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Arvid Nordquist has long been a company with an eye on the environment, but it was only when they began supplying coffee to Swedish fast food chain Max Hamburger that sustainability became a strategic issue.
“Max Hamburger labels every individual product with its climate impact,” says Erica Bertilsson, Marketing Manager at Arvid Nordquist. “And so this got us interested in how things looked for us, how did our value chain look and what impact did we have?”
The company let an independent environmental consultant make climate calculations of their whole value chain of their coffee production, leading them to understand that their biggest climate impact was in the cultivation part of the chain. The company realized that the environmental goals they had in place were too internally focused. “We needed to redefine our goals to focus on the cultivation side, and so sustainability really became an embedded strategic issue,” says Erica.
Advantage of working with partners
Arvid Norquist began working with UTZ in 2004, making them one of UTZ’s longest standing partners. Today they work with a variety of partners including Fairtrade, KRAV (a Swedish organic label), and also buy Rainforest Alliance coffee.
“We are a very small company, about 0,02% of the global coffee market, and so we recognize that to be out there in the field we cannot do it by ourselves,” says Erica. “We need to work with partners, and UTZ is the biggest partner we have. So what UTZ does in the marketplace and how it secures its standard plays a very important part in securing our own value chain.”
Setting high standards
Arvid Nordquist sources 100% of its tea and coffee sustainably, and also sets consistently high company standards, such as ensuring 100% of its major suppliers are audited by 2020 at the latest.
This approach can work really well: the target that 90% of customers and employees should associate the Arvid Nordquist name with sustainability by 2020 was reached by 2014.
It’s not always plain sailing however; a target to source 80% of all products sustainably by 2020 had to be revised when Arvid Nordquist added big brand names such as Kellogg’s and Pringles to its portfolio.
The company will not let this put them off. “Our aim is to work closely with our brand owners and help educate them on how important sustainability is for Nordic markets,” says Erica. “At the end of the day we have the new Sustainable Development Goals that we all need to fulfill by 2030, so we all need to work in this direction.”
Pushing consumer understanding
When it comes to challenges, Erica thinks the biggest is consumer understanding of different certification labels. “Helping the consumer understand different certifications, trust different labels and really understand that they should buy a certified product instead of an uncertified product is difficult,” she says. “We try to persuade the media to cover it, but it’s a very complex area and it’s difficult to get them to write about it.”
Internally, however, sustainability is embraced. “When we started to define and fulfill our goals it created such pride,” says Erica. “Today everyone is behind it, and we also have a very good reputation in the marketplace – a lot of that was due to our sustainable approach. We have now taken the decision to roast our coffee with biogas, and we are very proud that we are the first roaster in Sweden to do this. It’s a bit more expensive but it is the right decision for us.”
Have a defined goal
Looking forward, Erica believes it will become increasingly important for companies to provide scientific evidence to back up sustainability claims. “We already see signs we are heading that way,” she says. “I think our customers and consumers will demand it in the very near future. We need more scientific evidence that certification really creates better livelihoods and better climate impact.”
Erica’s advice for any company considering sustainability is simple. “I think it’s wise to start to measure your impact, set up goals to reduce it and start off by working with sustainability standards. For example, have a defined goal of becoming 100% certified. I think you should be very transparent with your customers. I think that’s the best way to start.”
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