Q&A: Paraguayan family-owned company’s environmental governance journey

Humans are not cows, horses or sheep. Pictured here are some lovely cows.
Source – Fernando Machado, CC SA 4.0.

Frigorifico Concepcion S.A., is a leading global exporter of high-quality meats. Founded in 1997, the Company is headquartered in Concepcion, Paraguay, and is part of the Concepcion group, a Paraguayan family-owned group of assets including hotels, shops, and restaurants in the country. Ninety percent of Frigorifico Concepcion’s products are delivered to international markets across four continents, and the Company features both Halal and Kosher meats.

The company recently announced an improved update to its Sustainalytics ESG rating (environmental, social, and governance), demonstrating its commitment to improving sustainability leadership, best practices and quality assurance.

To discover more, Digital Journal spoke with Jair Antonio de Lima, founder and controlling shareholder of Frigirifico Concepcion.

Digital Journal: Can you provide a brief background on Frigorifico Concepcion?

Jair Antonio de Lima: Frigorifico Concepcion is a Paraguayan multinational company specializing in processing beef and pork with production units in Paraguay, Brazil and Bolivia and distribution operations in Chile. The company started in 1997 as a small slaughterhouse in the city of Concepcion, north of Paraguay, on a time that was abundant cattle and only a few small industrial processing plants across the country.

Overtime the Concepcion´s plant capacity was expanded and also new processing plants across the country were added to the assets and Frigorifico Concepcion has been the largest beef exporter in Paraguay for many years. In 2018 the company internationalized its operations to Bolivia and in 2022 to Brazil. We currently have 13 meat processing units, 15 distribution centers, 2 wet-blue leather production units in these 4 countries previously mentioned, a trading company in the U.S. and a total of 5.000 employees.

DJ: What is a Sustainalytics ESG rating and why is it important?

de Lima: Sustainalytics is a leading international ESG rating agency. Through the rating process, Concepcion is able to evaluate annually our ESG progress and performance. Communicating our results to our investors strengthens transparency regarding topics such as Food Safety, Animal Welfare and Traceability, topics not only important to them but also to all our stakeholders.

DJ: What has your company done to raise your Sustainalytics ESG rating?

de Lima: We had our first comprehensive Sustainalytics review in the beginning of this year. As a result, we already improved our rating in almost 4 points (42.3 from 2022, 46.1 2021). ESG Ratings are mostly based on public information, thus we are making significant efforts disclosing initiatives we’ve always had in place, but we didn’t exteriorize before. For example, I can mention BRC (British Retail Consortium) and LWG (Leather Working Group) for our tannery division, so it has been mostly a matter of articulating and disclose policies that we had kept internal before.

In addition, we are making significant efforts to improve in certain areas that we didn’t invest. Between 2021 and 2022 we also invested more than 500.000 dollars in new projects, ranging from more efficient water treatments to technology, such as tools to improve our traceability trough social environmental monitoring of cattle. We also hired experts to analyze and inventory our scope 1 and 2 emissions. These investments definitely show our commitment to be responsible corporate citizens and, indirectly, we expect that will be reflected on our rating as well.

DJ: What separates your meat from competitors?

The high Quality and Variety of our products. For Concepcion, quality begins in the farm and goes all the way to the table of the consumer. We have set an alliance with Brangus breeders in order to guarantee the supply of top quality animals for top quality products. We also have capacitation programs for production staff all year long in order to ensure the best practices during the production process. We are rated AA (highest score) for the British Retail Consortium Certification which is a Food Quality and Safety Certification well-known in the food industry. Talking about variety of products we have from traditional chilled and frozen beef to beef sausages, salami, franks, burgers, meatballs and so on. Within the category of Chilled Beef we have a wide range of highly marbled Brangus beef cuts. We also have 100% beef Brangus burgers, Pork burgers, seasoned beef ready for cooking and many others. And you can find the complete portfolio of products in any of the seven Premium Retail Stores we have, called Beef Clubs.

DJ: Where are you expecting the industry to go in the next 5 years?

de Lima: In the next 5 years I expect the industry to be more competitive, with higher costs of production pushing the meat processing companies towards innovation and efficiency. I also expect the industry to be more concerned about their ESG agenda as a result of an increasingly consumer demand for sustainable products.

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