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Supply Chain Transparency is Essential

When Chief Procurement and Sustainability Officer Barry Parkin sat down to discuss what it means to end the commodities era, he started with our challenge of the status quo.

“We've been buying commodities, raw materials, like all of our peers in a similar way for hundreds of years. We treated them as materials of often unknown origin,” he said. “Our view is that this is no longer tenable.”

We have a crucial role in meeting the growing demand for transparency—from consumers, customers, governments and NGOs. 

“If we're going to make our supply chain fully sustainable, we have to change what’s upstream,” he adds. “Ninety percent-plus of our impacts are down to what we buy—whether it's climate related, human rights related or income related. So, we have to change what we buy and how we buy it.”

To do that, we need to invest in supply chains and with farmers at the beginning of the supply chain. And perhaps the best way is to illustrate is the way we’re approaching palm oil.

As part of our Palm Positive Plan, we've focused on simplifying our supply chain for palm oil, working to drastically reduce the number of mills we use—from 1,500 mills to less than 100 by the end of 2020—and fostering long-term relationships with suppliers who are, likewise, committed to traceability.

“The reason we're doing this is because we believe that’s the only way that we can ensure we really know what's going on in that supply chain,” he said. “So, we've taken this from what is the pure play commodity to almost a virtual vertical integration, where we know the farmers and they know us.”

While the global pandemic has impacted on-the-ground efforts in the short term, we remain steadfast in our Sustainable in a Generation commitments.

Watch the full interview—recorded as part of the Reuters Virtual Responsible Business Week to learn more about our efforts to create the world we want tomorrow by taking action today.

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