Reynolds, a pioneer in the supply of sustainable fresh produce, has taken another step forward as it works towards benchmarking the environmental standards of its own suppliers.
Reynolds is up and running, speeding towards achieving its goal of certification to ISO 14001 Environmental Standard. The company, which among other things has been setting up strategies for assessing the environmental credentials for suppliers, is now receiving invaluable help from a Masters student from London Metropolitan University.
Simon Jones, Environmental Manager atReynolds,was himself an intern at Reynolds when working for his dissertation on returnable crates at Writtle Agricultural College. Jones is currently working alongside studentMartaSalvà.Whileworking for her own dissertation, Marta is supporting Reynolds to establish a benchmark for best environmental practice for its suppliers.
Simon explains: When Marta got in touch wanting to talk about her dissertation on measuring the carbon footprint of produce it chimed with what I was doing. It is a timely subject and Marta is now helping us to compile sustainable indices for suppliers that could be the benchmark for the future.
Ian Booth, Reynolds Technical Director, remarks: Suppliers are expected to have an environmental policy in place but there is often no more detail available other than that they have one! We need to know what the policy includes in minute detail as our clients will ask specifically about targets met. It was obvious that we needed to drill down deeper into suppliers sustainability strategies.
Jones goes on to explain that there are two kinds of footprint: firstly, the organisational or business carbon footprint which measures the direct and indirect greenhouse gas emissions arising from all of an organisations activities, and secondly, the product carbon footprint. A products carbon footprint measures the greenhouse gas emissions at each stage of the products life cycle so, from a growers perspective, that includes everything from soil changes, seeds, pesticides, fertilisers, water and electricity usage, through to the diesel used in equipment and transportation.
Salvà has devised a questionnaire which has been trialled on a selection of Reynolds suppliers. The aim is to then incorporate the findings into the generic Technical Approval Documentation, completed by all new suppliers. From their responses Reynolds will look at the best sustainable indicators and best practice to achieve them, and consider what is deemed an expected level of environmental compliance.
Salvà says: I started in March and will hand in my dissertation in May; the help and encouragement I have received from Reynolds has been very useful to me. Reynolds is gearing up for ISO 14001 accreditation, and is now working to that standard. Hopefully the sustainability indicators will encourage suppliers to take a more proactive approach to their environmental policies and urge them to do more.
With Martas help these indices will give us transparent methodology in order to meet ISO 14001 and give us total credibility with stakeholders, adds Jones.
Booth states: It is also worth noting that many of our suppliers already have great environmental initiatives in place. When selecting a supplier to meet the stringent technical requirements of Reynolds, those who have robust technical management systems, and sufficient structure and resource to deliver this, also tend to be more advanced in their environmental practices. This is not only the larger organisations; many of our smaller, more regional growers have also invested in a variety of environmental practices and we will work hand in hand with these suppliers to help achieve best practice.
Some of the initial findings from suppliers regarding environmental practices are:
A leaf supplier who uses a recycled water system to wash the product, reducing water consumption.
All suppliers interviewed so far are reducing energy consumption but are not using renewable sources yet.
A potato supplier has implemented a system called Cascade Water Recycling that eliminates waste soil sludge by separating soil and sand from the water. It has also reduced process water by 80 per cent.
All suppliers recycle and separate their waste streams, from organic materials to paper, plastic or wood.
Some larger suppliers are starting to use sustainability surveys to be completed by their growers.
As well as devising the questionnaire, Salvà has been helping Jones to calculate the carbon footprint for UK sourced potatoes. Some initial discussions have also been held with a public-private unit for the foreign trade development of the State of Minas Gerais, Brazil. Reynolds imports a small amount of exotic fruit and vegetables from Brazil and is working with suppliers there to ensure imports are bought in the most sustainable manner. With the World Bank ?s support, a major perishables project is being implemented focusing on logistics, trade intelligence and promotion, which Reynolds is involved in, through inviting a Brazilian delegation to Reynolds National Distribution Centre.
Companies are keen to export but when we ask them What about packaging or recycling? the initial response can often be incomprehension. Dr Chris Bishop, consultant with the World Bank, and a senior lecture at Writtle Agricultural College is liaising with us, says Jones. Reynolds is also in constant dialogue with suppliers regarding best practices and sustainable farming techniques whether at home or abroad.
Understanding the impact that Reynolds has on the environment, at all stages from farm to fork, is an ever evolving process concludes Booth. All of our suppliers, as well as ourselves, approach this in different ways, identifying the key issues relevant to our businesses. Through our involvement with Footprint Forum and discussion with other members of the foodservice industry we are really moving our environmental initiatives forward. Our understanding improves each day as we probe further into each area. Reynolds suppliers are an absolutely key aspect, and Im really keen to see the final conclusions of Martas work.