3.2 Build a Raw Materials-Issues Matrix

Above we discussed two angles from which one can look at the scope of a sustainable sourcing programme: the angle of sustainability ‘themes’ or issues, such as biodiversity or water or child labour; and the angle of the primary materials behind the bought ingredients, such as dairy, cocoa, soy or tomatoes.

A useful exercise it to combine both of these angles in a raw material – Issues matrix. The Raw Material – Issues matrix has company-relevant agricultural raw materials (e.g. sugar, palm oil, soy, milk, wheat, rice …) as one dimension and sustainability issues ( environmental/ecological, social and business criteria) as the second dimension.

The result is a matrix like the one in the example below.

On the basis of such an ‘issue-raw material’ matrix, it becomes easier to identify which sustainability issues are more relevant for some products. Farm rehabilitation and tree replanting, for example, need to be included in a cocoa standard, but will probably not be first priority for potatoes in Europe. 

The above matrix is meant to illustrate the methodology and has been simplified on purpose. In real life, all relevant social, economic and environmental issues will have to be considered in view of your company’s strategy. The heading “Labour Rights”, for example, subsumes multiple issues like “No forced Labour”, “Discrimination”, “Discipline/Grievance”, “Freedom of Association”, “Wages”, “Working Hours” etc. SAI Platform's Farm Sustainability Assessment (FSA) tool may be useful as it provides a comprehensive list of economic, social and environmental issues to be considered at farm level. The Sedex Supplier Workbook can also give good guidance on these issues.

There are numerous other ways of prioritising raw materials. Rabobank developed a tool that indicates when supply chain risks warrant early action by firms to secure supplies (see Diagram 8 below). 

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