Jeremy Osborn and Tina Nguyen
Published 1 month ago.
About a 8 minute read.
Image: GoodSam Foods
At SB’23 San Diego, a variety of brands and innovators discussed on-the-ground improvements cleaning up global and regional supply chains — and how to drive them further.
Procter & Gamble is working with guar farmers in India to improve sustainability | Image credit: P&G
This Tuesday afternoon panel brought together Amanda
Archila, Executive Director
of Fair Trade America, Heather
Terry, CEO and founder
of GOODSam Foods; and John
Scarchilli, Director of
Brand and Scientific Communications at Herbal
Essences, to discuss the opportunities and
challenges in the evolving world of socially responsible procurement in supply
Archila, drawing on Fair Trade’s experience working with a network of almost 2
million farmers globally, shared the perspective that socially responsible
procurement is primarily about efforts at investing into communities in ways
that also contribute to core business objectives — so that the company can grow
while helping those suppliers facing the biggest challenges.
Terry concurred and confirmed that it is difficult to reconcile social
responsibility with company growth, but that is still must be done; and it takes
time to reconstruct supply chains, transforming them over time into “supply
networks” where the needs of everyone can be met in a balanced way. GoodSAM, she
said, is trying to build a next-generation
literally from the ground up.
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To do this, she said, you need to “stay humble” and to teach and learn side by
side with your suppliers, on the ground, at a local scale. This can be hard if
you don’t have the resources of a traditional, large multinational.
Scarchilli said that P&G (Herbal Essences' parent company) worked with 25,000
farmers to improve best practices in socially responsible supply chain last year
alone, and agreed that it was about becoming “a force for good and a force for
change combined.” He discussed the company’s Sustainable Guar
which is aiming to double the amount of sustainable guar that is farmed and
sourced from India.
The guar bean — also known as gavar, gawar, guvar or cluster bean — is an
annual legume and the source of guar gum. Valued for its conditioning and
softening benefits in beauty products, guar has been cultivated in western and
northwestern India for thousands of years. Herbal Essences’ program includes
training in climate-smart agricultural practices to improve and stabilize guar
yield and increase soil fertility. The company has also invested in
communicating the benefits to consumers to help increase awareness and demand
for more sustainable supply chain practices.
Terry agreed that often socially responsible procurement is about building
capacity and also infrastructure for suppliers. On GoodSam’s regenerative cocoa
in Latin America, for example, their farmers were carting out hundreds of
tons of cocoa on the backs of mules. Something seemingly as simple as helping
build infrastructure such as roads and other modern transport networks has the
potentially to dramatically improve people’s lives, she said.
Image credit: Luker Chocolate
Another Tuesday afternoon session looked at supply chain engagement through the
lenses of different stakeholders. Marcela
Jaramillo, VP of Marketing at
Luker Chocolate — a 100-year-old chocolate
company based in Colombia — emphasized that a key issue of Luker’s cocoa
supply chain is the migration of rural populations to urban areas, as farmers
and local residents are not finding enough opportunity to stay. For Luker,
regenerative agriculture is a promising avenue to find authentic, lasting
solutions to help retain farmers and ensure a prosperous future in cocoa. For
Jaramillo, the initial question was, “Can there be a unique regenerative ag
solution that can be done at scale to help address this local supply chain
issue?” And the answer is no — when working with 65,000 different farmers, it is
important to recognize the differences in their contexts, drivers, and
To create partnerships towards regeneration and better chocolate, the company
needs to think about solutions that work for them. That said, Jaramillo doesn’t
suggest coming up with 65,000 unique solutions; but upon engaging with enough
farmers, they were able to identify types of farmers and how to cater
engagement for each type. In one example, a 24-year-old farmer named Laura
inherited her parents’ farm and is ready to grow specifically with regen ag and
sustainable tourism in mind — looking to create a multi-faceted, positive ripple
effect throughout her community. On the other hand, a farmer like Carlos,
aged 67 — who is resistant to change but is motivated by his strong desire to
leave a legacy for his children — demands a different customer approach than
Laura. In this engagement, Luker places its emphasis on forging partnerships
that involve the next generation of farmers.
Luker's Chocolate Dream
is a collaborative sustainability platform that unites everyday brands, farmers,
universities and NGOs. This collaboration is geared toward projects such as
training farmers to serve as active protectors of endangered tropical forests
with the ultimate goal of working alongside local NGOs to quantify carbon
credits, generating additional farmer income in the process.
As is often the case in successful supply chain engagement to reach a shared
goal, the approach must involve empowering local stakeholders to build their own
capacity to continue aiding themselves. Jaramillo explained the importance of
“work with farmers so they can sustain themselves — not so that they need us to
do that for them.”
The approach to supporting regenerative agriculture varies depending on whether
it's in small communities or larger, US-based farming operations. At King
Arthur Baking Company, VP of Corporate
Responsibility and Sustainability Suzanne
acknowledged the company’s dependence on larger agricultural suppliers for
sourcing certain ingredients. To promote regenerative agriculture, the company
partners with Washington State University's renowned seed breeder, Steve
supports research at WSU's Bread Lab. This collaboration focuses on
developing genetically diverse crop varieties that are more resilient in today's
unpredictable climate and promotes the knowledge of healthier and soil-friendly
grain breeds worldwide.
Abby Ayers, Senior Director of Retail
Partnerships at Fair Trade USA, observed
that companies are becoming more adept at measuring their sustainability efforts
— which helps in understanding the return on investment (ROI). With Fair Trade's
six-year commitment to certification, retailers are realizing that transitioning
to regenerative agriculture is a long-term process.
Over 90 percent of emissions for most companies are found in Scope 3 — or
supply chain-related —
With new regulations coming into effect across the globe, the pressure on
organizations to understand, track and act to reduce their Scope 3 emissions is
escalating faster than ever before. For consumer companies to sustain growth and
still meet emissions-reduction targets, they need to sell more low-emission
products. To create more low-emission products, they need to truly understand
the specific drivers of emissions within each supply chain. Thus, companies need
to transition from traditional spend-based (aka EEIO) carbon-accounting methods
to a lifecycle assessment (LCA)-based accounting. The LCAs are crucial
for understanding which processes or activities contribute the most to an
organization's carbon footprint.
During a Wednesday morning breakfast session, Kayalin
Akens-Irby — Head of Growth at
Planet FWD — laid out a three-stage approach to
accelerate scope 3 decarbonization:
Measure: Current GHG data from suppliers are generally estimates and not
specific to a business’ actual inputs. Getting accurate GHG measurements for
each ingredient is necessary.
Understand: Ensure the information is detailed enough to be able to zoom
in on the specific activities and steps that are causing emissions within
your supply chain.
Map: When steps 1-2 are accurate, the resulting roadmap should be
actionable and capable of making a substantial impact on your business.
In light of this week’s
focus on regenerative
Akens-Irby highlighted the advantages of using LCA data from a regenerative-ag
standpoint. Planet FWD is a technological solution that can ingest extensive
data about the footprint of a supply chain into a live-data model, which enables
endless what-if analyses enhanced by AI to show which action would reduce GHG
the most — from cover-cropping
of a particular supplier to implementing lightweight packaging for a particular
product. As Akens-Irby asserted, the consumer sector is one of the few places
that already has a lot of the innovations needed to achieve climate goals. With
LCA-based carbon accounting, Chief Sustainability Officers can now move from data
insights to actions faster.
Published Oct 25, 2023 8am EDT / 5am PDT / 1pm BST / 2pm CEST
Jeremy Osborn is a NYC-based entrepreneur and and senior consultant with a background in marketing and communications, tech, strategy, governance, and sustainability. He holds an MA in Resources, Environment, and Sustainability from the University of British Columbia and has worked for leading brands in a wide range of industries and sectors — including food and ag, consumer goods, built environment, industrial manufacturing, energy, finance, transportation, and more.
Tina is a sustainability consultant with EcoNomics, Inc. She is a longtime surfer who is passionate about the world of waste.