The Sustainability Zone will be a major focal point of the trade exhibition at The Amsterdam Produce Show and Conference on November 3, and Dutch-based sustainability driver IDH will lead the way, showcasing its core messages and highlighting not only the social and environmental benefits of creating sustainable supply chain solutions, but also the commercial advantages for everyone in that chain. Produce Business UK talks to Daan van der Wekken, IDH’s senior manager, retail and trade
Daan van der Wekken is responsible for retailer and trade engagement at IDH, the sustainable trade initiative whose website will tell you that it brings together companies, CSOs, governments and other organisations in public-private partnerships to drive sustainability “from niche to norm”.
Prior to taking up his role with IDH, van der Wekken lived in Paris for three years, working at The Consumer Goods Forum (CGF), a separate initiative with more than 400 high-profile members that attempts to connect retailers with manufacturers to enhance the sustainability of the supply chain. “The CGF is the only platform that brings together global retailers and manufacturers,” he says. “They all have sustainability goals, but they have to come together at some point to make them happen. Unilever, for example, is the largest buyer of palm oil in the world (3% of the global total), but it is not able to influence the way it is used on its own.
The board of the CGF consists of 50 CEOs of large multinational companies. They have to be CEOs – you can send a replacement to a board meeting once, but try again and you are off the board. “The organisation is representing the consumer goods industry in four key areas – product safety, health and wellness, logistics and IT, and environmental and social sustainability.
“Together with the retailer and A-brand manufacturers, I was responsible for driving mitigating deforestation, refrigeration (by 2050, supermarket refrigerators are projected to emit more CO2 than the entire transport sector) and food waste. I’d worked for Unilever and Heinz prior to that role, and I left to join IDH two years ago.
Why this is relevant is that it remains part of his role to run the CGF account for IDH. “CGF is an incredibly powerful platform, but while it can make many resolutions, the difficulty is what happens once those resolutions have been passed. Organisations like us can help. Because of our funding and because we are 100% neutral we can actually get out there and do things around the world.”
IDH was set up with funding from the Dutch government in 2010, because there was a belief that development money would be better utilised as part of a practical and targeted trade and aid program. The first five-year tranche was successful and when that initial funding period came to an end in 2015, it was extended to 2020.
The projects are wide and varied, touching diverse sectors from Indonesian palm oil, Madagascan vanilla to landscape developments in Brazil. But at the heart of them all is a sustainability ethos that can have tangible benefits the length and breadth of the supply chain.
The diversity of the remit is perhaps best exemplified by the fact that when PBUK met van der Wekken, he had just come from a meeting with a group of leading UK retailers, all keen to determine their soy ‘footprint’. “The vast majority of people have no concept of what this is, of course, and understandably many people’s first reaction would be to say ‘I don’t sell soy’,” he says. “But there is soy in all sorts of dairy and meat products.
“A slice of salami on a pizza contains soy, for instance – but how much, is it sustainable and where is it from, and how can we measure, monitor and manage it? We’re starting to look at ways we can determine all of these things.”
That involves an awful lot of number crunching, he admits, with KPMG receiving ‘black-box’ sales data from participating retailers to push the project along. “You have to look at the ingredients in every product, which when a retailer has 60,000 SKUs is a pretty big job,” says van der Wekken.
Soy is one of what could be termed the ‘big six’ categories in the IDH portfolio, alongside palm oil, coffee, tea, aquaculture and cocoa. All of these sectors are a way down the sustainability road, with varied levels of certification and take-up. In sustainability terms, the fresh produce sector is still relatively small, in the same vein as flowers, nuts and spices. The similarities of the stage these sectors are at are recognised by IDH, which has bundled them together into a ‘division’ called Fresh & Ingredients. “This helps us to form and follow harmonised approaches to the sectors around the world,” explains van der Wekken. “First we establish industry covenants, next we build industry platforms, then we create benchmarking standards and finally we start to monitor.”
Fresh & Ingredients
The Fresh & Ingredients program aims to increase imports of sustainably produced F&I agro-commodities by 25% by 2020 (against the 2016 baseline).
“We have a budget of €10m for this and around 100 projects ongoing around the world, in West, East and southern Africa, Latin and Central America and India and Vietnam. We work with 130 partners in the private sector and roughly 25% of those are in the fruit and vegetable sector at this point. We have four specific teams, looking after working conditions, climate change (water and waste), inclusion of smallholder farmers and responsible agrochemical management,” he says.
While he recognises that the budget that IDH currently works with is not ultimately sufficient to take this sustainability drive as far and wide as IDH and he himself would ideally like, the organisation never funds any project 100%, but enters into joint funding initiatives with public and private sector partners. So the more private sector partners prepared to fund sustainability projects, the better.
At The Amsterdam Produce Show and Conference, IDH wants to meet produce professionals from all sectors who have an interest in enhancing their sustainability profile. “I work across all commodities, so I know a little about all of them, but I’ll admit I’m not an expert in any of them, so I want to learn,” says van der Wekken. “Much of our work with the fruit and vegetable industry is with producers, but we do of course talk to retailers about [the types of sustainable projects] they want to see and what products they are particularly interested in from a sustainability point of view.
“I look forward to meeting international retailers, their suppliers and growers in Amsterdam – we’ve got a lot to talk about.”