The recently launched tenth annual Business Benchmark on Farm Animal Welfare (BBFAW) report has revealed that while companies continue to invest in animal welfare, they are too slow in delivering meaningful welfare impacts on the ground.
BBFAW – the global measure of policy commitment, performance and disclosure on animal welfare in food companies – is supported by founding partner, Compassion in World Farming and supporting partner, FOUR PAWS and is designed to help drive higher farm animal welfare standards in the world’s leading food businesses and provide a benchmark to inform investor choices.
The 2021 report reveals that of the 150 companies evaluated:
- 134 (89%) now acknowledge farm animal welfare as a business issue (compared to 71% of the 68 companies evaluated in 2012)
- 122 companies (81%) have formal policies on farm animal welfare (compared to 46% of companies in 2012)
- 119 companies (79%) have published formal objectives and targets for animal welfare (compared to just 26% of companies in 2012).
- The benchmark’s top tier comprises two food retailers and two food producers – Marks and Spencer, Waitrose, Noble Foods, and Premier Foods.
Despite these positive outcomes, the new BBFAW Impact Rating introduced in 2021 – where companies are ranked A-F on the 10 performance impact questions – shows that the implementation of animal welfare improvements continues to lag policies and governance. For example, while the most widely reported performance impact data relates to cage-free production for laying hens – where 88 companies (59%) report some data – only 23 companies (15%) report that 60% or more of the laying hens in their global supply chains are cage-free.
There remains a stark disconnect between many companies’ disclosure of management processes and the subsequent impact on farm animal welfare in their supply chains. None of the evaluated companies achieved an ’A’ Impact Rating and only five companies – Greggs PLC, Marks & Spencer PLC, Noble Foods, Premier Foods PLC, and Waitrose – achieved a ‘B’ Impact Rating. This indicates that companies are declaring improved welfare impacts for a significant proportion of farm animals in their global supply chains. In fact, 85% of the 150 companies evaluated achieve an ‘E’ or ‘F’ Impact Rating, suggesting that these companies are failing to demonstrate improved welfare impacts for farm animals in their global supply chains.
The 2021 benchmark doubled down on companies’ Performance Reporting and Impact by increasing the weighting of this section to 45% of the total score available. This increased focus on impact resulted in 36 companies dropping a tier. However, given the scale of changes introduced in 2021, it is noteworthy that six companies improved their score sufficiently to increase their ranking by one tier.
Nicky Amos, Executive Director of the Business Benchmark on Farm Animal Welfare and Managing Director of Chronos Sustainability, said: “The BBFAW set out in 2012 to put farm animal welfare on the business and investor agenda and to significantly advance corporate management practice and disclosure on the issue. Ten years on, these objectives have been realised.
“Today, around 80% of the 150 companies assessed by BBFAW have strengthened their governance of farm animal welfare through formal policy commitments, objectives and targets. While this provides a strong foundation for action, companies need to demonstrate that their investments in farm animal welfare are delivering positive welfare impacts for animals on the ground.”
Philip Lymbery, Global CEO at Compassion in World Farming, said: “A decade on, it’s great to see BBFAW continue to deliver against its mission and make great progress in getting companies to invest in animal welfare. Yet, it’s disappointing that these policy commitments are not delivering meaningful improvements for animals as quickly as they should.
“Our focus now must be on ensuring that companies across the globe really do drive forward and deliver substantial and measurable welfare improvements for farm animals. This means making significant progress in their supply chains: for example, moving away from keeping animals in confinement systems such as cages and crates, and towards more humane and sustainable husbandry practices, to help create a food system that works for animals, people, and the planet.”
Josef Pfabigan, CEO, FOUR PAWS, said: “The tenth Business Benchmark on Farm Animal Welfare (BBFAW) report is out – this marks ten years of crucial work on improving farm animal welfare in the world’s leading food businesses. FOUR PAWS is proud to be a supporting partner of BBFAW, and to be working closely on this with the BBFAW’s founding partner, Compassion in World Farming.
“Ten years in, an increasing number of companies have at least formal policies in place to better take care of animals in their supply chains. What’s missing is evidence on how they are translating this into concrete actions towards animal welfare. This is an urgent matter, as livestock farming is a major driver of the climate crisis. The industry therefore has a responsibility to lead the way so consumers can follow, for a world where humans treat animals with respect, empathy and understanding.”