When we understand something, we can improve it. That is why having traceable supply chains is crucial to sourcing responsible produce.
Managing Traceability Commitments
Manage change through transparency and traceability by:
- Ensuring responsibility in our supply chains
Supply chain management is at the core of ECOM’s activities as a commodities trader. But with many farmers living in remote areas with reduced access to tools and resources, responsible practices can sometimes come second to simply reaching markets for produce.
In addition to geographical remoteness, the complexity of the supply chain poses challenges, with many different intermediaries at each point along the chain. Traceability is a vital tool in helping us achieve chain oversight – ECOM is working with every actor in the supply chain to digitise every step of the products’ journey.
Together with new technologies and our commitment to certification, the Group is continuing to achieve greater visibility of our activities, even across the most complex and indirect supply chains.
Areas for strategic focus
Transparency is key
Traceability and sustainability go hand in hand. In coffee and cocoa, the ECOM Group continues to focus on improving traceability, increasingly supported by digital data collection and tools such as GIS mapping. We know that external accreditations create confidence – we offer certification from the world’s most recognised initiatives, including Fairtrade and Rainforest Alliance.
What this means in practice
In our cocoa division, specific traceability targets will help us achieve our goal of knowing that every bean we source has been done so responsibly. By the end of 2023, we’re committed to 100% traceability for beans purchased directly from origin-sourced supply chains, with a similar goal for partner-sourced beans by the end of 2025.
Responsibility is at the core of SMS’ activity. ECOM’s SMS team has built the SMS Code, a set of criteria to assess farm performance against environmental, social and management criteria, with additional assessment of key drivers of farm productivity and coffee quality. SMS Verified in coffee has been recognised by the Global Coffee Platform as equivalent to the GCP Baseline Coffee Code. This recognition provides a third party review of the SMS Code and Verified requirements, as well as programme management. Ensuring claims related to SMS Code and responsible sourcing are accurate and sound.
Beyond working with organisations and academic institutions, ECOM invests financially in partnerships that will benefit communities and create greater transparency in the supply chain. In 2018 EISA, ECOM’s cotton operation in Brazil, formed Beneficiadora de Algoadao Cotton 163 with a group of local farms, financing the project as an impact investment and keeping 38% of the shares, while the farmers own the rest. Cotton 163’s net profit margin increased by 9.85% in 2021 – a clear demonstration of the benefits that working in partnership can bring.
Knowing where your product comes from
We can only change what we know. Traceability is a vital tool in our kit for enhancing supply chain oversight and ensuring ECOM, our partners and customers feel confident about where their product comes from and how it’s processed.
What this means in practice
Smarter Cocoa starts with responsible supply chains. But with many farmers living in remote areas with reduced access to state-of-the-art tools and resources, responsible practices can often come second to simply reaching markets for produce. We work with farmers on the ground, developing the technologies, resources and standards that lay the foundations for economically viable farms and a more sustainable, ethical supply chain.
Having end-to-end traceability in coffee is a challenge due to its complex supply chain. However, with the use of technology and the support from clients through their sustainability commitments, we are able to have improved insight and increased traceability. While working with supply chain partners, ECOM has implemented several technological solutions to enable the collection of information during the first stage of the coffee journey. Traceability works both ways, which is why ECOM has also worked with local actors and businesses who play a key role in connecting farmers to supply chains to implement these solutions. Through our service delivery procedures, we are able to have transparency over the products journey, connecting this to the rest of the supply chain via new platforms and solutions.
As of 2021, we can generalise cotton traceability to most of our deliveries and, through our pilots, we are constantly improving, adapting and adding more detail. In one of these, the Blue Seed programme, we have been able to trace a luxurious, extra-long tailor-made fibre produced with less water from start to finish: from seed developer, to farmer, service provider and factory, and finally to high-end branded jeans in a Milan concept store.
Keeping pace through digitisation
As the world changes and society’s demands evolve, technological innovation is the key to realising sustainable agriculture and financially empowering our farmers.
To bridge the information gap, in 2013 SMS created SMS integrity (SMSi), a digital platform first designed to collate farmer information and provide services and products tailored to their unique needs. Today, the tool is in use by over 350,000 farmers across 16 countries in multiple commodities.
What this means in practice
ECOM cocoa has extended the SMS integrity (SMSi) programme from collecting farmer information to mapping land. Data collection has been automated for field staff, with over 340k polygons (maps that digitally represent geographic data for irregularly shaped areas) and more than 430k hectares mapped to date. Across the chain, from grower to chocolate maker, this helps achieve a more transparent end-to-end process.
Digitisation of our supply chain is essential to coffee sustainability ambitions. Leveraging our network of field teams, ECOM has implemented SMS integrity (SMSi), a sustainability data collection and analysis tool. With offline data abilities, SMSi penetrates the remote coffee landscapes and enables field technicians to provide direct feedback to producers as their latest farm data is consolidated in ready to use reports and insights, optimising the impact of field visits. Digitisation enables clients to access key insights into supply chains and projects implemented through ECOM’s sustainability teams. Providing access to dashboards and data visualisation important for reporting and communication.
ECOM is working with every actor in the supply chain to digitise every step of the cotton journey. In addition to our own SMS integrity (SMSi) versatile platform, we are also working with some modular traceability systems that use blockchain technology, forensic science traceability, synthetic markers and RFID tracking systems to analyse the data and generate reports.
Responsible supply chains
Frutos de la Restitución, Colombia
ECOM’s specialty coffee arm looks for the most exciting varieties around the world and connects the grower and the roaster. In 2019, ECOM’s partner in Colombia, Condor, was introduced to something special – varieties that not only tasted amazing, thanks to cultivation in rich, volcano ash-derived soil, but were grown by farmers who were forced to abandon their lands after decades of violence and which were only restored to them in 2011. Known as the Frutos de la Restitución – the fruits of restitution – these coffees from the producers in Tablon de Gomez not only represent an important initiative for social justice and progress in Colombia, but the sheer quality is a testament to the families’ resilience and strength.
In just three weeks, in the middle of the pandemic, more than 30,000kg were sold, enabling Condor to pay 46 different producers directly. At ECOM, we’re committed to helping more families like these connect to the specialty market, creating a transparent chain for their exceptional product to reach a worldwide audience.
Single origin cocoa
OFIR plantation in Sierra Leone
When over a million new cocoa trees were planted on the OFIR plantation in Sierra Leone, ECOM knew it would be some years before they became productive. So we decided to use it as an opportunity to demonstrate what plantations like this are capable of.
We harvested cocoa beans from old trees on the plantation and, working with expert French chocolatiers, used them to create a small batch of single-origin, tree-to-treat chocolate bars. Working in this way gave us the insight and data we needed to enable traceability, not just to the plantation, but to the very tree the beans in each bar were harvested from.
Origin specific solutions
Each origin has its own impact areas. At ECOM, we are looking to develop programmes that align with the local and global needs.
We focus on issues such as building farmer’s climate change resilience, natural resource management (water, soil and biodiversity), GHG emissions, and human rights. We intend to help farmers transition to more sustainable practices through capacity building, access to the market, financial support and assisting with the certification processes.
Currently, we’re already working with farmers in Mexico, the United States, Brazil, Spain and we’re on the lookout for opportunities to develop projects elsewhere.