Q&A with Bryce Camm, Chair of the Sustainability Steering Group

The Australian Beef Sustainability report has just been launched at Beef Australia, in your opinion what from the report will have the biggest impact on our industry in 2018?

The thing that I am most excited about is how industry will be able to use the framework over the next year in discussions with government, investors, customers and other stakeholders. It provides necessary context to demonstrate a proactive approach to how we, as an industry, manage issues that customers and other stakeholders are interested in.

How did you come to decide on the 6 priority areas for The Framework, and why should these be a key industry focus?  

The framework has 23 priority areas across the four themes of economic resilience, people & the community, animal welfare and environment.

Six key priority areas were chosen to focus industry activities in order to drive continuous improvement across the value chain. The external Consultative Committee (made up of retailers, banks, government, special interest groups and industry) proposed five of the six key priority areas.

The industry Sustainability Steering Group endorsed all of these recommendations and added in a sixth – Health and safety of people in the industry, in recognition of the importance of ensuring our people are safe and happy.

What progress do you think has been made in Australian beef sustainability since inception of the report last year?

Over the last year, one key success that is identified in the framework is the availability of pain relief for husbandry practices. This is the number one issue that the Consultative Committee identified for industry focus, so it is great to be able to report on progress with commercial availability and producers starting to use it in their operations.  We are keen to look at the productivity benefits of pain relief to encourage more producers to use it over the next year.

The announcement on pursuing carbon neutrality was also a big landmark for the industry and has been really well received by customers, investors and other stakeholders.

You have stated that The Framework success for you, looks like engagement by the industry and wider community. Are you seeing this happening at this stage, and how do you think the conversations may change or increase over the next year?

Most definitely. While I was not involved in the consultation to develop the framework I have chaired the first two Consultative Committee meetings with retailers, banks, academics, investors, special interest groups and industry groups and I can honestly say that they are very productive outcomes discussions.

As a Sustainability Steering Group we look at where we can work constructively with groups. We know we will not agree on everything with certain groups, but I have seen first-hand the benefit of engaging in an open and transparent way in the areas where we can find mutual ground.

Fellow member of the Sustainability Steering Group, Greg Campbell, has stated that we should be thinking about a ‘1000 year future’ in order to create true beef sustainability. What are your thoughts on this?  

Long-term thinking is essential in sustainability. It is critical to always consider the interrelationships between issues and courses of actions in the short, medium and long term.  1000 years is certainly a long time, but as much as possible we should attempt to think through the consequences for many generations to come.

You welcomed the news from MLA’s Richard Norton that the industry could be carbon neutral by 2030. Do you think The Framework report indicates we’re tracking towards this? What further measures do you think the Australian beef industry, from paddock to plate can be taking to work towards this goal?

The framework has reported on emissions from two perspectives.  From our own Life Cycle Assessment studies, we show a reduction in emissions intensity by 14% over 30 years between 1981 and 2011.  Based on the Australian federal governments National Inventory Accounts we have also reduced emissions between the 2005 baseline year and 2015 from 20% to 13%.  This has been done alongside a relentless focus on improving productivity.

There are so many opportunities right along the supply chain to reduce emissions at the same time as improving productivity. MLA, as our service company, is developing the strategy for industry consideration and we look forward to seeing that.

For producers looking to be rewarded for reducing emissions there are numerous methodologies under the Emissions Reduction Fund.  One of the methodologies is Beef Cattle Herd Management, where if you can feed and water cattle more efficiently, make young cattle gain weight faster, and cull unproductive animals sooner, the government reward you for your efforts.  It is these opportunities the Sustainability Steering Group are keen to pursue for industry.

For further information 

The full Annual Update  2018 can be found here.