The report from UK think tank MATTER examines how to build public confidence in innovative technologies – including those used in the food and drink industry – in order to enable sustainable food production.
The research report states that the public appear to have a significant amount of confidence in the products of innovation but highlights that they – in common with others such as investors, NGOs and retailers – want to see more transparency from the companies producing innovative products to reassure them on safety and effectiveness.
According to the think tank: “The responsible development and use of new technologies in food, such as nanotechnology, synthetic biology, new biotechnology and genomics applications is the new corporate social responsibility (CSR) frontier.”
Victoria Cross, a member of the MATTER think tank and partner at College Hill communications consultancy, told FoodNavigator.com that the report highlights the need for food producers to break down both internal and external boundaries in order to better share information and ideas.
“The main message is to put across the importance for companies to break out of silos when they think about innovation,” said Cross. “It isn’t just the case of scientists in their lab coming up with an exciting new food technology – it’s about engaging with both internal and external stakeholders throughout the process.”
“It might sound like common sense, but to engage effectively you need communicate about what you are doing both within the company and externally, but then you need to also listen to the information that is coming back in to you,” said Cross.
The communications expert explained that companies – and research departments in particular – need to respond to concerns or to views from other stakeholders – “because whether they are founded in science or not, they are still valid concerns that need to be addressed," and if listened to they may lead to "more effective innovation as a result."
“It’s quite easy to go quite far down the path of innovation within a company without considering those external perspectives,” said Cross.
Breaking down responsibility
The report, titled ‘What’s fair to ask? What’s fair to share?’ (found here) also includes guidance on how different departments of companies can respond to expectations around transparency in order to help build greater confidence.
“It’s quite straightforward, but it’s been welcomed by industry as a tool that they can take to their departments to persuade them that they really need to talk to each other in order to innovate in a more joined up way,” said Cross.
She said the report is the first to break down the different audiences and departments, and to outline how different areas can begin to break down barriers and integrate within businesses.
“Together you can co-create. By listening to inputs of others and addressing concerns externally and internally, you can create and innovate effectively.”