Corporate Eye

Lessons From Food Security: Telling Us What Matters

food security Lessons From Food Security: Telling Us What MattersFood – its production, distribution, sale and consumption – is of vital importance to each one of us, and there are many companies which work within the industry.

There are even more that are engaged with food in some way as part of their corporate social responsibility programme: many taking hunger as a focus; a few looking at obesity.

There’s a very real imbalance here – some of us have too much food; others too little – but in the longer term, food security is going to be a problem for all of us. As the world’s population grows, the space available to feed us all shrinks.

From the Syngenta site:

it takes less than a second to add two people to the world population. In the same second, farmland available to feed our growing population is shrinking by an area about the size of a soccer field.

For Blog Action Day 2011, I thought I’d look at 5 big companies who work with crops (seeds, fertilisers, nutrients and protection), to see the techniques they use to communicate their interest in this vital topic – and to see if these are tactics you could use for a core topic related to your business.

These companies are:

  • Agrium – where the future is growing
  • Mosaic – helping the world grow the food it needs
  • Potash – helping nature provide
  • Syngenta – bringing plant potential to life
  • Yara – knowledge grows

Taglines and Mission Statements

While not all the phrases listed above are being used explicitly as taglines, they are used to describe the companies. I’ve also looked at the mission and vision statements, which should encapsulate the company’s essence in a few carefully chosen words.

  • The phrase associated with Mosaic is their mission statement, not a tagline, but it does clearly refer to food security:

    “helping the world grow the food it needs”

  • “We help provide food and biomass which can be used for renewable energy for a growing world population”.

    Food for a growing world population is at the centre of the food security question. (Yara)

  • “PotashCorp is a key player in meeting the growing challenge of feeding the world”.

    This establishes the need to feed the world as a big issue (which it is, obviously!) by using ‘growing challenge’; note the reference to the increasing scale of the problem.

  • Agrium’s vision is to “make an increasingly positive impact on stakeholders while helping to feed the world responsibly”. Again, we see a strong reference to feeding the world (though not to the population growth problem).
  • And Syngenta are “helping growers around the world to meet the challenge of the future: to grow more from less”.

    Like PotashCorp, there’s a clear reference to this as a difficult problem: but also a reference to the double-whammy of more people and less land for farming.

While these statements vary in the strength of reference to food security, all are relevant.

Home page real estate and navigation

Syngenta, Agrium and Yara all mention food security issues on their home pages, and link from the home page to more information.

  • Agrium offer a teaser link from their home page to their Malnutrition programme, and a reference to feeding a growing world is one of the features in their home page rotator. It’s interesting that there’s a mention of population growth here, but not in the vision statement; I wonder if they considered using ‘a growing world’.
  • Yara have a teaser link to their Food and Climate magazine: Feeding The Future from the home page, and one of the main stories in their rotator is about agricultural productivity and hunger. Food security is one of the sidebar links within the Sustainability section, leading to their own page on this topic – but there’s also a link to food security initiatives at FarmingFirst. Linking out to expert sites is a good way to demonstrate your own knowledge on the topic, as well as to provide useful information for the visitor.
  • Syngenta go the furthest: not only do they raise the question ‘What are we doing about food security?’ on the home page, but Grow More For Less is one of the tabs in the main navigation, as well as being the entire focus of the rotator, clearly highlighting the importance of this topic to the company.

Highlights and Features

As well as using the food security issue as part of their investment case, Potash provide a video of their CEO discussing food security issues. This is a good use of senior management to demonstrate the importance of the topic.

Agrium promote their messages about food security throughout the site, in two places:

  • a Facts section at the top of the page, which highlights food security in the supplier section and in the careers section (neatly integrating a CSR message to appeal to potential candidates)
  • and an Explore section in the right hand sidebar, which offers links to press releases about food security – notably in the corporate governance section

Mosaic reiterate their message about feeding the world, and the value of their global presence to this mission, across the site (in the leading paragraphs for the About, Products, Sustainability and Careers sections, for example) and they identify food security as one of the three key focus areas in their Community Investment page.

Yara identify food security as one of the ‘Shaping Issues’ that are of strategic importance, and which are key global issues. They also discuss global trends in a separate section, which include population growth and food demand.

And as mentioned above, Syngenta have an extensive section on food security, as well as a discussion of their involvement in Vison 2050 and the challenges of feeding over 9 billion people by 2050.

Takeaways

These 5 companies between them show that demonstrating the significance of a topic is done by:

  • linking to it in the main navigation – the higher level the better
  • devoting some prime home page real estate to it
  • engaging senior management to talk about it
  • adding dedicated pages
  • adding multimedia on the topic
  • explicitly saying that it is a key issue
  • integrating it with other sections, not just the obvious one
  • demonstrating authority by being a resource for further information
  • relating it to a variety of stakeholder interests.

What do you think: do these 5 corporate websites convince you that food security matters to them?

blog action day 2011 Lessons From Food Security: Telling Us What MattersThis post is part of Blog Action Day, which this year is discussing food.

Previous contributions to Blog Action Day were:
2010: Mixing Oil and Water
2009: Climate change and the corporate site
2008: Celebrating the FTSE 100: action on the breadline
2007: Enticing the green investor

 Lessons From Food Security: Telling Us What Matters
Lucy is Editor at Corporate Eye
 Lessons From Food Security: Telling Us What Matters

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