Fair Trade

Whole Foods Tops 2013 Seafood Retailer Scorecard

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According to the annual CATO Report recently published by Greenpeace, Whole Foods supermarkets has moved to the top of seafood retailers by focusing on the sustainability of their supply chain. The report outlines the current state of retail seafood and discusses the practices, both positive and negative, that are part of the supply chain that puts fish on grocery store shelves. Additionally, Greenpeace ranks the retailers on four criterion: policy, initiatives, transparency, and red list inventory (a list of 22 priority species).

Whole Foods captured the crown by reining in its seafood supply chain; reducing the number of red list fish, offering a selection of sustainable canned tuna, and introducing quantitative policies and initiatives that govern its purchasing decisions. Other notable grocers from this years report include Safeway, who came in second place with their goal of selling no unsustainable seafood by 2015, and Trader Joe’s, who improved from 15th in last year’s report to 3rd this year by significantly stepping up efforts in all four areas.

While there is still work to be done to implement sustainable seafood practices globally, all three of the CATO Report’s top retailers are actively reducing their environmental impact by developing and implementing a thorough sustainable purchasing policy. This is true in many other purchasing areas as well as seafood and can be applied to any business. Reeve Consulting has had experience helping our partners to build out and implement sustainable purchasing policies in dozens of those areas.

2012 – A Turning Point in Municipal Sustainable Purchasing in Canada

Sustainable purchasing is gaining ground in the Canadian municipal sector as municipalities realize its contribution to existing ‘green’ objectives, such as zero waste and climate neutrality, and corporate ones, such as risk management or operational efficiency. As a relatively new practice within the Canadian public sector, many municipalities are reaching out to their peers to share resources on sustainable purchasing. A cross-country peer network that is a front-runner in setting new benchmarks and best practices in sustainable purchasing in Canada is the Municipal Collaboration on Sustainable Purchasing (MCSP).

The MCSP, for which Reeve Consulting serves as secretariat and technical expert, allows municipalities to share sustainable purchasing lessons, best practices, “tricks of the trade”, and other resources to fast-track their individual programs. The group recently launched a publication co-authored by Reeve on, ‘The State of Municipal Sustainable Procurement in Canada’. Through consultations with MCSP participants and extensive literature review, the study reports on the current state of municipal sustainable procurement in Canada.

The study found that 2012 was an important year for municipalities with many strategically approaching their programs:

  • In response to increased staffing and resource constraints, municipalities enhanced their collaboration with MCSP peer and other agencies and strategically leveraged existing relationships and shared resources
  • Inter-departmental collaborations were also strengthened especially between Procurement and Sustainability. Other departments were also engaged via, for example the formation of inter-department green teams, to increase program buy-in and instill behavioural change on municipal spending
  • Greater focus on implementation. Recognizing that it takes 2 to 5 years to form a comprehensive program, many municipalities took a dual-track approach, dividing resources between building program elements and targeting key contracts such as copy paper (that has a mature sustainability market)

Overall, 2012 is considered to be a turning point in municipal sustainable procurement in Canada due to the focus on collaboration. Next year, municipalities have reported that they will be implementing their programs more widely and developing measurement and reporting frameworks. With insufficient levels in their resource pools, forming stronger and wider collaborations for sustainable purchasing will be more important than ever.

>> Download a full copy of the 2012 State of Municipal Sustainable Purchasing report from the Resources page.

To learn more about the MCSP, contact Tim Reeve @:                           tim@reeveconsulting.com or by phone at 604-763-6829.

Cotton Supply Chain: organic & fair trade sustainability in the global market

2010 was a record-breaking year for cotton prices in global markets. In this post, Reeve Consulting presents an overview of recent market activity, considers the implications for working and environmental conditions in the supply chain and takes a look at how organic and fair-trade cotton sectors are fairing. We finish with a few suggestions for corporate and governmental purchasers looking to reduce brand risk and improve ethical and sustainable purchasing practices when it comes to cotton goods.


Flickr / kimberlykv

Cotton is the largest non-food crop in the world with over 24.3 million tonnes consumed worldwide annually. Did you know it’s also the largest employer? From farm workers to retail employees, an estimated 1 billion people are involved in the growing, processing and selling stages.

Given the ubiquity of cotton, it’s significant that 2010 was an unprecedented year for the commodity in global markets. The price doubled in a year and broke the $1 (U.S.) per pound level for the first time in 15 years.

Globe and Mail / Bloomberg

Rising prices affects the entire supply chain

A number of factors have been attributed to the sudden price increase, a main one being poor weather conditions in top growing regions, including floods in Pakistan, a severe cold snap in China, crop-killing hailstorms in Texas and, more recently, flooding in Australia. Speculation has played a significant role, as well as export restrictions put in place by India (the second-largest cotton producer) to protect domestic supplies and prices.

Consequently, the clothing sector is feeling the squeeze of both increasing input costs and a weak consumer environment. According to media reports, the prices of jeans, t-shirts and other cotton apparel will likely increase 2 – 15% in 2011.

Clean Clothes Campaign

To avoid passing a price hike to consumers, clothing companies may reduce costs by mixing in less expensive, synthetic fibers or by decreasing pack sizes on smaller bulk products like socks. Of greater concern is that companies will move production to lower wage countries with lower duty tariffs and weaker environmental restrictions. As examples, consider how garment workers demanding a fair minimum wage are currently being treated in Cambodia and Bangladesh. Anticipating such tactics, the Ethical Trade Initiative released a statement in late-September urging retail buyers to factor in the cost of a living wage for workers in their price negotiations with garment suppliers.

Organic cotton prices are linked to conventional cotton prices

A recent edition of Engage, an e-newsletter published by the Organic Exchange, takes a close look at the organic cotton industry. The opening article suggests the extraordinary times experienced by conventional cotton have on the one hand created a beneficial seller’s market. At the same time these conditions have had a potentially damaging impact on the sector by leveling the price of organic and conventional cotton. As the Organic Exchange (OE) puts it:

“Farmers are seeing their carefully tended organic harvest end up in conventional supply chains. Organic cotton procurers are struggling to meet their usual premium commitments (which don’t make sense anymore) and on top of this the lag time for organic buyers to respond to the market is adding a further complication.”

The article concludes that if organic cotton is to be secure in a stable, appropriate value chain it needs protection from the dramatically changing commodity price. This could come in the form of working partnerships that deliver benefit to farmers as well as buyers.

This concept is further covered in a recent article in the World of Organic Agriculture – Statistics and Emerging Trends 2010 journal:

“The sector must address the protection of the farm and fiber business model to ensure farmers and those who work with them receive sufficient returns to maintain investment in farmer development and productivity.”

Protection from the commodity market rollercoaster

A number of programs have attempted to protect cotton from market conditions. Perhaps the best known is the fair trade movement.  We’ve written a number of posts on the Reeve Consulting blog about the new garment certification program unveiled in 2010 by Fair Trade USA. For the first time the full supply chain of a product, not just the agricultural inputs, can receive fair trade certification ensuring workers are paid a fair, living wage for their goods and services. While only a handful of brands have completed the certification process, recent reports indicate more companies are working with Fair Trade USA to acquire certification.

Flickr / kimberlykv

Another example can be found in the recent commitment by Anvil Knitwear to double the production of organic cotton in the U.S. Through the Texas Organic Cotton Marketing Cooperative, Anvil will pay a premium for organic cotton as well as purchase any cotton making a transition to organic at a price close to the premium. The hope is that having a guaranteed buyer will encourage conventional cotton farmers to switch to organic production.

Social Alterations, an online education lab for socially responsible fashion design, has also focused on this issue and recently shared a post outlining approaches undertaken by two other global commodities – coffee and cocoa – that have similarly attempted to address the volatility of global commodity prices.

Purchasing cotton responsibly: ethical and sustainable purchasing considerations

When it comes buying cotton goods, purchasing departments can reduce risk and improve supply chain practices by considering the following:

  • Making a formal commitment to specify and support sustainable forms of cotton in purchasing decisions (e.g. organic, fair trade, ethically sourced)
  • Considering the origins of cotton goods including. More specifically, the working and environmental conditions under which they were made
  • Investing in long-term relationships with suppliers and focusing on continued improvement

To learn more about how our clients and organizations are benefitting from these and other sustainable supply chain practices contact us.

Fair Trade Certified jeans and t-shirts coming to stores in the U.S. in 2010!

Flickr / geishaboy500

When buying clothes in North America, it is quite difficult to know whether or not they were produced in a sweatshop. But now, two leading independent groups have teamed up to try and make it easier for consumers to select ethically produced clothes, simply by looking at the label.

Transfair USA and Social Accountability Accreditation Services Social Accountability Accreditation Services (SAAS) – the agency that oversees the SA8000 certification for ethical factories (i.e. “non-sweatshops”) – teamed up this year to integrate auditing processes in a pilot project that will result in the first Fair Trade Certified jeans and t-shirts in the USA market! A groundbreaking effort on three fronts.

First, Fair Trade certifying bodies have been grappling to extend Fair Trade Certification beyond basic agricultural commodities (e.g. coffee, tea, fruit and cotton) to the production of garments and other factory made items. This recent move by Transfair USA to extend the Fair Trade label to clothing is the first of its kind. Consumers will soon be able to look at the label on their jeans and trust that they were not produced in a sweatshop.

Second, it is rare to see two third-party certifying bodies double check each other’s work, so to speak. Often, our trust, as consumers, must be put into a single certification system. Now, however, when consumers buy Fair Trade Certified apparel in the USA (on shelves in Fall 2010) they can be assured that SAAS was also closely involved in ensuring that the garments were not stitched together in a sweatshop. This brings a new level of strength and legitimacy to third-party product certifications.

Third, Transfair USA and SAAS’s partnership is also groundbreaking in that they are working together to make it easier for factories to demonstrate compliance with ethical standards. Ethical compliance auditing processes can be cumbersome and many manufacturing facilities are reporting “audit fatigue” as a result of having to complete multiple audits per year for different agencies. Transfair USA and SAAS’s efforts to integrate their auditing process will help alleviate some of this pressure.

This type of partnership between Transfair USA and SAAS will hopefully generate a ripple effect in the third-party product certification space. Will we see more certifying bodies joining forces to harmonize standards and auditing processes? Or will consumers continue to have to wade through multiple certifications and try to decipher which ones are better? Reeve looks forward to seeing how this will influence other agencies and maybe one day Transfair Canada will partner with someone like SAAS and bring Fair Trade Certified clothing to our stores.

Click here for more information on this partnership.