New report demonstrates ‘win-win’ impact of a collaborative supply chain

A new report launched today reveals the ways in which M&S and Flamingo Horticulture have benefited from improved communication with the smallholder farmers and workers in their supply chains.

The report, which resulted from a collaboration between M&S, Flamingo Horticulture, the international development charity Traidcraft Exchange and the Kenyan Human Rights Commission, shares the learning from a three-year project working with smallholder farmers and workers in a green bean supply chain in Kenya.

The project enabled M&S, Flamingo and individuals at every level of the supply chain to meet and discuss key issues of concern for each stage of the supply chain and what steps could be taken to address them.

M&S and Flamingo report having a greater awareness of the impact of their buying practices, and smallholders and workers report having a greater understanding of how their products were sold.

As a result of these discussions, M&S enhanced its consumer product specification, thereby purchasing a greater proportion of the bean that is harvested and began confirming their final orders 24 hours earlier than previously, which has enabled better planning for workers’ schedules.

Flamingo pledged to purchase a minimum volume at a minimum price from smallholders, enabling smallholders to have confidence in the minimum level of income they will earn.

All stages of the supply chain report significant benefits by making changes to the way they work. Flamingo and M&S report benefiting from the smallholders providing a better quality and more reliable supply due to increased farmer loyalty.

Other benefits reported were a reduction in food waste, increased shelf life, improved order management and an improved understanding of the detailed workings of the supply chain.

This project has helped us to improve our understanding of the challenges faced by workers and smallholders in the supply base. It's brought numerous benefits to our business, including reduced food waste and better availability for customers shopping in our stores.” Suzanne Webb, Trading Manager, M&S

Farmers maintained product supply throughout the whole year. When there was a drought and there was a shortage of the product in the regions, the smallholders remained loyal and we are very proud of them. They didn’t sell the product to other parties. The out-growers kept committed to Flamingo and kept us operational with product at the right specification and price. The packhouse remained fully operational whilst other packhouses had to close. Delivery of the smallholders’ products covered by the M&S pledge remains steady which is a credit to our new pledge and our enhanced ways of working project with M&S.” Ian Michell, MD Flamingo Produce, Group Technical Director.

Fiona Gooch, Senior Policy Advisor at Traidcraft Exchange, said: “Traidcraft Exchange is delighted in the win-wins that the project has yielded for both small scale farmers and workers who do the bulk of the physical work in the green bean supply chain, as well as for retailers and importers.

Many of the problems and then the solutions identified in this supply chain could also be applied to other perishable supply chains coming in the UK market. By sharing the learning from our collaboration then other retailers, importers, and suppliers handling products produced by smallholders and passing through a packhouse can consider making some of the changes which M&S and Flamingo made, or evolve alternative practices.

Nigel Jenney of the Fresh Produce Consortium said: “FPC delighted to be associated with this new and evolving good practice.”

The report is being officially launched at an event co-hosted with Fresh Produce Consortium on Tuesday 15 January.

Prior to the start of the project, small scale farmers experienced unpredictable incomes, and packhouse workers were frequently asked to work overtime at short notice, whilst in the UK there was sometimes not the availability which was expected.

ENDS

Notes to editors

  • The report can be found at www.traidcraft.org.uk/policy-resources/horticulture-adapting-practices

  • Project which brought Marks and Spencer (M&S), Flamingo Horticulture (formerly Finlays Horticulture), Traidcraft Exchange and the Kenya Human Rights Commission was called ‘Kenya Horticulture – A Fair Deal for Smallholder Farmers and Workers’ which was funded by Comic Relief between 2013-2016.

  • Hazel Culley available to comment via Foods.planA@marksandspencer.com

  • Ian Michell, MD Produce, Group Technical, Agriculture & Procurement Director, Flamingo UK is available to comment on and can be contacted via info@flamingo.net

  • Fiona Gooch, Senior Policy Adviser is available to comment on 0789 4066449

  • Nigel Jenney, Chief Executive Officer, Fresh Produce Consortium is available to comment on nigel@freshproduce.org.uk

  • Photos are available on request from  info@flamingo.net and mary.milne@traidcraft.org

Nancy Demuth