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Case Studies Global Dairy Platform

Promoting Sustainability in the Dairy Industry Through Collaboration

The Global Dairy Platform (GDP) is an industry body working on behalf of a range of industry leaders such as Nestlé, Fonterra, FrieslandCampina, Arla Foods, and the International Dairy Federation.

The GDP enables many of the world’s largest dairy companies the opportunity to work together to tackle common challenges, and to collaborate on issues that stimulate the demand for dairy products and promote sustainable dairy.


SustainAbility worked for 18 months with the GDP and dairy industry partners to create the Dairy Sustainability Framework. This ground-breaking, collaborative approach to cross-industry sustainability in dairy offers a more flexible, relevant and impactful approach than would be possible with a traditional standards and third-party certification model.

Creating a sustainability framework

Acting on behalf of a coalition of ten global dairy organisations, the GDP approached us to assess the feasibility of creating a global dairy sustainability standard. This initiative was taken in response to increasing scrutiny by NGOs, customers and other key stakeholders. The GDP was attracted to our experience in sustainability standards and our report Signed…Sealed… Delivered? which explores the future role of standards in global supply chains.

Our approach was to begin with an initial feasibility assessment. This assessment concluded that a standard was technically feasible but would be unlikely to deliver significant progress in the near term. The dairy industry is extraordinarily varied and a global standard would have to be at such a high level that it would be unlikely to stimulate meaningful progress.

Instead, we proposed the creation of a more adaptable sustainability framework, capable of delivering the benefits of a standards system – such as identifying key issues, encouraging harmonisation, and providing guidance on how best to make verifiable progress on key sustainability topics – whilst retaining flexibility with a focus on regional relevance and industry-driven improvement.

Engaging stakeholders

Listening to and understanding the views of the dairy sector and its stakeholders was essential in the development of the framework. We designed and facilitated an extensive stakeholder engagement program comprising a series of workshops and direct engagement with over a hundred stakeholders globally.

We supported this with extensive research, reviewing and documenting over 125 existing sustainability initiatives relevant to the industry, as well as a review of best practice approaches to standardization and joint industry-wide approaches in other sectors.

Throughout the 18-month engagement, SustainAbility acted as a facilitator of the industry partnership, working closely with the project’s Governance and Technical Working Groups to both inform and drive progress.

Breaking new ground

Armed with stakeholder views and robust research we designed the Dairy Sustainability Framework (DSF), which identifies key sustainability issues for the dairy industry, provides high-level guidance on how to address these issues, and enables Framework users to consistently monitor progress and over time demonstrate continuous improvement.

The framework was launched at the 2013 Word Dairy Summit in Yokohama, Japan. Governance of the DSF is now taken forward by the Global Dairy Agenda for Action (GDAA), which had been established in 2009 as the industry’s joint platform to respond to climate change.

The GDAA is encouraging the industry to adopt the DSF on a global scale, and set out a clear ambition to galvanise the industry, raise sustainability standards across the dairy value chain and articulate how dairy could become a contributor to a future sustainable food system. As a resource, the Dairy Sustainability Framework (DSF) enables stakeholders across the value chain, irrespective of size, to improve practices and procedures. It currently accounts for 17 percent of global milk supply and the first annual report will shortly be published.

Visit the Dairy Sustainability Framework website for more information.


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