3.3 From Priorities to Programmes

Setting Programme Goals

Once you have identified your company’s priority areas (crops, geographies, and issues) it is time to start clarifying the goals of programmes related to addressing these priorities.

This will be shaped by both what you aim to accomplish, by the structure of the supply network, by resources available and by the efforts currently in play. 

Generally speaking, there are three major types of programmes, none of which are exclusive of each other.  

  1. Measurement programmes that seek consensus on key impact areas as well as metrics and measurement processes, and that encourage farmers to begin measuring at the farm level. Programmes like that of The Sustainability Consortium – TSC and the Field to Market® calculator developed in the US are programmes aimed at agreement and measurement. Benefit: measurable footprint.
  2. There are improvement programmes that seek to accelerate the adoption of best practices with proven benefits through research, education, and incentives programmes.  Benefit:  reductions in impacts, improvements in benefits.  Reporting percentage of emission reduced, water saved, pesticides avoided, etc.
  3. There are sustainable sourcing programmes based on standards that provide assurance that producers are following agreed upon practices that add up to a credible sustainability standard.  Benefit:  Assurance of a “sustainable supply chain”.

Deciding what is appropriate in different situations requires being clear about your company culture in the first place. Moving to execution thereafter is about aligning sustainability with your business strategy. Here are some questions you might consider:

  1.  Do you wish to be able to calculate a clear footprint for reporting purposes, for example, for the Carbon Disclosure Project?
  2. Do you wish to be able to stimulate improvements in key impact areas such as GHG emissions, water, labour, livelihoods, etc?
  3. Do you wish to be able to measure those improvements and set targets?
  4. Do you need publicly-credible assurances related to the standards and/or adherence to the standards that will allow claims of “sustainable sourcing”?
  5. Do you need third-party credibility or is an internal programme sufficient?
  6. Do you have concerns about supply security that also include concerns about productivity and supplier loyalty?

The bottom line is to be clear about when and why you want measurement, improvements, and/or sustainability standards and about understanding how programmes can be designed to achieve these outcomes.   

Understanding your context

Whether you are focusing on fresh vegetables in Europe, flowers in Kenya, cocoa in West Africa, corn & soy in the United States, all have not only different supply chain structures, but also different “foundations” that you can build upon.

Direct trading relationships are frequently possible in fresh produce that in turn allow direct company programmes and incentives. High profile social issues such as child labour in cocoa drive the need for third-party certification while at the same time low productivity and potential supply short falls create the potential for direct investment with producers to increase productivity and improve the sustainability of practices. 

Spending time with suppliers through the chain and with farmers is critical to reaching a deep understanding of the strategic issues. Here are some questions to bear in mind:

  1. What are the high priority issues from the farmers and suppliers perspectives?
  2. How do farmers and suppliers perceive “value” for them from such a programme?
  3. What programmes and standards are currently accepted by farmers that could provide a foundation to build on?
  4. What credible programmes and standards might exist for a particular crop and geography, whether third-party or industry-driven?
  5. Where would measurement, best practices, and/or standards have the highest leverage in a given context?
  6. What barriers to adoption are perceived by farmers and suppliers? (Knowledge gaps/know-how? Cost? Motivation? Being overwhelmed by requests for information?)
  7. Do you have direct relationships with a sub-group of suppliers that would allow a specific programme through your chain, or do you need to work as an industry to approach the supply chain?
  8. For example, when Unilever approached the design of a sustainable sourcing programme for rape seed in Europe, they:
  9. Sought equivalence to their sustainable sourcing standard to meet the established goal of 100% sustainable sourcing by 2020;
  10. Prioritized on strategic supplier relationships, in this case Cargill, to identify a supply network of producers;
  11. Worked with farmers to understand the goals and standards that are already in use;
  12. After realising that a biofuels standard was already implemented by farmers, conducted a gap analysis around the differences between the Unilever sustainable agriculture code and the existing biofuels standard;
  13. Developed a targeted additional programme around supply traceability and gap closure to create a sustainable sourcing programme.

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