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Why does sustainable sourcing take so long to become a reality?

Industry Insights

Why does sustainable sourcing take so long to become a reality?

Global FMCG giant Mars has announced that it is working to make sure all of its Uncle Ben’s rice products are sourced sustainably by 2020.

Mars is already a member of the Sustainable Rice Platform (SRP) and made the announcement at a recent SRP meeting in the Philippines. The SRP standard requires buyers to ensure the rights of their suppliers are being taken into account on supply chain contracts, alongside the health and safety of their working conditions and the operations’ effects on the wider environment.

The announcement marks a significant move and a clear step in the right direction for sustainable supply chain sourcing, but why will it take almost five years for Mars’ intentions to become a reality?

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The reality of sustainable sourcing

Fiona Dawson, president of Mars Food, stated: “Through the global standard, we hope to create benefits for all involved from the farmers to our consumers. The benefit for us is that we are ensuring premium quality rice, whilst also ensuring a higher income for farmers and a better environment for current and future generations. It is a truly mutual solution.”

But for this to become a reality, it will take time – relationships will need to be reviewed and nurtured, with the effects to be felt by Uncle Ben’s suppliers all around the world.

It’s all well and good having the right intentions when it comes to moving towards sustainable sourcing, but implementing them can take years, especially for a large buyer such as Mars, whose operations reach all over the globe.

Ms Dawson explained that Mars is currently piloting sustainable basmati rice sourcing schemes with 400 smallholder farms in India and Pakistan, highlighting that buyers can’t just rush into a complete overhaul of their operations. Instead, they need to make sure they’ve got a comprehensive supply chain strategy in place to ensure their actions produce the most sustainable results possible over the long term.

How Achilles can improve supply chain sustainability visibility

Regardless of their size, it’s unlikely that any buyers intentionally want to source their products unsustainably, but traditionally, cost limitations have often got in the way and meant businesses have needed to source goods as cheaply as possible.

But in today’s world of ever-increasing supply chain visibility, if issues such as modern slavery or health and safety breaches are uncovered in a buyer’s’ operations, these can have lasting damage to an organisation’s reputation, finances and even their legal standing.

That’s why it’s important that buyers take their time over such big tasks as moving to 100 per cent sustainable sourcing.

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