Valio is the most sustainable brand in Finland for the sixth consecutive year, if you ask consumers. The 2019 Sustainable Brand Index survey measured the sustainability of European and Finnish brands.
According to the consumers participating in the survey, the best things about Valio are its Finnish milk, its attention to animal welfare, and its environmentally friendly packaging. Finns also see Valio as a good performer in terms of reducing climate impacts.
“The IPPC climate report published in autumn 2018 brought an unprecedented intensity to the discussion around the environmental impacts of food production. At Valio, we take the climate change challenge seriously and we want to be part of the solution. Last year we set a big target: we are aiming for a carbon-neutral milk chain by 2035,” says CEO Annikka Hurme.
One concrete action on the way towards a carbon-neutral milk chain is plant-based packaging. All of Valio’s gable-top milk, buttermilk, cream and yogurt cartons sold in Finland are made from 100 percent plant-based, renewable material.
“It’s great to see that environmentally friendly packaging is important to Finns. The climate impact of plant-based packaging is 58 percent less compared to traditional cartons. The annual climate impact is equivalent to driving a car more than 10,000 times from Helsinki to Kittilä, Lapland and back,” Hurme continues.
The survey results also indicate that animal welfare and the Finnish origin of milk were important to Finns. About 5,000 Finnish milk producers own Valio through co-operatives.
“We pay all the profit from our operations to the dairy farms in the price of milk. When you choose Valio’s cheese or yogurt in the store, you can be sure that the money is going to the producer, i.e. the owners of Valio. And we can also thank them for the fact that Finnish milk is the world’s purest and the animals are the world’s healthiest. For example, antibiotics are never given to the animals without reason. A year ago we started paying a responsibility bonus to the farms that commit more to animal welfare than required by law. About 93 per cent of all the milk already comes from these farms.
Sustainability is long-term work and there are also challenges associated with it. A couple of weeks ago the NGO Finnwatch published a report in which it investigated the rights of employees in Thai plants supplying pineapple and thickeners to Valio. The grievances that were discovered had not been revealed in plant audits.
“We need more know-how in managing human rights risks in so-called risk countries. This year we will conduct a human rights assessment of our supply chain. We will also define in more detail our own practices to ensure responsibility. It’s great that civic organizations are spurring and helping companies in sustainability efforts.”
In Asia, Valio has its own production facility in China and are found in most markets as an imported brand.
How the Sustainable Brand Index study was conducted
Sustainable Brand Index is Europe’s biggest brand sustainability study, and it has been conducted annually since 2011.
“The goal of the study is to spread and increase information about sustainability. A significant dairy industry player is expected to take responsibility for the impacts of its operations. Valio is perceived as taking care of that in an exemplary manner,” says Erik Elvingsson Hedén, founder of the Sustainable Brand Index.
The 2019 study surveyed a total of about 50,000 people: 10,300 from Finland, 7,400 from Denmark, 18,600 from Sweden, 7,700 from Norway, and 6,000 from the Netherlands. The target group of the survey was 16−70 year olds in each country. The sample represents the demographics of each country. The surveys were conducted in January-March 2019.