CSR Training sets the scene for strengthening the Polish apple processing sector
May 28th 2014, InHort, the Research Institute of Horticulture in Skierniewice, Poland.
On Wednesday 28 May 2014, the Juice CSR platform organized a fruit juice supplier training on CSR for the Polish apple concentrate sector conducted by training and advisory agency Sociability. The training was attended by over 20 representatives of apple processor companies and factories, cooperatives, research institutes and extension agents working with apple producers.
CSR is slowly but surely becoming part of the business agenda in Poland. Recently, the ‘Respect Index’ was established, based on CSR reports of Polish companies. The training helped participants to see how strategic CSR is relevant their organization or company and the sector as a whole by outlining three major drivers: minimizing risks, reducing costs and generating growth. The training furthermore focused on how to improve collaboration in the Polish apple sector. Three priority issues were identified during the day: ‘profitability and costs at farmer level’, ‘farmer education’ and ‘floods, droughts and water use’.
In groups, participants discussed the issues and came up with ideas on how these could be addressed by the sector:
1) Profitability and costs at farmer level
For the first challenge of low profitability and high costs at farmer level, participants agreed that there was a high uncertainty in the Polish sector when it comes to supply and demand. The apple sector is facing overproduction and fluctuation. More and clearer agreements between producers and traders, processors, exporters or other buyers could help address this.
2) Farmers’ education
Farmers’ education was also emphasized by many participants as an area in need of improvement. There are currently 200.000 producers, of which only 6.000 are member of a producer group. This makes it extremely difficult to reach out to farmers/producers on important matters such as good agricultural practices to increase productivity. There is a lack of skilled personnel and a need for vocational education, while government agencies also face a lack of competences in this field.
3) Floods, droughts & water use
To reduce costs and minimize risk in the sector, the very relevant problem of floods and droughts needs to be addressed in collaboration. First of all, best practices – such as the best way to install nets to prevent hail from destroying the crops- need to be shared more actively and visibly. The same counts for technologies, such as automatic control for irrigation. A research center such as InHort can play a role in building continuous knowledge and sharing practices, while extension centers can assist in bringing this knowledge to farmer level.
A final issue that came up during the session was the use of labour intermediaries. It was acknowledged that the widespread use of these agencies makes it difficult for supply chain stakeholders to know whether (migrant) labour rights are respected. Companies do not want to take a risk and usually visit suppliers to check on human- and labour rights, but at field level the conditions remain much less visible. A way to address this is to create a scheme or institute that checks and endorses intermediaries upon their ethical performance.
A number of examples and tools were shown during the training. Consus Carbon Engineering presented a case study on the benefits of carbon footprint measurement. Furthermore, the Practitioners’ Guide for Sustainable Sourcing and the SAI Farmer Self Assessment tool were presented as practical instruments to address and track social, environmental and economyic improvements throughout the supply chain.
Participants went home with an action plan on what steps they themselves could take to implement CSR and strengthen the Polish apple juice sector. Suggestions were made to make a group email list in order to stay in touch. One participant committed to making an inventory of what is being done at the workplace of his company to see where improvements could be made. Another person representing a processing company would look into the opportunity to set up supplier trainings. An advisory agency representative got inspired to find new ways to differentiate the extension services and become more competitive by integrating CSR.
The Research Institute of Horticulture in Skierniewice (www.inhort.pl) is a well-known research and development institute providing research and support to the Polish horticulture industry. Sociability is an international consultancy and training agency with offices in Copenhagen and Nairobi, specializing in Corporate Social Responsibility and Public Private Collaboration for inclusive and sustainable development. www.sociability.dk