Kerry Group is one of Ireland’s largest food companies, operating through two main business segments. The taste and nutrition segment makes up most of the group’s revenue and focuses on ingredient solutions for food, beverage and pharmaceutical markets. The company also processes and manufactures products for the retail market in Ireland and the United Kingdom. It operates 151 manufacturing locations across 32 countries, with sales of its 18,000-item product portfolio occurring in more than 150 countries worldwide.
Kerry Group ranks third in agricultural products and commodities and 13th in the food and beverage manufacturers/processors segments, as the company discloses information across most indicators. Kerry Group is a leader in both segments when it comes to disclosure on its governance and strategy, with high disclosure across all three indicators, particularly stakeholder engagement. Moreover, the company is in the top grouping of companies in both segments regarding social issues, though could improve further by disclosing monitoring systems for relevant topics. Kerry Group is also one of the few to report on every topic in the environment measurement area. However, it is lagging against its peers due to a lack of time bound targets, presenting an opportunity to improve further. Similarly, Kerry Group could increase its disclosure on nutrition, such as providing more evidence of programmes or time-bound targets that address the availability, affordability and accessibility of healthy foods.
Kerry Group discloses that it undertakes stakeholder engagement activities and provides an overview of the issues raised per stakeholder group via these activities as well as the means of engaging each stakeholder group. Furthermore, Kerry Group discloses its process for integrating the outcomes of its stakeholder engagement activities into its wider sustainability strategy and the outcomes of this approach. The topics raised by stakeholders, and addressed by Kerry Group, align with the benchmark’s three measurement areas of environment, nutrition and social inclusion.
Governance and accountability
Kerry Group discloses that the Governance, Nomination and Sustainability Committee, which sits within the highest governance body, is responsible and accountable for implementation of the company’s sustainable development strategy. Moreover, Kerry Group discloses its highest governance body’s remuneration policy regarding sustainability on nutritional and environmental topics. However, it is not clear if the remuneration policy also covers social topics, offering an opportunity for the company to provide greater disclosure in the future.
Sustainable development strategy
Kerry Group discloses a sustainability strategy, Beyond the Horizon, which addresses topics across the three dimensions under assessment in the benchmark. This includes a materiality matrix, which outlines how the company identified and prioritised the relevant sustainability topics to its business. Moreover, the strategy includes objectives and targets related to environmental, nutritional and social topics, against which the company reports progress on an annual basis. There is an opportunity for the company to increase the number of topics it reports against and extend its reporting to cover its entire value chain.
Protection of terrestrial natural ecosystems
Kerry Group provides qualitative evidence of efforts to achieve deforestation and conversion-free (DCF) supply chains for all of its relevant high-risk commodities: soya, palm oil, cocoa and coffee. Furthermore, the company has set a no-deforestation target across its supply chains by 2025. However, Kerry Group does not disclose the proportion of commodities which are currently deforestation-free, and does not report progress towards this target, across all of it relevant commodities, presenting an opportunity for the company going forward.
Soil health and agrobiodiversity While the company provides qualitative evidence through its Kerry Agribusiness division of practices to improve soil health and agrobiodiversity, it has an opportunity to strengthen its commitments and reporting on these material issues. This could include requiring suppliers to adopt sustainable practices that improve soil health and increase agrobiodiversity through responsible sourcing policies across all its agricultural commodities. Furthermore, the company can set targets to increase the percentage of food sourced from sustainable practices that improve soil health and agrobiodiversity, and report progress against the targets.
Plastic use and packaging waste
Kerry Group discloses qualitative evidence of efforts to reduce plastic use and transition to more sustainable forms of packaging. Moreover, the company has a time-bound target to reduce the use of virgin plastic by 25% and make all plastic packaging re-useable, recyclable or compostable by 2025. However, Kerry Group does not currently report progress against this target, presenting an opportunity for the company for future reporting.
Availability, accessibility and affordability of healthy foods While Kerry Group commits to addressing food insecurity and provides qualitative examples of salt and sugar reduction, the company does not disclose sufficient quantitative evidence of overall sugar, salt or calorie reduction. Similarly, there is a lack of specific disclosure on commercial activities designed to make healthy foods more accessible and affordable for vulnerable groups, presenting an opportunity for the company to increase its disclosure on this topic.
Clear and transparent labelling
Kerry Group has a commitment to comply with national regulations regarding labelling and to provide nutrition information on key relevant nutrients and portion-or serving-based information through back-of-pack (BOP) labelling. It also has a commitment to make this nutritional information available to consumers in a clear, intuitive and accurate way through front-of-pack (FOP) labelling. However, there is insufficient evidence in the public domain that the company discloses the percentage of products for which labelling commitments (FOP and BOP) have been rolled out. This offers an opportunity for the company going forward.
Kerry Group provides evidence that 100% of its own operations are certified to a food safety scheme recognised by the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) and discloses compliance with relevant food hygiene systems and guidelines. However, the company does not disclose the percentage of food suppliers certified to a GFSI-recognised food safety scheme or other widely accepted industry certification programmes.
Child labour Kerry Group prohibits child labour in both its own operations and supply chain. However, there remains an opportunity for the company to improve on this topic by confirming that it requires its supply chain partners to verify the age of job applicants. Moreover, while the company is part of the Sedex platform for monitoring its supply chain for child labour, this does not currently cover the entire supply chain, presenting an opportunity for the company to increase its level of disclosure in this area.
Kerry Group prohibits forced labour in both its own operations and supply chain. Moreover, the company commits to respecting workers’ rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining and does not interfere with workers seeking to exercise these rights, codifying this in its Supplier Code of Conduct as well. However, it is unclear whether the company has a commitment not to retain workers’ personal documents, in its own operations or supply chain, offering an opportunity for increased disclosure in this area.
Kerry Group has a commitment to recognise and respect legitimate tenure rights related to the ownership and use of land and land rights of traditional and indigenous communities. This commitment is also extended to its suppliers. Moreover, Kerry Group discloses a grievance mechanism that is accessible to external parties, and it requires its suppliers to adhere to a similar standard through its supplier code of conduct. Nonetheless, there is an opportunity for the company to improve further, by describing its process for providing prompt and adequate remediation, that includes access to justice when legitimate rights holders are affected in its public disclosure.
Core social indicators
The core social indicators are part of the social inclusion measurement area. These indicators assess societal expectations of business conduct that companies should meet if they aspire to be part of a system transformation that leaves no one behind.
Kerry Group addresses all major topics relevant to respecting human rights through publicly available policies and commitments. This includes evidence of a comprehensive human rights due diligence process. This encompasses the identification and assessment of salient human rights risks in its operations and supply chain and a grievance mechanism that is accessible to both workers and external parties. To improve its score further, the company could increase the level of disclosure on how it engages with affected, and potentially affected, stakeholders through publicly available information on its mechanisms and channels in this area.
Kerry Group addresses health and safety issues and gender equality in the public domain. However, it could improve its performance by increasing the level of disclosure on key metrics in these areas, by reporting the number and main types of work-related injuries or by providing a public commitment to gender equality and women’s empowerment. Moreover, public disclosure is missing on most other decent work practices, including regulating working hours and collective bargaining fundamentals, offering opportunities for the company to improve its performance by increasing its level of disclosure in these areas.
Kerry Group discloses information on all topics concerning ethical business conduct. This includes addressing key issues regarding bribery and corruption, including a publicly accessible channel for employees and external parties to report concerns and publicly available statements underlining that the company does not tolerate bribery or corruption in any form. While the company publicly comments on responsible tax practices, lobbying and personal data protection issues, it can improve its performance by increasing its disclosure on these topics, including on the key metrics under assessment in these areas.