United Biscuits’ (UB) is aiming to increase the number of its suppliers signed up to the Supplier Ethical Data Exchange (Sedex) system to 80 per cent by the end of 2011, the firm said in its recent sustainability report.
From the beginning of 2011, 64 per cent of the firm’s raw material and ingredient suppliers have been signed up to a working group in Sedex.
Through the web-based reporting system, Sedex gives international food manufacturers the opportunity to agree on a consistent approaches and requirements for ethical standards across the joint supply chain.
The organization also gives companies a platform to share information about ingredients’ suppliers and their sustainable credentials.
“It’s a well recognized system, suppliers know what we mean by Sedex and there’s a clear structure because we’re all using the same benchmark,” a spokesperson for UB told BakeryandSnacks.com.
The auditing process is accelerated once a supplier joins the Sedex system, he said. Because information is pooled, suppliers only need to undergo one audit a year rather than two or three, therefore helping to reduce costs and effort, explained the spokesperson.
In the report, UB also said it insists that all of its suppliers meet the Ethical Trading Initiative Base Code.
The code requires that no child labour is used, working conditions are safe and hygienic, a minimum of living wages are paid, working hours are not excessive, and no harsh or inhumane treatment is allowed, said the firm.
Farmers’ working groups
Forming another part of its sustainable sourcing strategy, UB has developed farmers’ growing groups. This involves working with agricultural colleges to seek ways of growing wheat and potatoes sustainability, said the spokesperson.
He said that as UB only sources its wheat from Britain, there are no sustainability issues in terms of rainforest damage and child labour. However, research is still required to develop ways of growing wheat without damaging wildlife, which is one area the growing groups are looking into, he said.
Another area of research is creating a variety of potato that has less moisture in it, as a huge amount of energy is currently used in order to get the water out, said the spokesperson.