How the food industry can survive and prosper in today’s world – part 1


Long-term prosperity in business is rare and decreasing. Not least in the food sector where organizations must continually ensure that they adapt to industry trends, and anticipate the ever-changing needs and expectations of consumers to remain successful. Moreover, with 24 hour news competing with entertainment, socially networked consumers are increasingly discerning and well informed. Savvy food business operators recognize the importance of supply chain transparency and traceability, not only to support product claims but to communicate social responsibility, environmental sustainability initiatives and robust ethical practices in order to succeed. The rise of ‘healthy’, organics, convenience foods, anti-sugar campaigning, consumer concerns about antibiotics, gene edited crops, in addition to a sector talent and skills shortage, present just a few of the challenges confronting today’s food industry.


Food businesses must become ‘resilient’ to ensure lasting success. But what does this really mean in practice?


There have been numerous management papers on how and why food companies should embrace resilience in order to protect themselves from growing business threats.  However, ‘Organizational Resilience’ is based upon a much broader view of resilience as a value driver for organizations, enabling them to perform robustly over the long term. 


Our own recently published Standard BS 65000, defines Organizational Resilience as “the ability of an organization to anticipate, prepare for, respond and adapt to incremental change and sudden disruptions in order to survive and prosper”. Here, the words “organization” and “prosper” really matter. Organizational Resilience reaches beyond survival, towards a more holistic view of business health and success. A resilient organization is Darwinian, in the sense that it adapts to a changing environment in order to remain fit for purpose.


BSI regards Organizational Resilience as a strategic imperative for all food companies, both large and small.


Strategic enabler

While there is always the important element of risk management in Organizational Resilience, it should be equally focused on business improvement. Organizational Resilience is therefore not a defensive strategy, but a positive, forward-looking ‘strategic enabler’, which allows food business leaders to take measured risks with confidence. Robust, resilient organizations are flexible and proactive – seeing,  anticipating, creating and taking advantage of new opportunities in order, ultimately, to pass the test of time.


By demonstrating the resilience of their organization – through certification and compliance to recognized standards, for example – food business leaders are also showing that it is reliable, trustworthy and a company that others would want to do business with. In this way, Organizational Resilience underpins enviable brand values and priceless reputational benefits.


Mastering change

Mastering Organizational Resilience requires the adoption of excellent habits to deliver business improvement by embedding competence and capability throughout the food business and down the supply chain: from products and services to people and processes; and from vision and values to culture and behaviours.  


Organizational Resilience requires commitment from the whole company. It is founded on the values, behaviours, culture and ethos of an organization. It is the leaders of an organization who drive these ‘soft’ factors. However, to make a difference, it requires top-down direction and bottom-up engagement, through clear communication and a willing embrace from all employees.


Learning from experience

The writer and philosopher Aldous Huxley observed, “Experience is not what happens to a man; it is what a man does with what happens to him.” Similarly, resilience is not what happens to an organization, it is what the organization does with what happens to it.


The most resilient food businesses from ‘farm to fork’ are eager to learn from their own and others’ experiences to minimize problems and grasp opportunities. Peer-to-peer networking and knowledge sharing are vital, for example, when they seek to invest in new areas, introduce innovative products and processes or penetrate new and unfamiliar markets.



Howard Kerr, former Chief Executive, BSI