Senior management commitment is a requirement for any successful business venture; be it the food industry, pharmaceuticals, an engineering firm, an advertising firm, or any other institution. There is no business initiative that could be a success without the commitment of senior leadership. The same applies to the implementation of food safety management systems; senior management plays a critical role. BRCGS requires that Senior Management show commitment to food safety and continual improvement of the food safety management system to ensure the production of a safe, high quality, authentic and legal food product. Suppose there is no commitment from senior management; in that case, it is almost certain, there would not be adequate resources allocated to ensure that the organisation’s Food Safety Management System (FSMS) is fully and effectively implemented.
How is lack of senior management commitment determined?
It is easy to see an organisation where there is a lack of senior management commitment to food safety. An organisation that has no senior management commitment has these typical characteristics:
- management does not allocate sufficient resources to ensure the production of a safe food
- staff members are not trained nor are they issued with suitable PPE
- no robust training needs analysis and competency assessments for staff
- ineffective or no root cause analysis for any problems that occur in the facility
- unclear and inconsistent commitment to make safe food
- unhygienic, rundown and unsuitable food production facilities
- inadequate staff allocation
- negative food safety culture
- any analysis aimed at ensuring product safety and quality is seen as wasteful expenditure
- no engagement between senior leaders and staff
Consequences of poor or nonexistent senior management commitment
The lack of senior management commitment can seriously hamper food safety culture, results in the production of unsafe, lower quality and even illegal food products. Ultimately, the consumer would suffer because they would not be consuming food that is produced under safe conditions. Therefore, it is not surprising that one of the fundamental requirements for the BRCGS is senior management commitment. This means failure to meet this requirement may result in a critical finding, leading to loss or suspension of the certification.
Why Senior Management Commitment is important?
It is important that senior management show commitment towards food safety and quality in their organisation. Staff members are likely to take food safety seriously if they believe their leaders equally take it seriously. It could be a matter of senior management wearing full personal protective clothing when going to production, senior management consistently talking about food safety, senior leaders investing resources to ensuring food safety within the organisation and many other initiatives. This would ensure the production of a safe, and high quality food and can even improve the morale of staff, which can have a positive impact of staff productivity.
How to demonstrate Senior Management Commitment?
Senior leaders within the organisation could demonstrate commitment by allocating adequate resources to ensure the FSMS is effectively implemented. Furthermore, they must develop and approve a relevant food safety and quality policy that is communicated to all staff members and other interested parties. Communication could be in meetings, induction training, notice boards, e-mail communication, etc. The policy must clearly state the organisation’s measurable and realistic objectives towards food safety, quality, and compliance to regulatory and statutory requirements. These objectives must be reviewed at least quarterly. The policy’s main purpose should be to address the site’s senior management commitment intentions to meet its obligation towards producing safe, high quality, legal and authentic food that meets regulatory and customer requirements.
Senior management must also show commitment by developing an activity plan for continual food safety culture, and the plan must be reviewed. The BRCGS also requires that Senior Management holds a management review meeting at least annually. The meeting must cover important FSMS aspects such as internal and external audits results, objectives, customer complaints, any incidents, corrective actions, out of specification results and non-conforming materials, the effectiveness of the systems for HACCP, food defence and product authenticity. Records of the meeting must be documented and used to revise the objectives.
When senior management is fully committed to the continual improvement of the food safety management system, this influences interested parties to show the same commitment and ensures food safety takes priority. This ultimately breeds a positive food safety culture amongst all levels of the organisation.