Our vision on corporate social responsibility

Vion has been engaged in corporate social responsibility for quite some years. Whereas food safety is a condition sine qua non, we sincerely aspire to produce meat respecting animal welfare and a sustainable environment.

Food in general and meat in particular is a popular subject of numerous societal debates. These debates can be grouped into four major themes:

  • animal welfare (at farm and post-farm gate)
  • supply chain (related issues such as traceability, transparency and product integrity)
  • the environmental impact of meat production
  • human health

At Vion, we have decided not to shy away from these debates, but to participate actively in the societal dialogue on these relevant themes. We intend to stimulate the discussion with, and the creativity of our stakeholders on these relevant items. Together, we want to develop solutions to guide our industry to implement best practices.

In our CSR report, you can read more about our CSR strategy and the measures we take.

How we create value

Our value creation model shows how we create value and work on a sustainable future.

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Our corporate social responsibility topics

With regard to our business, and the effect of other companies in the supply chain on our business, we have developed a list of the relevant CSR topics for Vion. We listed 30 relevant topics: 18 social topics, 9 environmental topics, and 3 economic topics.

To define the material topics out of all 30 relevant topics, we performed a materiality analysis. We evaluated each topic based on two dimensions:

  1. The extent to which the topic has an influence on the assessments and decisions of stakeholders (y-axis of the matrix)
  2. The significance of Vion’s social, environmental and economic impact on that topic. For the second dimension, we defined how much of an impact Vion can have on each topic, by itself or by influencing other stakeholders (x-axis of the matrix)

and plotted them in a materiality matrix.

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The seventeen topics that ended up in the upper right corner of the materiality matrix are the most material topics for Vion and our stakeholders. In our CSR report we share our approach to all CSR topics. Within the material topics, our strategy prioritises four topics:

Food safety

Each day, 100 million consumers have a meal with some ‘Vion inside’. It goes without saying that these products need to be safe and wholesome. Our primary responsibility, therefore, is to guarantee the safety of all our products, in all aspects.

To safeguard our production processes, Vion is continuously investing in its infrastructure and rigorous quality systems. We apply strict procedures, supporting different independent certification schemes to improve food safety management – such as IFS, BRC, IKB, QS, GlobalGap and Organic.

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"Each day, 100 million consumers have a meal with some Vion inside"

"It is our duty to handle the animals respectfully"

Animal welfare

Each day, we handle thousands of animals. It is our duty to handle these animals respectfully. To guarantee animal welfare, we invest in the necessary infrastructure, training our employees and installing supervision technology such as Closed Circuit Television (CCTV).

Animal welfare in transportation
Having a slaughterhouse network of appropriately-sized locations in relation to the livestock density in a given region, enables short animal transportation distances with below 8 hours of transportation time. We also control animal welfare by investing in modern animal transport vehicles and conducting standardised transport checks at every unloading point. Also, external veterinarians inspect all animals at the time of unloading.

Animal welfare in slaughtering
At our slaughterhouses we control animal welfare by, among others, training and educating all of our employees that work with livestock. Specially trained animal welfare officers ensure that the guidelines are adhered to, they receive biannual training. During working hours, the lairage, stunning and slaughter areas are under continuous supervision by at least one official veterinarian.

Furthermore, Vion’s veterinary expert team evaluates the performance of the slaughterhouses and the supplying farms. The animal welfare outcome data is reported to our executive committee. In the case of non-conformities, the responsible people have to take corrective and preventive actions.

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Transparency

Vion aims to be a leader in the meat industry regarding transparency. In 2014, we were the first to publish the official veterinary audits on our website; in 2016 we were again the first to launch a transparency website. In 2017 we have launched the Dutch transparency website. Our transparency websites provide insights into our production processes, including movies, photos and text. On these websites we also communicate the results of official ante and post mortem meat inspections, as well as the independent quality assurance audits from our production plants.

"To provide insights to consumers, we work together with our suppliers and customers"

Traceability and product integrity

All animals that arrive at Vion are clearly marked by ear tags or other unique identification. Their labels and the underlying databases allow traceability to the place of birth for all the pigs and cattle. After slaughter, the carcasses and deboned products are bundled into batches with similar traits, like: country or region of origin, quality programmes, breeds and/or production dates. All of Vion’s external sold volume is traceable to a small group of livestock farmers.

Product integrity and the correct labelling of products are needed to be a trustworthy supplier. To ensure product integrity Vion uses different systems like NEN-ISO and IFS Food. We have integrated, and will roll out further, specific integrity standards such as Orgainvent and the CBL integrity standard in our processing facilities.

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CSR report

Realising that the meat industry was the subject of important societal debates, Vion has been engaged in corporate social responsibility (CSR) since quite a few years.

Last year in April 2017, we published our first CSR report. It was the tangible proof of our comprehensive reflection on the major themes in the European meat industry. In November 2017, we were happy to be awarded one of the three Crystal prices by the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs as fastest climber of the Transparency Benchmark.

In our 2017 report, we report on our progress since the first report and we have broadened the scope to the full value chain of meat. This requires us to gather data and voice an opinion on the activities of other actors in the chain. We therefore introduced two new material topics: the environmental aspects of livestock farming and greenhouse gas emissions of the meat production chain. Another novelty is that we have connected the topics and related initiatives to the 17 Sustainable Development Goals promulgated by the United Nations.

Stakeholder dialogues

Vion does not shy away from the numerous societal debates but participates in them. We are open to conversation and the exchange of knowledge and stimulate discussions with stakeholders.

"Vion was very helpful in the past"

Bernd Maiweg
German Trade Union NGG (Gewerkschaft Nahrung, Genuss Gaststätten)

As trade unionist, Bernd Maiweg is not exactly one of those for whom the doors are wide open at meat sector companies. However, part of Vion’s corporate strategy includes the entering into dialogue with critics. Opening the door, sitting down at a table, exchanging arguments and seeking solutions together is indispensable for the cooperation between the employees and the enterprise, in the opinion of HR manager Roger Legath: ‘We must move forward together’.

Read the full dialogue

"Livestock farming is important in sustainable use of the planet because grazers are able to produce proteins"

Louise Fresco
Agriculture- and food expert, chairman executive board Wageningen University & Research

Humans are omnivores and we have the ability to get all the nutrients we need from numerous types of food. In general, the old saying is to eat as varied a diet as possible and to eat moderately, yet adequately. Of course, this always concerns the eating pattern and – apart from allergies or other physiological disabilities – not individual foods. Meat has numerous useful nutrients and micronutrients. Moreover, products that are of animal origin are a source of a number of vitamins that humans are unable to get from other foods.

Read the full dialogue

"Together we have a responsibility to offer wholesome meat produced and sold at a sustainable price"

Hans Huijbers
President of ZLTO (southern Netherlands agricultural and horticultural organisation)

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"We are now at 1 star Beter Leven keurmerk, but what's the next step?"

Jaap Kreuger
Chairman of Good Farming Star pig farmers suppliers’ association

‘Since 2009, the market concept Good Farming Star and the pig farmers involved have achieved many results within pig farming. It all started when we began to cooperate with the Dutch Society for the Protection of Animals and retail organisations, such as Albert Heijn, in the implementation of the Beter Leven keurmerk (better life quality label) with one star. This is a quality label for improving animal welfare in the production of pork. Based on mutual trust we took the risk to differentiate ourselves. We thought it necessary to develop a new demand-driven supply chain for our pork, which was based on improving animal welfare and increasing transparency for the consumer. Now in 2017, we have a mature and professional supply chain extending from farm to customer.’

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"Consumers will have to pay for optimum conditions in livestock breeding"

Matthias Wolfschmidt
Veterinarian and vice president of Foodwatch

Foodwatch, an NGO focusing on consumer protection, food production and retail, is backed by 36,000 supporters in Germany and another 6,000 in the Netherlands. The veterinarian Matthias Wolfschmidt, who is based in Berlin, is one of the managers of Foodwatch. He has made various accusations against the food industry, with statements like ‘one in every four animal products originates from an unhealthy animal’, and he has now published his provocative allegations in a book titled ‘Das Schweinesystem’.

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"My respect for the farmers who have implemented the label has grown"

Thomas Schröder
President of Deutscher Tierschutzbund

The German animal welfare organisation, Deutscher Tierschutzbund, is the major proponent of more animal protection in livestock husbandry. Without this organisation, and its motto of ‘animal welfare with your heart and mind’, German agriculture would not have reached the level where it is right now.

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"The Simmentaler breed of cow is perfectly suited for both the dairy and the meat industry"

Josef Schöberl
Beef farmer and Vion supplier (Bavaria, Germany)

In Au/Inn, somewhere between Munich and Passau, you will find an exceptionally beautiful farmstead on a hill. In fair conditions, you can see all the way to the famous Zugspitze. The owner, Josef Schöberl, is 55 years old, and he loves skiing in the winter, swimming in the summer and agriculture in both theory and practice. This man, who comes from upper Bavaria, is as fit as a well-trained athlete, but in his case this probably stems from his hard every day work.

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