The food retail industry underscored the importance of sustainable sourcing during a recent Twitter chat produced by Food Marketing Institute.
The April 23 chat, moderated by David Orgel, SN’s executive director, content, focused on initiatives such as FMI’s new “Sustainable Sourcing Guide for High-Impact Commodities,” a resource for retailers.
Retailers participating in the Twitter forum included Kroger, Walmart, Publix and Festival Foods. The discussion ranged from why sustainable sourcing is crucial to how best to collaborate with suppliers on efforts.
“One of our goals is to enhance customer-facing communications, including sharing our growers’ sustainability efforts,” said Publix.
“High-impact commodities have the potential for significant social, environmental and/or economic impacts,” tweeted Kroger.
In addressing how it surveys suppliers about sourcing, Walmart tweeted, “One way we ask questions about food waste, efficiency and use of GHGs is by using our index http://ow.ly/M23bw.”
Festival Foods emphasized, “Traceability, chain of custody are critical. Bad things can happen anywhere. It’s critical to pinpoint problems.”
FMI’s comments during the chat stressed the need to focus industry attention on the most impactful sourcing areas.
“High-impact commodities are finite and critical ingredients for a vast number of food retailers’ core products,” FMI said. “They also have sensitive social, environmental and economic impacts because of where and how they are produced. We started with high-impact commodities because they are so widespread throughout the supply chain."
FMI representatives who participated in the chat included Jeanne von Zastrow, senior director for sustainability, and Rick Stein, VP, fresh foods.
Following are excerpts from the chat, which included a series of questions from the moderator to the food retail community. Some of the individual tweets have been combined for easier reading. The conversation used the hashtag #GrocerySustainability. More information about sourcing resources can be found at www.fmi.org/sustainablesourcing.
SUSTAINABILITY TWITTER CHAT
Moderator: Why do retailers feel it’s important to step up efforts to verify supplier sustainable sourcing practices?
FMI: Food retailers are increasingly focused on the future of a resilient and secure supply chain. By 2050 we have to double the production of the food system worldwide to meet the needs of 9.6 billion people. We can secure our supply chain by working with suppliers to implement more sustainable sourcing into our supply chains. This means looking at practices that are environmentally sound and support sustainable growth.
Festival Foods: Our guests want accurate information about where food comes from and we want to provide them the best info.
Kroger: Responsibility & Accountability
Moderator: Why are high-impact commodities the first place to focus for sustainable sourcing?
FMI: High-impact commodities are finite and critical ingredients for a vast number of food retailers’ core products. They also have sensitive social, environmental and economic impacts because of where and how they are produced. We started with high-impact commodities because they are so widespread throughout the supply chain.
Kroger: High-impact commodities have the potential for significant social, environmental and/or economic impacts.
Publix: They are incorporated into many of our products, so this is where our industry can make the biggest impact.
Festival Foods: High-impact commodities are sugarcane, cocoa, paper, pulp, coffee. ... Nearly everyone touches them each day.
Key sourcing questions
Moderator: What do you feel are key sourcing questions that retailers need to ask suppliers for sustainability purposes?
FMI: Questions like, are you open to sharing information and how transparent can you be, are important. Food retailers can also ask suppliers if they have a sustainable sourcing policy or where they are sourcing from. Asking if products are certified by an independent, third party or meet a set of environmental standards is also good. The FMI Sustainable Sourcing Guide includes additional questions for food retailers to consider.
Festival Foods: Historical information is really important. What have you done in the past and what was the result?
Walmart: One way we ask questions about food waste, efficiency and use of GHGs is by using our Index http://ow.ly/M23bw
Moderator: How important is traceability, accountability and chain of custody in the sustainability equation?
FMI: All three are essential in building trust and long-term sustainable partnerships in the global food supply chain. Traceability allows for the open sharing of information between suppliers and food retail partners. Accountability and chain of custody help strength the sustainability equation for both food retailers and suppliers.
Walmart: Incredibly! Which is why we provide tools to help drive sustainable improvement. See pg70: http://ow.ly/M257Y
Festival Foods: Traceability, chain of custody are critical. Bad things can happen anywhere. It's critical to pinpoint problems.
Moderator: What is important for retailers and suppliers to consider when they make sustainability marketing claims?
FMI: Sustainability marketing claims include if product is verified by a third party, credible and traceable to the source. Being genuine and not overstating the facts is also important for sustainability marketing claims. Check compliance with FTC’s Green Guides as a best practice when making sustainability claims: http://ow.ly/LXA2i.
Publix: Our customers want to feel comfortable that the info we provide them with is accurate. #TrustIsAMust.
Festival Foods: Agreed @Publix! 'Trust is like a vase, once it's broken, though you can fix it the vase will never be same again.
Moderator: How can retailers’ best communicate sustainable sourcing initiatives to their customers?
FMI: Provide shoppers with an educational journey from farm to store highlighting your sustainable sourcing initiatives. Food retailers can showcase credible certification programs they participate in, and bring the sustainable sourcing work to life through digital and traditional communications channels. Every opportunity, including meetings between a category manager and buyer, is a chance to share sustainable sourcing work.
Publix: One of our goals is to enhance customer-facing communications, including sharing our growers’ sustainability efforts. Also, communication on packaging itself is very important. That messaging goes home with the customer.
Kroger: We launched a series of videos to share our sustainable seafood story at ow.ly/LZ2MD
Festival Foods: 'Show don't tell.' We followed the path our fish take to get to our cases.