Sealed Air organized a Risk Management Summit in Amsterdam to share with our customers the most innovative initiatives on business risk management. More than 200 senior business leaders of world-class standing – blue-chip organizations in Building Care, Retail, Lodging and Food & Beverage industries – attended this Summit.

The findings were amazing. In an age when confidence in our Food Safety and Labor Safety policies is higher than ever, still the chance of acquiring a hospital acquired infection (HAI) in developed countries is 30% and considerably higher in the Third World; still 0.1% of salmonella cases result in death; and still the threat posed by pandemics is on a more global scale than at any other moment in human history. And in this modern age 1 in 5 food safety businesses do not treat infection control as a business risk.

 For these reasons, Diversey’s initiative in convening the Summit was timely, as acknowledged by all participants.

The attendees, drawn from 18 different countries, heard world-class presentations from global leaders including ISS, Metro, Coca Cola, Compass Group, AutoGrill and McDonalds.  Lively and fiercely debated panel sessions added different and often conflicting perspectives on a diverse and topical range of food safety and labor safety challenges in the workplace.

Divergence of opinion among global players on the most pressing Food Safety and Labor Safety challenges

Welcoming the increased attention that the Summit and other initiatives were putting on Risk Management, it was noteworthy that speakers at the event held markedly different views on what the key issues in food safety and labor safety were, and how these challenges should be tackled. The results of our live polling of delegates at key moments during the Summit confirmed the divergence of opinion on the major threats, and the optimum strategies to mitigate or eliminate these risks.

Specifically with regard to food safety, when asked what was the single biggest challenge for the food distribution chain, three different answers came to prominence. A majority of 56% named the complexity of differing regulations across borders and jurisdictions, a vocal 13% were strongly critical of the sheer cost of implementing food safety measures, while for 31% the critical issue was ensuring collaboration between all parties in the value chain from farm to fork.

When polled on what was the biggest opportunity for food safety compliance, attendees recognized technology as the greatest enabler (40%), while common regulations (34%) and common sourcing (26%) were also popular choices.

Most staggeringly of all, in a separate question, almost 19% of attendees admitted that they did not consider infection control as a food safety risk or a threat to their businesses – and therefore were not focusing on this.

This lack of foresight and preparedness is shocking in the modern age. At Sealed Air we create solutions that protect and enhance the food and beverage supply chain, ensuring that products are processed, sold and prepared in a safe and efficient environment. We are also actively engaged in improving productivity, efficiency, and consistent brand experience while reducing our customers’ risks by integrating cleaning and hygiene solutions, food packaging and food safety knowledge. By protecting what is important we see the daily benefits that having the correct people, processes and safety products in place brings throughout the food service industry.  Given the role that risk management must play in business strategy it is absolutely inexplicable that there is any business in operation that is not making this a major focus and ensuring that their systems are as risk-free as humanly possible.

Labor Safety and The Virtuous Circle of Efficiency and Safety

When it came to the Summit’s second principal theme, lively debate revealed that consensus was also difficult to find between both speakers and attendees.

When asked what was the biggest challenge faced in regard to labor safety, surprisingly only 33% of attendees said that reducing injuries was the biggest challenge – trailing behind 52% who voted for increased employee engagement.

When asked about the primary result of improved labor safety, 53% responded that it was improving the consistency of customer service, ahead of the other popular answers of optimizing operational productivity and reducing employee downtime.

We will continue to follow this important topic as we expand this debate of critical importance across sectors, offering tremendous opportunity for our customers to improve their risk coverage or decrease the risk associated with the goods and services they provide.

Thanks to everyone who made the event possible, especially the outstanding speakers who shared their insights and business experience with the audience.