The International Dairy Forum Association (IDFA), Florida


The annual forum, hosted in sunny Florida, brings together more than 1,000 dairy leaders to connect with other industry leaders, advance their knowledge and discover new perspectives on issues that are important to our industry.

The forum was filled to the brim with thought leaders, renowned experts, industry leaders, and many of our strategic customers who shared their insights and perspectives on a wide variety of relevant topics to advance dairy’s growth in the US in the years ahead.

Charlotte Rutherford, Director of Sustainability at Fonterra, attended the event and spoke on a panel discussing how global ESG trends impact leadership decisions, and showcased Fonterra's work to become more sustainable.

(L-R): Danielle Quist (IDFA moderator), Bernie Baskin (Walmart), Charlotte Rutherford (Fonterra), Michael Rinaldi (Rabobank), Paul Snyder (Tillamook County Creamery Association)

Joining Charlotte on the panel was Bernie Baskin (Walmart Director ESG), Michael Rinaldi (Rabobank Sustainable Business Development) and Paul Snyder (Tillamook Executive VP of Stewardship).

We also caught up with Charlotte to find out her top five takeaways from the forum.

Customers are demanding change, now.
Sustainability was top of mind for every customer I spoke to – Nestlé, MARS, Abbott, Premier – they’re all laser focused on sustainability in their products and supply chain. Consumers are demanding change, quickly, with the main issue being carbon reductions. We should be prepared for these demands to continue to grow, and in turn we need to adapt to maintain and protect our value. For these customers sustainability is no longer a nice to have or value add, it’s a must have if we want to continue working together in the future.

The US dairy industry is big, bold, and growing
Ever the optimists, representatives from the US were extremely confident about the adaptability and future of their industry. They claim their industry is the most sustainable and believe offsetting is the solution to on-farm emissions, strongly promoting it. They believe this, along with the supply, and the ability to grow, means they will meet the sustainability expectations of customers and consumers. That doesn’t mean they don’t have challenges – carbon measurement and reporting, access to water in some states, and of course individual state laws to contend with, to name a few. With our low carbon dairying, we have an advantage. The US, amongst others, is hot on our heels and this is ours to lose.

Regenerative Agriculture, flavour of the month?
Two words, one big promise. Whilst the concept of regenerative agriculture is popular with consumers and customers (and is often referred to in supply chains), it remains relatively undefined. The good news? We have a very real opportunity to lead and deliver in this space. Our pastoral based system is compatible with most regenerative principles and ideas, and, because of our existing reputation, it’s likely to be viewed more favourably by consumers.

The Carbon Accountability puzzle
Measuring our progress as an industry has never been more important. And when it comes to the complexities of measuring carbon reduction targets, consistency is key. We have world-leading experts in this space to ensure Fonterra’s method for pastoral farming is fairly and transparently represented in any global system. However, the difference in geographic farming systems means some methods could disguise other companies’ true footprints. These reporting protocols will shortly be reviewed, and we will be working hard to ensure transparency to retain our leading position.

Pace, Pace, Pace
The global sustainability space is moving incredibly quickly, and we must continue to accelerate our work. For Fonterra, this is an opportunity. We are in a prime position to claim the leading position for most sustainability issues in the industry. Key to this will be partnering with our customers to set achievable roadmaps that represent our farmers current practices, achieving a pace of change appropriate to our unique farming system.