Our commitment to the UN Sustainable Development Goals

UN Sustainable Development Goals

Milcobel supports the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which was approved by the United Nations in September 2015. Our sustainability initiatives are designed to achieve the 17 goals as set out by the UN and which are grouped under the so-called ‘Five Ps’: Peace, People Planet, Prosperity and Partnership. Our cooperative business model, which encompasses the entire chain – ranging from dairy farmers to customers – covers large part of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Milcobel has been an active partner in sustainability charter initiatives for over twenty years. The Environment Charter of the province of West Flanders (which later evolved into the VOKA charter for Sustainable Entrepreneurship) marked the start of this commitment. All our charters are audited annually by VOKA, Flanders’ Chamber of Commerce and Industry. As in previous years, all our offices and factories were awarded the annual Sustainable Entrepreneurship Charter’s certificate this year. This recognizes our efforts and achievements with regard to sustainability.

VOKA’s Sustainable Entrepreneurship charter is based on the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SGDs). As a cooperative, Milcobel is of important social relevance and it strikes a balance between economy, society and ecology, throughout the entire chain. This puts us in the perfect position to comply with a large number of the SDGs.

Our cooperative ensures the income of 2600 dairy farmers and their families, as well as that of 2000 employees on our sites. We guarantee milk purchases to our dairy farmers and pay them market-rate milk prices and we pay fair wages to our employees. In addition, our milk powder exports to Asia and Africa support their local economies and food industries.

We feed the world with high-quality, nutritious and delicious dairy products – not only in Europe, but also internationally. Our milk powder is a necessary raw material for the food industries in regions like Asia and Africa, which are confronted with a growing demand in dairy products, but are not always able to meet this demand due to local conditions (fields, droughts, infrastructure)​. In Belgium, we donate the food surplus from our milk processing to food banks.

Our dairy farmers provide the best care to their cows, resulting in high-quality and nutritious milk. In our factories, we ensure that we maintain the milk’s natural nutritional value through careful processing. We also meet consumer demands for dairy products with reduced fat, lower added sugar, lactose-free products, and we also provide products without preservatives or colouring agents.

Education about dairy farming helps to eliminate misunderstandings and support the sector. This starts at school. One of the educational initiatives we support is ‘Melk4Kids’. School children between the ages of 3 and 12 can visit a dairy farm to introduce them  in a playful way to the story of cows and milk.

We also support recent graduates in drafting their resume and training them for job interviews.

Our ‘Young Graduate’ programme is designed to give young potentials the chance to gain experience in different business units at our company, allowing them to move on to key positions.
We raise awareness and inform and train our dairy farmers in a wide range of subjects. The ‘Everyone learns’ programme provides a wide selection of training for our employees.

Milcobel guarantees diversity and inclusion. We provide equal opportunities to men and women during the hiring process and in the workplace, with equal pay for equal work.
We are committed to saving water throughout the entire chain, from dairy farm to factory. A substantial number of our dairy farmers use alternative water sources (such as harvested rainwater), next to the water reuse through water treatment and reed beds. The total water consumption in our factories is reduced and over half of the water usage there is recycled. All our facilities are fitted with their own wastewater treatment installations.

Milcobel takes steps to reduce our energy use throughout the chain: from dairy farmers to milk transport and processing. Wherever possible, we use alternative energy sources. Our dairy farmers also implement their own sustainable energy solutions, such as solar and wind power and manure fermentation systems. All our production sites take part on a voluntary basis in the EnergieBeleidsOvereenkomsten (EBO) or Energy Policy Agreements, organised by the Flemish government. This way, they commit to taking all energy-saving measures that are economically viable.

Our factories in Langemark and Kallo are equipped with cogeneration plants, which cover 90% of their electricity consumption.

We guarantee inclusive and sustainable economic growth through our cooperative model, where agriculture, economy and society are perfectly balanced. We promote maintaining the dairy sector and local processing in Belgium. We consider a healthy work-life balance to be essential.

Innovation is at the heart of our cooperative’s DNA. Together with research institutions like ILVO (The Flanders Research Institute for agriculture, fisheries and food) and the universities of Ghent (UGent), Leuven (KU Leuven) and Teagasc (Ireland), we provide fundamental scientific insight, for example in the fields of microbiology, lactoproteins and packaging. The subsequent findings are used for applied research in our factories, to optimise existing processes and to develop new products and processes.
Our Innovation & Technology department supports our business from a scientific and systematic approach, as it aims to optimise business processes, increase efficiency and guarantee the quality and food safety of our products.

Milcobel does not tolerate discrimination against applicants and employees based on age, disability, origin, gender, ethnicity, political views, religion or sexual orientation. We value a stimulating learning and work environment that is free of any sort of intimidation or unpleasant behaviour towards our employees, customers, members and business partners. We cherish the diversity of all 37 nationalities that are represented at our company. We are also active in social employment of people with a physical or mental disability.

A sustainable society is a society where the economy, agriculture, society and the environment go hand in hand. As a cooperative, Milcobel fully supports this balance.
In our role as the dairy sector, we protect the natural environment by default and we understand the importance of treating it with care and respect. Our member organisations contribute to the preservation of landscape areas and a nice green rural environment. We maintain an open and active dialogue with our member dairy farmers, our employees and the society and environment that we work in. As the largest dairy cooperative in Belgium, we ensure the continuation of dairy farming and the dairy industry in Belgium. We support society through our community initiatives.

We ensure sustainable production that respects people, animals and the environment. We provide continuous improvements to our production processes to decrease the use of resources and raw materials. Our waste materials and by-products are reused as much as possible by using them for animal feed, recycling and energy production.

We take action in the entire chain, from cow to customer, to combat climate change and its impact. Our initiatives take place on three levels: sustainable dairy farming, sustainable transport and sustainable milk processing.

Our facilities in Langemark and Moorslede, which are located in drought-prone areas, reduce both overall water usage and salt levels in wastewater, for environmental purposes.
We are committed to circular and local agriculture within every individual ecosystem, with special attention to biodiversity and the preservation of fauna and flora.Our dairy farming is dependent on the regional soil and at the same time closely connected to it.

Our cooperative model is our key strength, because we are a true and tight-knit community, based on four pillars:

  • Shareholdership or corporate model: our dairy farmers are also our shareholders. All profits flow back to our dairy farmer members.
  • Transaction: we guarantee the purchase of milk at competitive, market-rate prices.
  • Common objective: to valorise the milk of our members in the best possible way.
  • Engagement: our cooperative is managed by our shareholders and based on a solid membership structure. Open dialogue, participation and democratic decision-making are key to this.

This way, our cooperative offers a prospect for the future to all our members, whilst focusing on joint decision-making, with respect for the identity and uniqueness of our individual farms, where all dairy farmers, young and old, can develop their own sustainable model for the future.

Within our organisation, we also ensure a safe and pleasant work environment, where everyone is valued and where every opinion counts. We engage in dialogue with our employees’ organisations.

A cooperative evidently implies connection and cooperation. Together with sector organisations, clients, research institutions, universities and governments, we commit to a sustainable future of dairy farming and the dairy industry.

Together with research institutions like ILVO (The Flanders Research Institute for agriculture, fisheries and food) and the universities of Ghent (UGent), Leuven (KU Leuven) and Teagasc (Ireland), we provide fundamental scientific insight into the nutritional value of dairy and sustainability topics. Through our community benefits initiatives we work together with charities to contribute to society. We are a member of the United Nations Global Compact and support its 10 principles regarding human rights, labour rights, environment and anti-corruption.

Have a look at our Sustainability and Community initiatives for more information.