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Look at the facts or please the consumers?

Increasing the sustainability of food production is becoming a priority in all main food
companies. The planet is sick: movements of young people all around the world show that it
is time to change the way we use our limited natural resources. Consumers want to see
action in this direction, also in the food products they buy. So, the marketing division of your
company asked you to scout for new ingredients that can fulfil this desire.

Consequently you worked hard for six months to come up with several alternatives,
including the use of ancient grains to replace common wheat and corn, introduce locally
grown fruit varieties to replace exotic fruits and incorporate dietary fibre derived from by-
products of current food production streams. During a discussion about your project with
your line manager, it became clear that the reformulation using the ingredients you
proposed is technically feasible. It will surely improve the sustainability image of the
company! She congratulated you and few months later you got a promotion and a nice
increase of your salary.

The first range of products modified according to your suggestions is now on the market.
Sales are going well and the company uses this case to execute a large green washing of its
brand. However, there is a problem: the production costs of the reformulated products are
higher than before. The company does not want to increase the price market of its products
and therefore decided to shrink the work force by 205 employees. Many of your colleagues
will now be losing their job because of your smart reformulation…

Moreover, the increased demand for some specific grains and fruits, which were not
available in large amounts, is creating changes in the regional farming system. You decide to
dive once more into the sustainability of the product, especially looking into the potential
consequences of the altered agricultural practices. You realize that the product
reformulation you proposed was actually not that smart, as you now foresee over
exploitation of natural resources, deforestation and drought as likely consequences on the
medium and long term.

During an internal strategic meeting, you explained the situation to your division manager
but he was not listening to you: actually, the new CEO decided to extend the reformulation
strategy you designed to 50% of the company brand. Now you are perfectly aware that this
can be successful in the short term: it is perfectly aligned to the current consumer wishes
and will further improve the company image. However, it is wrong in the long term: it will
cause massive job loss in the company as well as several big environmental issues and social
problems in the communities of producers.

What would be your decision: extend the reformulation strategy or not?