Meira has set ambitious sustainability targets for its sourcing for both coffee and spices. We will be sourcing 100% certified green coffee from the end of 2022 and this year we aim to reach the 80% level. For spices, the goal is to source 80% of raw materials from certified or low-risk sources (based on the BSCI classification) by the end of 2023.  

We use many ways to verify the sustainability of the raw material. We always prefer third party certification (e.g. Rainforest Alliance, Fair Trade). For coffee, certified raw materials that meet our quality requirements are well available, but for spices, the situation is less comprehensive. In spices, we also accept raw materials coming through our partners’ sustainability programs, if the principles of the program correspond to the principles and requirements of our procurement policy, e.g. respect for human rights and the protection of the environment, and if our partners can verify the implementation of the program up to farm level. We also conduct audits of the supply chain ourselves,” says Aija Pohjanen, Meira’s procurement team manager. 

It is important for Meira to work long-term with our partners in the supply chain. Long-term relationships increase trust, transparency, and the opportunity to build lasting improvement in the livelihoods of farmers and workers in countries of origin, as well as responsible practices. 

There are many ways to increase transparency, mutual understanding and achieving common goals. There are regular discussions and meetings with strategic partners. Meira’s procurement visits the main countries of origin every year – but of course, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a long break in the visits. This year, Meira has piloted a new tool to manage supply chain sustainability and increase transparency: supplier self-assessment survey. 

The sustainability self-assessment tool was implemented as part of a master’s thesis 

The Sustainability Self-Assessment project began as an assignment in the fall of 2020, when Nelli Sirén, who works as a purchasing assistant at Meira, began working on her master’s thesis as part of her Supply Management (M.Sc.) degree in supply management. The starting point was to write a thesis that strongly reflected the sustainability goals set for the procurement of Meira. The topic of the master’s thesis was Creating a Sustainability Framework for Supplier Evaluation. The aim was to determine the sustainability criteria for supplier evaluation and to study the level of sustainability work of Meira’s supply chain partners based on supplier self-evaluation. The results of the self-assessment would serve as a basis for developing sustainability and establishing priorities in the supply chain. The aim was also to find focus areas for category-specific sustainability work and to explore the possibilities of new strategic partnerships. 

“The work started by looking at the potential risks associated with supply chain sustainability from both a social and environmental perspective. Based on those factors, the main themes of the research were defined, and I conducted interviews with Meira’s procurement and sustainability experts. After the research was done, a browser-based questionnaire was formed. The questionnaire was sent to Meira’s suppliers selected for the pilot. The main themes and questions of the self-assessment are based on the three pillars of Meira’s Sourcing Policy, which are 1) ethics and business integrity, 2) respecting human rights and 3) protection of the environment. Suppliers are expected to have a clear view and knowledge of the sustainability level of their own operations. From the results, we can identify potential red flags and areas for improvement in terms of sustainability,” Nelli repeats the stages of her work. 

The self-assessment will help Meira to understand better how important the suppliers perceive sustainability and what measures the suppliers have already taken towards sustainability. Based on the answers, it is also possible to better identify supplier-specific risks and to be able to prioritize development measures and possible supplier selections. Self-assessment of sustainability is also a great opportunity for suppliers to self-reflect and make development plans. The aim, of course, is mutual benefit – to establish an open dialogue, to identify development areas and to develop suppliers’ practices together. 

The pilot’s results show that social sustainability is better managed 

The first results from the pilot have been analyzed.

On a general level, the response rate for the self-assessment was good and the responses were accurate. All responding suppliers have e.g. written employment contracts. In general, it seems that more attention has been paid to social sustainability on farms and in the supply chain, such as employment issues, safety, pay and the possibility of sick leave, than to issues related to environmental sustainability, where there is a clearer divergence between responses. For example, only about half of the respondents had targets for reducing climate emissions. Many of Meira’s suppliers have internal Code of Conduct guidelines, for example in relation to their own suppliers. Many suppliers have also been accepted for various environmental certificates,” Nelli reiterates the results of the pilot round. 

Towards ever deeper cooperation with partners 

The next steps are a more in-depth analysis of the results, the identification of development measures related to the self-assessment tool and process, and the “scoring” of responses and suppliers. Fulfilling our sustainability criteria and investing in sustainability is one of Meira’s supplier selection criteria. In the coming years, the goal is to make self-assessment an integral part of supplier relationship management and supplier-specific sustainability risk assessment.

Supplier self-assessment helps us to develop responsible practices together with our partners and to deepen transparency in our supply chain. It is great to continue with this,” says Aija Pohjanen.