Valio Ltd’s Corporate Sustainability Report for 2015 has been published at www.valio.com. It documents Valio’s operations and their impact in Finland from the perspectives of economic, social and environmental effectiveness, and in terms of cattle welfare and product safety. Valio was voted this year the most sustainable brand in Finland by Scandinavia’s largest brand study on sustainability. So what does sustainability mean in terms of food choices and in Valio’s operations?
A stakeholder survey conducted in 2015 indicated that Valio is expected to manage the milk production chain in a sustainable manner, which means securing product quality and safety, paying the financial result of operations to the dairy farmer entrepreneurs, using products of domestic origin, providing employment, delivering investment, and ensuring cattle well-being. Furthermore, the products are expected to be healthy, and Valio to engage in open dialogue in its communications.
This is how Valio responds to these expectations.
Livelihood for Finnish countryside
Valio Ltd is a company owned by Finnish dairy co-operatives and their members, dairy farmer entrepreneurs, and Valio’s returns are paid in full to the dairy farmers. The topic can be followed in social media under the hashtag #kokorahatuottajille. (hastag translated “all profits to farmers”)
Valio and its dairy farms invest 200–300 million euros per year and employ more than 25 000 people in Finland.
The share of domestic purchasing in Valio’s operations stood at 94% in 2015 (excluding machinery and equipment). More than 350 Finnish SMEs are able to operate profitably with Valio being their most important customer. Products sold under the Valio brand in Finland are always manufactured in Finland using Finnish raw milk. Over 1.5 billion euros was retained in Finland in 2015 stemming from Valio Group’s operations.
No antibiotic residue in raw milk, no hormones to boost production
Valio takes a sample of the raw milk at the dairy farm on every collection. The milk in the lorry’s tank is then tested before unloading to the dairy silo. In Finland, antibiotics are used only in the treatment of sick animals, not in prevention. The use of hormones that increase milk or meat yield is prohibited in Finland.
No rainforest destruction to feed Valio cows
Valio cows are fed turnip rape or rapeseed, as well as legumes, for protein rather than soy. Soy and corn are commonly used as protein feed for cows elsewhere in the world, and forest and rainforest are sometimes cleared for soy cultivation. Furthermore, Valio dairy farms are committed to not using genetically modified feed.
Systematically promoting cows’ well-being
Valio’s and its owner co-operatives’ experts support the dairy farms for example in the realisation of good conditions in the barns, in optimal feeding, and in animal health care. And the milk lorry drivers are trained to check barn conditions.
A healthy cow produces first class milk: 96.1% of the raw milk taken in by Valio was classified in the best quality category in 2015.
A product fault can be traced back to the farm
Raw milk is collected from farms every other day. Information on the farm-specific volume and temperature of the milk, and on the samples taken, is sent in real time from the milk lorry to Valio, the dairy co-operatives and the farm. If a product is faulty, the raw milk can be traced back to the farm from which it was collected.
Valio’s certified in-house control monitors production quality.
Attention to the environment
The environmental impacts of food production are generated in both primary production and product processing. Feed is grown for cows, and their intestines generate methane. Processing requires a good deal of thermal energy and water.
In its own manufacturing, Valio is committed to the efficient use of ingredients and energy, and favours packages that are re-usable, recyclable and renewable, or suited to energy fraction. Valio will no longer be using heavy fuel oil in heating in Finland by 2017. The share of renewable fuels in thermal energy production was 36% in 2015. Valio does not use palm oil in its consumer products.
Environmental impacts at Finnish dairy farms are reduced by the following factors:
- Soy is not used as protein feed for cows.
- The resource efficiency of milk production and processing is being continuously improved. The environmental impact per milk litre decreases as a result.
- In Finland, the same cow provides for the production of both milk and beef. This spreads the climate load over different food products.
- The forests and pastures owned by dairy farms act as carbon sinks for production (namely methane).
Reducing sugar and salt intake
Valio ensures that the products it manufactures are tasty and healthy, and that there are alternatives to meet many different dietary needs.
The goal is to halve the sugar content of Valio’s milk-based snack products, especially yoghurts, by 2020 – without compromising on taste. Already one-third of Valio’s milk-based snack products sold in Finland contain no added sugar or at least 30% less added sugar compared with ordinary snack products.
In 2015, Valio’s product range for the retail and Food Service sectors included more than 100 items bearing the Finnish Heart Symbol. In February 2016, Valio launched Valio Better™ rahkariini, its first spread to bear the symbol.
Valio ValSa® milk salt reduces salt intake from e.g. Valio cheese and spreads. ValSa® milk salt comprises milk’s natural minerals: potassium, iodine, magnesium and calcium, while delivering a sodium content that is reduced by nearly 80% compared with ordinary table salt. The new lower salt Valio Polar® 15 cheese and Oivariini® butter blend are being launched in May.
Valio talks to consumers
Valio Consumer Services responded to some 28 300 queries in 2015 and Valio reaches hundreds of thousands of Finns weekly on Facebook.
Valio launched a new online version of its Maito ja Me magazine in 2015 as a professional service for the owner entrepreneurs. The day-to-day life of dairy farmer entrepreneurs is presented on the Valiomaitoa page.