Chain projects in the South lead to more sustainable own brand products

Rice from India, coffee from the DR Congo, quinoa from Peru… Have you ever thought about how far these delicacies have travelled before they reaching your cupboard? And export involves more than just production. A good product must also be packed efficiently, transported properly, marketed intelligently and traded honestly. By setting up chain projects in the countries of origin, we help smaller farmers with limited resources and training to export more easily. We do this with the right partners. And in exchange, we get sustainable quality products, which you can buy from our shops with an easy mind.

More sustainable in every link

Many small family companies in the South have the potential to produce sustainable high quality goods. But due to a lack of money, knowledge or certification, they find it difficult to access modern markets by themselves. In these cases, we check whether a chain project is a solution. With these, together with the farmers, we build an efficient and sustainable production chain, from their fields to the shop, where every link in the chain wins.

As Colruyt Group, we promise to buy a fixed and significant volume from the farmers’ organisations and to export it to Belgium. As a result, their income increases and they’re able to invest more. For our part, we expect them to deliver high quality, to produce sustainably with respect for people and the environment, and to become competent in areas such as logistics, processing and sales. They get time and training to adapt to these higher requirements and we help them, for example in obtaining the necessary certificates.

Coffee farmers in Burundi
With a fixed amount of 230 tonnes of coffee beans per year, we open many prospects for 10,000 small coffee farmers in Burundi.

Participation in existing and new chains

Before we start a chain project, we carry out extensive preliminary studies and see to what extent the farmers’ cooperatives are already organised. Depending on the situation, we either strengthen existing chains or build new chains. In addition, we take a number of criteria into account:

  • We always choose products from developing countries or regions.
  • We support small family producers/farmers who are organised into cooperatives or through a sustainable partner.
  • We always work with independent partners such as NGOs, experts, universities or non-profit organisations.
  • Projects must be feasible within a maximum of 5 years and after that, the cooperatives must be able to take over the chain themselves.
  • Exporting is one thing, but the chain must also give the farmers leverage to gain a stronger position in the local market.
Rice farmers in Benin
It’s good news that we don’t sell upland rice any more. Benin’s rice farmers are strong and have found a sustainable local sales market.

Sharing our networks and knowledge

If a project appears to be economically feasible for all partners over the long term then, as a retailer, we can invest in the chain in different ways:

  • We guarantee sales markets and volumes.
  • We provide (technical) knowledge and material in areas such as quality, packaging, marketing and establishing working methods.
  • Via our Belgian network, we ask universities, colleges and NGOs to help us support the project. For example, by drawing up business and investment plans, developing a tangible roadmap or formulating realistic aims.
  • We look for partners who want to invest in the project or provide loans.
  • We finance the farmers’ training to obtain sustainability certificates and to satisfy audits.
  • We temporarily pay in advance for goods that the farmers purchase.
Leuven technical college students in Benin
College and university employees learn on the spot how they can help shape a project.

10 chains, 10 sustainable products

And what is the result of our chain projects for you, as a responsible consumer? You should take a good look if you’re in one of our Colruyt, Spar, OKay or Bio-Planet supermarkets. You’ll find more and more of our own brand products which are better for the planet and for the people who produce them. And that’s thanks to years of joint effort within a sustainable chain.

We have a huge ambition. By 2020, we want to set up 10 chain projects, each of which will lead to a more sustainable Boni Selection (Bio), Spar or Kangourou own brand product. By 2018, we already realised 7 projects. To be continued!

Coffee farmers in Northern Kivu
With our sustainable chain story in mind, a cup of Kivu coffee from DR Congo tastes even more delicious.

Farmers of the future

Creating a sustainable economy only makes sense if there’s follow-up to maintain it. That’s why we also establish training projects for young people via the Collibri Foundation in regions where we have chain projects. Conversely, training projects can also lead to new chain projects. This allows local community to enrich themselves both socially and economically.

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With this initiative, we contribute to the following Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations.

Decent work & economic growth Sustainable cities and communities Responsible consumption & production Climate action Partnerships for the goals