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US: Two decades of sustainability partnerships for ChiquitaChiquita used the recent Fruit Logistica trade fair as an opportunity to celebrate its collaboration with the Rainforest Alliance. The event took place on February 9th and highlighted sustainability efforts Chiquita, in partnership with various groups, has undertaken over the past 20 years.
The first partnership Chiquita engaged in was with the Rainforest Allliance. Rainforest Alliance proposed that banana companies adopt comprehensive social and environmental standards. That was in 1992, and for the next eight years, Chiquita worked to be in compliance with Rainforest Alliance standards. It did so, and then encouraged independent banana growers to do the same.
Since that time, Chiquita has undertaken several other sustainability efforts.
“Since the days 20 years ago when Chiquita first became aware of the Rainforest Alliance concept of social and environmental standards for banana production, our company has undergone a significant transformation,” said George Jaksch of Chiquita.
He added that the biggest change for Chiquita has been their thinking with regards to sustainability.
“Many thousands of employees at all levels have been trained on key social and environmental issues, and all have in some way experienced and participated in the work of implementation of more sustainable practices.”
He noted that throughout the past couple of decades, pressure from civil society and retailers have influenced banana producers to improve sustainability. But those efforts have also put pressure on growers to come up with more efficient ways to counter the tighter margins which sustainability efforts bring.
“The discipline of the Rainforest Alliance audit and certification process continues to challenge our farms, especially as the standard has evolved and has become more demanding. At the same time,” explains Jacksch, “steep cost increases and fierce price competition among retailers have made life difficult for banana farmers everywhere.”
It's an issue through which Chiquita must tread with skill and caution, he said.
That's reflected in their Consistent Quality Program, which Ernst Schulte, Chiquita's Managing Director for Germany and Austria, noted, “allows us to react quickly and in flexible ways to critical aspects so we are able to provide high quality fruit, which generate better sales and less waste.”
Through such initiatives, Chiquita is able to balance equally-important, competing demands of efficiency and sustainability. According to Brian Kocher, President of Chiquita Europe and Middle East, managing those priorities ultimately benefits consumers.
“Our customers and consumers increasingly value sustainable products and production as an integral aspect of quality,” he said. “And together, with our suppliers and customers, we are transforming sustainable farming into a better sustainable business.”
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