Meiji Holdings (Meiji) was established in 2009, following the merger of Meiji Seika Kaisha and Meiji Dairies. Today, it has business activities in food and pharmaceuticals. In food, Meiji holds leading domestic market positions in milk, cheese, yoghurt, chocolate and powdered protein products, serving customers in Japan via 36 domestic group companies. Meiji also operates 29 overseas companies across the United States, Europe and Asia.
Meiji ranks 7th in animal proteins, 17th in agricultural products and commodities, and 41st in food and beverage manufacturers and processors. The company is most active in the last two segments. Meiji performs well, relative to its peers, in nutrition (ranking in the top 10 in both animal proteins and agricultural products and commodities), as it discloses evidence across all topics. Moreover, while Meiji performs relatively well in environment, it could improve its ranking against peers in food and beverage processors by disclosing more information on its approach to animal welfare and protein diversification. Furthermore, in social, the company is currently lagging against its peers in all three segments due to a lack of disclosure on its approach to tackling child and forced labour and the health and safety of vulnerable groups in its supply chain, areas its higher ranking peers have already begun to address in their reporting.
Sustainable development strategy
Meiji discloses objectives covering sustainability topics that align with the three measurement areas under assessment in the benchmark (environment, nutrition and social inclusion). This includes disclosing its process for identifying and prioritising its most relevant sustainability topics through a materiality process. Moreover, the company has set targets for its most relevant sustainability topics and reports progress against them. The company shares its process for value creation with a loop from social issues identified, input to business model and the output for relevant stakeholders.
Scope 3 greenhouse gas emissions
Meiji demonstrates leadership in reducing scope 3 GHG emissions. It discloses a target to become carbon neutral by 2050, eliminating all GHG emissions throughout its supply chain, with an interim goal to reduce emissions by at least 40% by 2030 compared to 2015. In addition, the company reports progress against these targets and discloses comprehensive segments of its scope 3 emissions in its reporting.
Plastic use and packaging waste Meiji has a time-bound target to reduce plastic use and provides evidence of transitioning to more sustainable forms of packaging. The company states that it is committed to reducing plastic usage by 25% (compared to a 2017 baseline) by 2030 through design changes to plastic packaging, as well as through the use of alternative materials. The company reports progress against this target. Nonetheless, the company is yet to share the evidence that it has achieved 100% sustainable packaging across its operations.
Governance and accountability for sustainable development
Meiji has a Sustainability Committee that is responsible for the implementation of the company’s sustainable development strategy. This includes members of its highest governance body, among them the chief sustainability officer, who are accountable for and have oversight of the sustainability strategy. While the company states it links remuneration to ‘sustainability’ performance, it could improve by disclosing how this links directly to the measurement areas of the benchmark.
While Meiji discloses some details of stakeholder engagement, this only covers one group (employees). The company does not disclose stakeholder engagement activities, including how it selects the stakeholders, nor an overview of the topics discussed or their outcomes.
Protection of terrestrial natural ecosystems
Meiji uses soya beans, palm oil and cocoa in its products. The company has targets to achieve 100% sustainable sourcing of palm oil (by 2023 ) and cocoa (by 2026). It also reports the current percentage of palm oil sourced which is deforestation-free. However, the company could improve by setting target for soya and reporting progress against the targets for cocoa as well as disclose the sourcing regions for it relevant commodities.
The company has a time-bound target to reduce water withdrawals across its operations and reports progress against the target. However, there remains an opportunity for the company to disclose examples of how it engages with its suppliers to reduce water withdrawals and disclose engagement with suppliers on the management of water-stressed areas.
While Meiji discloses examples of soy-based proteins, such as its sport nutrition range SAVAS, it does not disclose efforts that it is transitioning away from animal-based protein towards alternative meat or dairy products, such as plant-based or cell-based options.
Availability of healthy foods
Meiji has a commitment to support the production of healthy and nutritious foods. It also provides qualitative evidence of activities to improve the nutritional quality of products by reducing salt, sugar, fat and calories. However, the company could improve by sharing quantitative evidence of these activities and setting a target for the percentage of healthy products in its portfolio and reporting progress against it.
Clear and transparent labelling
Meiji has a commitment to comply with national regulations regarding labelling. Moreover, it commits to making nutritional information available to consumers by providing both back-of-pack (BOP) and front-of-pack (FOP) labelling. However, it could further improve by disclosing the percentage of products for which BOP or FOP have been rolled out.
Meiji discloses compliance with national regulations on food safety, including the Codex General Principles of Food Hygiene. Moreover, the company discloses that 87% of domestic plants and 88% of its global plants are certified to a Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) certification. While the company has stated that it aims to achieve 100% certification for its domestic plants by March 2021, and for overseas plants by March 2022, the company has yet to report it has achieved this within the time frame of the benchmark. Going forward, the company also has an opportunity to report on the percentage of suppliers who are GFSI certified.
While the company commits to prohibiting child labour in its own operations and requires its suppliers to adhere to the same standard, it has an opportunity to disclose a policy requiring its suppliers to have an age-verification system in place.
While Meiji commits to prohibiting forced labour in its own operations and supply chain, it has an opportunity to disclose a requirement that prohibits its suppliers from retaining workers’ personal documents and restricting workers’ freedom of movement.
Farmer and fisher productivity and resilience
Meiji provides evidence of activities such as programmes and trainings that support farmers and small-scale producers. For example, the company visits cultivation sites and speaks directly with cocoa farmers to understand their local needs. Moreover, it also conducts seminars on cultivation technology and insect-pest control and supply seedlings to increase yield. However, the company could further improve by measuring the outcomes and impact of a proportion of its support activities regarding the groups it has identified.
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.
Meiji publicly commits to respecting both human rights and the rights of workers in its own operations and supply chain. It also provides public disclosure on the processes in place for identifying human rights risks and impacts. Moreover, the company provides some disclosure on how it engages with potentially affected stakeholders. However, it could improve its performance in this area by disclosing at least two examples of when this has occurred. Finally, there is insufficient public disclosure on other human rights-related indicators, including grievance mechanisms for workers and external parties and public information on its process for assessing its human rights risks and what it considers to be its salient human rights issues.
While Meiji discloses public information regarding health and safety fundamentals, it could improve its performance by disclosing how it monitors the health and safety performance of its suppliers. Similarly, the company provides public disclosure on workforce diversity and gender equality but could improve its score by increasing its level of disclosure on key metrics in these areas. Lastly, there is a lack of sufficient public information regarding commitments to paying a living wage, regulating working hours and collective bargaining fundamentals.
Meiji discloses information on most indicators relating to acting ethically as a business, including a publicly available data protection policy which covers key metrics in this area. While the company discloses some information on responsible tax and bribery and corruption issues, it could improve its performance by increasing the level of disclosure in these areas. This includes the amount of corporate income tax paid for each tax jurisdiction where the company is a resident for tax purposes or more detailed information on whether complainants can report bribery and corruption concerns without fear of reprisals. Lastly, insufficient information was found regarding responsible lobbying practices.