Exploring the Link Between Food Safety Culture and Brand Resilience

So your product is compliant. But does that mean you actually have a culture of food safety? 

It's one thing to be able to say you've passed your audits and that your products and services are compliant. It's another thing to be confident that if an incident arose, your brand would be resilient enough to weather the storm.

Brands today need to be proactive in building customer trust, which is the best protection against the short- and long-term harm a food incident can cause to an organization. Social media and the 24/7 news cycle make it harder than ever to 'control the narrative' in the event of a crisis. So, your brand reputation may be your only protection against fast-spreading news and opinion – only some of which will be accurate or fair.

Management matters

Food businesses need to manage their suppliers, their production and their delivery to end-users.

Auditing and certifying your supply chain is vital. Being able to state your products are organic, slavery-free, fair trade or certified for some other label builds customer trust and places your business in a broader context of responsible action.

Similarly, being able to assert your production and manufacturing's successful audit results publicly and certifications demonstrates your commitment to ethical and safe business practices.

Finally, providing clear and appropriate end-user instructions (for storage, display and preparation) 'closes the circle' and positions your organisation as one that cares about its products and services throughout their entire life-cycle.

But culture is key

Critically, brand resilience is about more than compliance and the good publicity and good reputation it brings. It's about your culture. It's critical that your entire company, from senior leaders to mid-managers to process workers, embraces and risk-aware food safety culture.

The best systems are only as good as the people using them, after all. The board, C-suite and other senior managers must display clear leadership, modelling the attitudes and behaviours they want to see throughout the organization and its suppliers.

Critically, compliance must be more than a 'tick box' exercise. With the right culture, it will be a concrete demonstration of the company's commitment to ethical practices, high standards and quality first to last.

Being response savvy …

Even the best-prepared, most vigilant organizations can suffer a crisis, and that's where the effort invested in proper management and a proactive culture pays off. Communicating your company's crisis plans quickly, honestly and clearly will allay public concerns and can even increase trust in your brand over the long term.

Such communications include publicly acknowledging any mistakes or shortcomings and committing to improvement. Typically, the cover-up is worse than the crime: the public will forgive a company for making a mistake or having a crisis, but not for attempting to lie or deceive them about its impact or severity.

Thus, efforts to go beyond the bare minimum needed for compliance will repay your business in brand loyalty and brand resilience and will help guarantee its long-term sustainability. 

To learn more about how SAI Global Assurance can help you with your food safety strategy, view our Food Safety page, or contact us here.

About the Author

Maidie Wood

Maidie Wood is global head of food marketing at SAI Global Assurance. Her expertise is in the traceability of global food supply chains, regulatory compliance and demand trends across all sectors of the food and beverage industry. She recently led the 26th APAC Food Safety conference. Areas of particular concern to her are environmental sustainability, Aboriginal rights and issues, the eradication of modern slavery and protection of native animals.

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