You don’t need to look far to find examples of companies saying that while they’d like to know more about what’s going on in their supply chains, it’s just too hard for them to do. (“Supply chain” just being shorthand for the way an apple, for example, gets from a tree in Chile to your local grocery store for your apple pie.)
Here’s just one example: Several years ago, in 2006, Nestle was working to ensure that all of its operations around the world – from Switzerland to Singapore – would be consistent. Anywhere it operates, Nestle would use a “single set of procurement, distribution and sales management systems.” And in 2009, the company proudly announced that, with help from experts in integration and professional interfaces “based on EDI file transfers and direct database connection with complex logic,” Nestle was now using its consistent operations in theMiddle East as well. Impressive, huh?
And yet…. It took till late 2011 for Nestle to decide that it would start looking at human rights issues in its supply chain? Nestle notes in its press release that it is the first food company to become a member of the Fair Labor Association. Let’s assume that’s a good thing for now and say props to Nestle for joining – because what I want to focus on here is this commonly heard excuse: “The cocoa supply chain is long and complex. This makes it difficult for food companies to establish exactly where their cocoa comes from and under what conditions it was harvested.” (And it’s not just Nestle – Hershey makes the same excuse in its cocoa production, too. See Hershey’s own CSR Report and read about the shadow Report here.)
Ace Ventura Wouldn’t Buy It
So again, I ask - Really? (Or, as Ace Ventura would say, “Oh, reee-hehehehehallly?”) Over four decades after we put a man on the moon…in a world where my phone can tell me where to get the best empanadas in town and when the next bus is going to arrive at my stop…where DNA off of a cigarette butt can solve a 31-year old murder case…and, not to pick on the post office, but even the U.S. post office has a service that tells you exactly where your mail was, is, and will be…. You’re telling me that companies cannot figure out where things that go in their own products come from???
And that, dear readers, is EXACTLY what we as consumers need to say to these companies: We are not buying what you’re selling. Literally and figuratively. And guess what… it works.
1 Blogger + 1 photo + 1 letter = Big Change in Sweden
Take, for example, one blogger who made a big difference in Sweden. What did he do? Jump over a burning building in a single bound? No. Organize a massive protest? No. He went to a Swedish hamburger chain and, instead of fries, ordered fruit with his meal. But when they handed him a little cup of Dole fruit, he said, “No, thanks.” Why? Because Dole was the company who was suing a Swedish filmmaker for making a film about the company’s practices in Nicaragua. When the manager sent a letter back to the blogger saying they’d stop buying from Dole, the blogger posted the letter and a picture of his little fruit cup on his blog. And *voila* – through the power of the interwebs, word got around and big changes happened. I won’t spoil the ending, but for more, I refer you to another documentary film: “Big Boys Gone Bananas!*” (Here’s the trailer.) (For a review of the film by SAGE magazine,read here.)
So dear readers, do not underestimate the power you have to influence the companies that make the products that you use. And do not accept excuses when companies say that they can’t do better.
In sum, you’re right, Dad, some excuses satisfy only those who give them. For more on why that might be….stay tuned for another blog this week.
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