Nicole Johnson-Hoffman recently addressed the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (GRSB) at the organization’s annual summit, the 2021 Global Conference on Sustainable Beef. Hoffman tangentially touched on several aspects of the organization’s efforts in land use, animal welfare, and climate change, but she had one primary message throughout her address: the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef should welcome critics. She even went so far as to say that critics should become members of the organization.
Nicole Johnson-Hoffman Leads OSI Group’s Sustainability Efforts
Nicole Johnson-Hoffman is a veteran of the agriculture business, and she’s well qualified to address the GRSB on this topic. Johnson-Hoffman currently serves as the Chief Sustainability Officer (CSO) for OSI Group, where she’s been for over five years. She previously held leadership roles within the GRSB, including being the organization’s Vice President and President.
Specifically, Johnson Hoffman is familiar with what it takes to make significant progress toward greater sustainability.
OSI Group is a sustainability leader within the beef industry, having an entire OSI Global Sustainability Team and regional Sustainability Managers. These teams have received multiple awards for their work, including Five-Star Recognition from the United Kingdom’s British Safety Council and a Sustainability and Environment Award from Spain’s meat industry peers.
As Chief Sustainability Officer, Johnson-Hoffman oversees all the efforts of the Sustainability Team and its managers. Managing award-winning efforts across the world requires constant and robust communication.
Johnson-Hoffman Encourages the Global Roundtable to Welcome Conversation With Critics
It’s from this background that Nicole Johnson-Hoffman encouraged the GRSB to continue expanding its communication. In particular, she encouraged the organization to increase communication with industry critics.
Importantly, Johnson-Hoffman didn’t say that the group has to fully pursue dialogue with everyone who opposes the industry. She distinguished between critics and opponents, explaining that opponents are those who oppose raising animals for meat altogether. For personal, religious, or other reasons, these organizations and individuals are more interested in abolishing the beef industry than reforming it for greater sustainability. While dialogue with these groups shouldn’t be cut off completely, Johnson-Hoffman recognized that the fruits of such communication will be limited at best.
Johnson-Hoffman’s approach to critics — which she defined as parties that aren’t opposed to the meat industry but want to see its practices become more sustainable — was quite different. She explained that these parties should not only be brought into the conversation regarding beef supply chain sustainability but that they should also be welcomed into the Global Roundtable as members.
The reason to welcome critics as members is that they have similar goals to the organizations that are already part of the Global Roundtable. The purpose of the roundtable is to collaborate across different aspects of the beef industry to improve sustainability, and critics generally have the same aim. Even though they might question or speak against specific practices, a genuine conversation that involves them can yield real changes that provide results.
In encouraging the welcoming of critics, Johnson-Hoffman drew upon the roundtable’s past — specifically its foundation. She reminded members that the organization’s aim and merely its formation initially seemed challenging. Some said it was even impossible. Nine years after formation, however, the roundtable now has around 500 members from across the beef industry. These members include policymakers, regulators, retailers, processors, farmers and researchers all working together — despite their divergent and sometimes opposed interests.
Johnson-Hoffman Spoke on the Detrimental Effects of False Assumptions
While not the main thrust of her address, Nicole Johnson-Hoffman also touched on how incorrect assumptions are a barrier to effective communication. In particular, she singled out three assumptions:
- People sometimes think the European Union is more sustainable because it’s more regulated
- U.S.-based people and companies sometimes think being American makes them superior
- People sometimes think operating in the European Union is the same as operating in the U.S.
Reminding people that none of these are true allows for a more effective conversation.
Nicole Johnson-Hoffman Sees Value in New Voices
All in all, Johnson-Hoffman sees that the GRSB has the strength necessary to welcome new voices. Those new voices’ critiques, questions, and concerns will only help further beef sustainability efforts.
About Nicole Johnson-Hoffman
Nicole Johnson-Hoffman has been in the agriculture industry for more than 25 years, and she now serves as OSI Group’s Chief Sustainability Officer. She has previously been the Vice President and President of the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef.
About OSI Group
OSI Group is an international company that produces beef patties, hot dogs, bacon and other animal-based products, along with sauces, doughs, vegetable products and fish. The company has grown over its 100-plus year history to operate more than 65 facilities and offices in 18 different countries.