Carrefour is also entirely promoting the sourcing of local products. By offering simplified contracts to local producers, where they can fix a price together with the local manager in charge, has resulted now in 200 local products per month, which have been added in different Carrefour stores. Carrefour aims for longterm relationships with farmers and keeps personal contact participating in the agricultural fair of Libramont. Lidl is still actively working on their sustainability policy and they are going to show the face behind the products on their website and the sustainable business practices will be highlighted.
Revolutionary examples from abroad
There is nowhere else that has so many sales of bio, local and fair products as there is in Switzerland. This has been achieved by the purchase policy of Coop and Migros, the two largest supermarket chains in the country. Revolutionary indeed, because Coop has entirely switched to fair trade for a number of high selling own-label brands (Asian rice and chocolate). In Denmark the Dasnk Supermarked makes sustainable product choices for their own-label products and informs the consumers about it. Buyers are trained and aware of sustainable purchasing to increase the shares of sustainable products or to have innovative ways of working with suppliers. Sustainability is also a criterion for assessing performance of buyers.
In our northern neighbors the supermarket Marqt has established an innovative corporation in its chain. Retailers build on a personalized relationship with the producers and tell the customers that you can ‘truly’ eat with these products. ‘Truly eat’ stands for original fresh, delicious products made with respect for the environment and prepared with passion. Additionally, Marqt also has an eye for animal welfare, fair price and sustainability. For this last aspect, they examine the production, transport and income of the producers. The fresh products are bought regionally and they frequently work with seasonal products. The website allows clients to learn more about the suppliers and producers.
Leadership in the food industry
The industry federation FEVIA and Vredeseilanden conducted a survey to evaluate the sustainability policy of the Belgian food companies. Within the context of sustainable business policy, 30 respondents claimed to focus on environmental measures. A few food companies also consider the relationship with farmers. PepsiCo, a multinational which you wouldn’t expect to identify with local environment right away, works exclusively with a number of Belgian potato growers for the production of Lays chips. The sugar beet growers at Tiense Suikerraffinaderij have a tradition of cooperation with farmers; the agreements regarding quality and delivery, for example. There are also risks where sugar beet growers are not left alone. For instance, a premium shall be paid in case they have to deliver their sugar beets very early or late in the season.
La Lorraine Bakery Group buys the majority of the fruit on auctions but for certain fruit, for which they attach great importance to quality, they go a step further. With the slogan ‘from the field to the baker’ La Lorraine chooses daily fresh Belgian strawberries and potatoes directly from the growers. “We guarantee a price and an agreed volume to the growers throughout the season”, says CEO Guido Vanherpe. “We shall gain in terms of quality, freshness and logistics and we have a strong background story to back it up. For certain special types of flour we also have long term arrangements with the farmers, so we can bake bread with the ‘origin’ label. Sometimes the sense of a specific quality gets lost in the traditional chain. Within the contract period the agreement on prices, which most of the time are not related to the world market price, is guaranteed.
With the choice of GMO-free Alpro, the soya specialist has started purchasing raw material in its immediate neighbors. A third of the soya comes currently from Europe and the company wants to go to 50 percent in the short term. Alpro consciously chooses not to buy soya in the free market. “We stand for long term relationships with farmers. We continue to purchase from them because we firmly want to go for GMO-free soya. We think it is important to build confidence among farmers and we feel more comfortable knowing that those farmers get a livable income”, states the Alpro employee Koen Bouckaert.
We find a similar motivation at Cargill. To face the increasing demand for chocolate, this multinational works together with the NGO Solidaridad, with farmers’ organizations and cooperatives and certification organizations. By 2016 Cargill, which has since been a market leader in certified chocolate, tries to give trainings on good agricultural practices to more than 115,000 farmers. In the same sector Mars’ commitment launched something. Mars produces ten percent of the world’s chocolate and they want their entire production certified sustainable by 2020. Cocoa farmers are poor and do not produce enough for Mars to invest in the future, because the company considers cocoa is becoming a rare commodity worldwide.
By 2020 Unilever, a multinational that brings 400 brands on the market (including Knorr, Becel and Bertolli) wants to purchase all their agricultural commodities as part of a sustainable living plan. Furthermore, Unilever promises to improve the life of 5.5 million people by supporting small-scale farmers. This procurement office comprises 1,500 staff that is trained in sustainability and in purchasing from small producers. Without detracting from the inspiring practices at some of the Belgian companies, Vredeseilanden is missing this type of leaders, who move the rest of the food industry in an accelerated speed towards more sustainable food systems.
Inroads for the future
The awareness is increasing about the need of more sustainable food systems in social, ecological and economical terms. To conclude Vredeseilanden gives a few inroads for the future on ‘#SaveTheFoodture’. The book shows one big appeal for more cooperation between the agents of the food chain. “To innovate in sustainability, to create jointly, to look for new markets, build on relationships of trust, on mutual transparency, and to equally divide joys and burdens. Such new business models can offer products and services clients would choose for not only for their price, but also for their quality and sustainability.” Transparency is a key factor for the agreements within the chain, which has to result in major changes that are necessary. More transparency allows consumers to be inspired regarding sustainability performance, and within the chain this would promote the understanding for sticking points that haven’t been resolved until now.