STORY INLINE POST
Over the course of the last decade, a paradigm shift has taken place as different companies from several industries have become more conscious about the need to meet the highest levels of ethical and sustainable practices throughout their operations. The main concerns are working conditions and the responsible use of natural resources as well as promoting well-being among the community. This has been intensified by the SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) global health emergency, since according to a survey by Capterra in 2021, the pandemic caused 51 percent of Mexican consumers to rethink and reevaluate their purchasing decisions to ensure that good practices are employed behind the scenes in making the goods they receive. These are expectations and motivations that must be met by organizations.
It is precisely this topic that I want to delve into today. As I mentioned in my previous article, The Need to Elevate the Profile of Agricultural Work, the agriculture sector is one of the most prosperous in economic terms. In fact, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (SADER) indicated that for the eighth consecutive year, as of March 2022, the agricultural and agro-industrial trade balance registered a surplus and was the fifth-largest positive balance in 28 years. Although these figures undoubtedly fill us with pride since they make clear the great work that has been done by the sector, they also put a great responsibility on our shoulders.
This, after considering that several challenges still need to be addressed and among them how to implement business models that seek to promote inclusive and sustainable economic growth that can drive progress, create dignified jobs for all and improve living standards for the people who carry out activities within the sector. I must say that even though endorsing these kinds of practices is not exclusive to the agri-food sector, it is interesting how the industries associated with it can have a leading role in promoting dignified lives and a shared value.
That is why as part of Driscoll’s in Mexico, I have witnessed first-hand the need to work together with independent growers, harvesters, grocers, and everyone in-between as they are all an essential pillar to achieve the goal of a more prosperous future for everyone by building an ethical supply chain. It is no secret that by promoting bonds of trust and collaboration with all those who are involved throughout production and supply chains, value is created for all stakeholders. And of course, to strengthen them, it is essential to boost alliances and collaboration linking a diversity of stakeholders, the business community, authorities at the three levels of government, academia, and civil society.
Now, I would like to highlight that throughout my professional career, I have seen several initiatives, from different industries, aimed at promoting shared development, efforts that I am glad to have witnessed. Among them, I am proud to share with you a particular practice that we carry out at Driscoll’s, which I believe clearly illustrates how companies can promote substantial changes in their level of engagement with the communities where they operate. I am referring to the Community Growers System, in which small-scale growers receive support and mentoring not only in agriculture practices but also on environmental procurement, so they can stay on the land they love and care for along with their families, instead of migrating to look for better opportunities. Such initiatives, not only promote dignifiying jobs but a deep sense of pride and belonging is developed, and more importantly, the community can flourish in a responsible and sustainable way. In fact, at Driscoll’s, we see ourselves as a community-based business, it is part of our DNA. We owe ourselves, as many organizations do, to the support we receive from the communities where we operate. By building an ethical supply chain, where jobs not only provide a source of income for workers but also an opportunity for professional and personal development and, by inviting community entrepreneurs to be part of our business through our Community Grower System, we are reciprocating the support we receive from communities.
The World Bank acknowledged that agriculture can help reduce poverty, raise incomes, and improve food security for 80 percent of the worldwide population that lives in rural areas and develops activities mainly linked to farming. As a sector, we must work together toward ethical supply chains that enforce only the best practices, so that people within a community can be sure that they are a relevant part of a strong chain of positive changes that are taking place. There is still a long way to go but by leveraging strategic actions, such as creating jobs in rural areas that go beyond economic compensation to workers and inviting community entrepreneurs to be part of the business, important steps are being taken toward a value chain that shares value with an important stakeholder: the community.