In conversation with stakeholders
Our companies are part of society and have an impact on our immediate surroundings. We see it as our duty not only to minimise the negative impact of our activities, but also to add value to our environment. It is therefore essential to us to have good contact with stakeholders so that we understand them and know what they expect from us, but also so that we can explain why we do what we do. The nature and frequency of these conversations or consultations are varied. We are not only an employer or cooperation partner of farmers; we also have intensive contact with local partners and international customers.
We maintain close contact with our cooperation partners, at each level, about a multiplicity of material issues. We also regularly invite customers, livestock farmers and local governments to visit our company. In addition, we share information about strategic matters and long-term developments with stakeholders at policy level. The management board of VanDrie Group is actively involved in such consultations. We conduct a VanDrie dialogue annually, in order to discuss material issues in depth with a broad group of stakeholders.
Every three years, the VanDrie Group conducts an extensive materiality analysis in order to determine which CSR aspects we need to report on. We regard a theme to be of material importance if it has an effect on decision-making of stakeholders or has a significant impact on our organisation. On the basis of the analysis, we form the materiality matrix. This matrix is an important starting point for the way in which we report in this report. The most recent materiality analysis was conducted in the spring of 2020. Fifty stakeholders indicated via a survey which themes they deem most important for the VanDrie Group. The more frequently a particular theme was mentioned by the stakeholders, the ‘higher’ the theme in question was placed in the matrix. Board members of the VanDrie Group then determined which themes have the greatest impact on the organisation. The material themes are linked to our five strategic pillars and to our main risks.
Spotlight on stakeholders
Our companies are located in various municipalities in the Netherlands, Italy, France, Germany and Belgium. Our production locations definitely have an effect on people who live in the vicinity. We think it is important to remain in discussion with our neighbours. That is why we regularly organise meetings with local residents and local entrepreneurs and provide information about our activities on social media and in the local press. In this way, we want to reduce the possible negative impact on the local environment.
Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are parties who focus on a supposed public interest. Given the context in which we operate, that interest also focuses on our activities. Our intention is to hold discussions with NGOs on the basis of respect and a mutual, constructive attitude. We inform NGOs via newsletters, social media or VanDrie dialogues. This helps to keep our strategy sharp.
Governments are of influence and importance on a variety of levels: local, regional, national and European. The themes that we discuss are different for each level. It is sometimes about our companies’ permits, while at other times it’s about generic policy. We therefore enter into dialogue in a targeted manner depending on the level. That is essential to maintain the market position of and the support for our activities.
Because we are genuine producers and manufacture foodstuffs, we are inspected intensively. This relates to compliance and enforcement, but also to the development of standards. The inspection authorities come from both the public and private field. An open attitude and the will to improve are our guiding principles in the contact that we have with inspection authorities. In this way, we want to improve our production and continue to meet the highest standards that customers and consumers expect from us.
We are a member of various industry organisations in order to foster cooperation and exchange knowledge. In many cases, we also play an active part in running those organisations. These organisations in the Netherlands, for example, are the Dutch Meat Association (Centrale Organisatie voor de Vleessector, COV), the Dutch Veal Industry Association (SBK) or Nevedi (the Dutch animal feed industry organisation). In the various forums of those industry organisations, we talk about sustainability, animal health, food safety and good employment practices. This helps to keep our strategy sharp.
We have intensive relationships with banking and insurance institutions, as well as accountants. In terms of content, it concerns, for example, financial supervision, asset management, improving the sustainability position and the developments in legislation and regulations in the context of compliance.
Educational and knowledge institutions
We collaborate in various projects with education and knowledge institutions. Examples include Wageningen University, Utrecht University, University of Twente, Eindhoven University of Technology, Aeres University of Applied Sciences and SVO Vakopleiding Food (SVO Vocational Education Food). We also involve trainees and graduating students from various educational institutions. This helps us to boost innovation and bring in new employees with the ultimate goal to organise the VanDrie Group sustainably.
Our company has a multiplicity of customers for the various groups of products that we make. The contact with these customers is very frequent and involves daily customer contact – and almost always takes place at the individual VanDrie companies. We also regularly invite customers to our companies. In this way, we can quickly respond to customer wishes. It helps us guarantee the sales of the products and preserve our market position.
Dairy farmers are crucial to our organisation. Some of their calves enter our chain via trade. We maintain active contact with dairy farmers via Alpuro Breeding, take part in study afternoons at farmers/ farmers’ organisations and are involved in administrative consultations with dairy farms via industry organisations. We see room for development, as we want to stimulate the cooperation between dairy and veal farms. In this way, we want to raise animal health and animal welfare up to an even higher level.
We are dependent on different suppliers, for example, for the raw materials that we use for the feed. Those relationships are not only commercially driven but are based above all on quality. We engage in active dialogue about quality standards and improving the sustainability of raw materials. We do this by means of direct customer contact and audits.
Our employees are important to us. We give regular updates about our activities via newsletters and social media, we hold regular development meetings and have active works councils and focus groups. We do not shy away from difficult discussions. Each company therefore has confidential advisers and a whistle-blowers' scheme. This supports our efforts regarding good employment practices.
The calf husbandries we work with in the Netherlands, Belgium, France and Italy are self-employed professionals. In addition to the companies that keep calves on a contract basis and are affiliated with us, there are ‘free veal farmers’: veal farmers who keep animals at their own expense and risk. Those contacts with veal farmers are very frequent. Our regional managers, employees who offer technical support, visit each veal farmer at least once every two weeks. We therefore collaborate on safe food, sustainable and animal friendly production.
We cooperate with different transport providers, for example for the transportation of raw materials, finished products and calves. The contacts are frequent and primarily based on the practical process. We also regularly take the time to deepen discussions, for example about themes such as sustainability, food safety and animal welfare. In this way, we organise our transport flows in a future-oriented manner.