Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Economics: Entrepreneurs: A fascinating Corporate Sustainability Program

It sounds like a good business plan to me!        

I don't warm to the Nanny State dictating all our food choices, I don't think relaxants other than alcoholic drinks shoud be discriminated against to the advantage of the drunkenness industry with its exorbitant death toll!  Etc.

But I do believe a free-marlket business plan like that of Innocent Drinks (yeah, that's the corporate name) meets the criteria of reformational free-market thawt for better-motivated businesses than currently prevail.  The company seems christianly investable to me.   And on this Labor/Labour Day, I note that Innocent Drinks' labour policy is superior to most.  Philosophically, this business approach coud be considered an approach to an integral business, a business structured by its designers for a "simultaneity of norm realization" (as Prof Bernard Zylstra used to say), an integrality appropriate to its sphere and its focal mandate/s.  That's the sense of holistic offered for inspection here.

-- EconoMix

ISO 9001

Fairfood Blog


Solution of the month V: Innocent Drinks

On the 5th of August 2010, we had the pleasure of having Jessica Sansom, Head of Sustainability of Innocent Drinks, in our midst at the Fairfood Main Office. During a thirty-minute presentation, Jessica explained what Innocent’s Corporate Sustainability Program is all about.

About Innocent DrinksIt all started with three Cambridge graduates who wanted to earn some money and wondered: “how can we make something that makes life easier and better?” Suddenly, the idea of fruit smoothies popped up: fruit smoothies with no preservatives, no coloring, just all natural. Soon after, Innocent Drinks was established as a small UK-based company. By now, Innocent’s smoothies are sold in 11 European countries.

Sustainability Programme: Innocent’s Own Minimum StandardsOne of Innocent’s values is to “leave things a little better than we find them”. While this sounds really cute and innocent, how does the company actually achieve this?

Innocent believes the answer lies in the three P’s of People, Planet, and Profit with at its core a sustainable business. As Innocent wanted to take responsibility for its entire business, the company went all the way down to the farm level. More specifically, Innocent seeks to buy fruit from farms that take care of their workers and the environment. “This means balancing our business needs –buying the best tasting fruit whilst addressing social and environmental issues.” In doing so, the company focuses on five main issues namely: nutrition, ingredients, production, packaging and legacy.

However, Jessica acknowledged that sustainability is not easy; “it’s not black and white”. To explain this, she provided an example of a pineapple farm in Costa Rica that set everything in motion to become Faitrade certified. Although the certification sounded great in theory, practice proved otherwise. As demand for Fairtrade pineapples is low, the farmer was only able to sell 5% of its crop and while the fruit was sold at a premium, it was not enough to cover the costs of certification.

The point Jessica tried to make, is that there is no Grand Solution that solves everything, as each country and each fruit face different challenges. As a result, Innocent decided to take a step-by-step approach to sustainability by asking the following questions:
1. Which standards and certifications are out there? Which are the best ones?
2. What issues do they cover? And which issues do we want to focus on most? 

Based on a review of the existing schemes, Innocent developed its own Minimum Standards for Sustainability. These standards cover issues ranging from child labour to minimum wages, biodiversity and so on. In addition, the company looks at each type of fruit and farm separately to determine which issues need to be covered and essentially customizes its set of standards to address them. For example, after studying the banana sector, Innocent decided that all its bananas should be Rainforest Alliance certified. As bananas are the major component of Innocent’s smoothies –totaling 12.000 tons per year - this amounts to quite a lot of Rainforest Alliance certified bananas!

Another interesting aspect of Innocent’s sustainability programme is the element of trust that runs through its supply chain. Jessica explained that it’s impossible to go to 800 separate raspberry farms and check whether they comply with the standards, let alone go to all suppliers of all fruits. In other words, not all farms are externally verified. Farms that Innocent ‘trusts’ based on, for example, former visits can engage in self-assessments. However, other farms which are not fully trusted are regularly checked. 

Sustainable ProjectsAccording to Jessica, being successful also means giving something back to society. As a result, Innocent invests in several sustainable agriculture projects which help farmers improve their farming practices. Moreover, Innocent gives 10% of its profits to charity each year. The majority goes to the Innocent Foundation, which supports NGOs in helping underprivileged communities to develop sustainable food production for local consumption.

Interesting Discussion: Innocent and Coca Cola
At the end of the presentation, an audience member wanted to know whether the recent purchase of 53% of Innocent’s shares by Coca Cola has affected Innocent’s sustainability programme. In response to this concern, Jessica assured us that nothing has changed in the way Innocent works. Furthermore, she stated that Coca Cola has been very supportive and even approached them for advice on their own sustainability programme. Nevertheless, she acknowledged that it’s impossible to state that ‘nothing will ever change’.

But for now, I personally think it’s safe to say that Innocent seems to be just as innocent as before.

Joëlle Joubert – Project Assistant Customised Solutions Analysis

No comments: