energy user, with an annual bill of close to £1m. Refrigeration makes up a significant percentage of the total energy used at the site.

With the development, implementation and integration of an energy management system, the site has reduced its refrigeration consumption by 6% delivering significant financial returns, and resulting in its ISO 50001 certification.


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