What Next for the WRO?

By Stephen Woodgate
First Vice President, World Renderers Organization

Having recently achieved its stated goal of gaining a memorandum of cooperation (MOC) with the World Organization for Animal Health, or OIE, what next for the World Renderers Organization (WRO)?

The WRO was founded in 1999 in response to the global uncertainty facing the rendering industry following the bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) outbreak in Europe and the epidemic that followed. Its stated objective was to provide a platform for communication with global bodies such as the World Health Organization, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), and OIE. Immediate dialogue with key organizations in the years following the peak of the BSE epidemic was accomplished with relative ease as there was an urgency to “get things done.” However, since 2002, there have been fewer global issues that have warranted urgent action by WRO members and this in turn has led to a reduction in opportunities to make necessary communications or seek interactions. As a result of this relative calm, WRO has focused on two main areas over the last three years.

First, WRO charged itself with gaining the appropriate level of membership to assure OIE that WRO is truly a global organization. This was achieved with a membership of over 25 countries at the time the MOC request to OIE was made. Now, with this agreement under its belt, what should or could WRO do with it?

Second, WRO has forged a close cooperative relationship with both the International Feed Industry Federation (IFIF) and FAO, who themselves work together on many occasions, especially on global topics such as Codex Alimentarius. The former is a global industry association working in and with all aspects of feeding farmed animals for human food production. WRO membership in IFIF ensures that its members are represented in respect to the key products produced for animal feeds, namely animal proteins and rendered fats. This is of vital importance to all companies that sell into the animal feed sector, especially as proteins and fats seemingly become more precious as world commodity stocks and values fluctuate.

The latter organization, FAO, has a mission to provide a global stage for dialogue on food chain activities in all countries of the world together with the provision of capacity building for developing countries. IFIF and FAO co-host an annual meeting at FAO headquarters in Rome, Italy, which acts as a good platform for exchange of views on all aspects of animal feed production and use. In addition, every three years the two organizations jointly organize a Global Feed and Food Conference (GFFC), this year held in South Africa (see “International Report” in the June 2013 Render).

Which Direction?
WRO is now at something of a watershed. What should the organization do now? Mark time or grow? This debate was conducted at the WRO interim meeting held at the European Fat Processors and Renderers Association Congress in Prague, Czech Republic, in June and at least two different views were opened for discussion. The possible approaches were evaluated with an exchange of views of the members present.

“Marking time” may not be the most appropriate phrase to use, as it infers that the status quo is maintained. In reality, and using the only real measurement WRO has available, which is membership, this is not the case. Membership has drifted downward in the intervening period. This shows that marking time, rather than a proactive approach, has not really been able to maintain the membership at previous levels. One consequence could be difficulty in arguing to OIE that WRO is truly a global organization, in turn jeopardizing the hard-won MOC.

What is the reason for the reduced membership level? Maybe the answer could lie in the lack of a crisis or crises that previously might have impacted WRO members and would, as a result, probably mobilize them into action. Although excellent progress has been made with forging good relations with IFIF and FAO, the urgency on key issues has been somewhat less than in previous periods. Have the members of WRO become too comfortable because of the historically high global commodity prices? Is WRO not giving existing members and potential new members what they want?

Trying to grow WRO membership is an alternative approach to consider and two actions have already been taken to try to make the organization more appealing and relevant to a wider audience.

The WRO website at www.worldrenderers.orghas been renewed and re-focused. A page has been reserved for publications by WRO officers and representatives that also includes all presentations given at the WRO workshop held at the GFFC.

A code of practice has also been developed by the WRO Scientific Advisory Panel and this will, in due course, be published on the website. The WRO leadership is hopeful that this document will be of significant value to both existing and new members. However, to achieve this benefit, the code of practice needs to be made more widely available to more members, and especially those from developing countries. Once again, we return to the subject of how to attract new members, particularly from the developing world.

So what can be done to generate growth in terms of increased membership and funds? Many WRO members regard this as a “chicken and egg” situation. Others will hopefully want to join an association that is involved in a wide variety of different activities. Two that come to mind are promotion and training.

Promotion: Should WRO attend events such as GFFC and the Global Aquaculture Alliance annual meeting in an effort to educate more on the benefits of rendered products? Both events require significant funds for sponsorship and, if presentations are made, the expense of speakers presenting on behalf of WRO.

Training: This subject was raised, in discussion, as presenting a real opportunity for WRO to make a difference to members (current and prospective). If combined with the soon to be published WRO code of practice, would this be something of real value? This activity might also require funding for travel of experts to teach some of the principles in question. Alternatively, web-based, online approaches might work well for some regions or countries.

Nonetheless, the growth idea almost certainly needs a new approach to gaining members, funding, and possibly even a revised membership structure, which encourages more fresh blood into the organization.

In my personal opinion, WRO must have a significant and broad spread to its membership base if it is to continue working with world organizations. WRO should try to increase its membership base to give as broad a spectrum as possible, and certainly should attempt to engage with developing countries and emerging regional associations such as the Latin American rendering association. However, funding needs to be realistic and affordable for all, but make no mistake, funds will be needed if WRO is to grow sufficiently to accomplish whatever it decides its future mission to be.

All of the above is meant to act as a catalyst for discussion about the future of WRO in advance of its annual meeting being held during the National Renderers Association annual convention in Naples, FL, in late October. Please respond with any ideas about how WRO could move forward to this author at stephen@beaconresearch.co.uk. I look forward to hearing your views!

Author’s note – The WRO/OIE memorandum of cooperation can be found at www.oie.int/en/about-us/key-texts/cooperation-agreements.

August 2013 RENDER | back