Last year, we worked hard to promote sustainability throughout the company, from the management team to the production floor. Below, I summarized what I consider to be the most important achievements and also highlighted a few clear areas for development.
Reliable products and services: towards 100% certified raw materials
Our target for the procurement of certified raw coffee was well exceeded: instead of the target of 60%, 71% of all purchased raw coffee was certified. For spices, we finalized the responsibility risk analysis and created targets and measures for the coming years. We outlined that by the end of 2023, 80% of spice raw materials will come from certified or low-risk sources (based on the BSCI rating). In 2026, we aim for 90%, and for 2030 our goal is a full 100%.
Achieving our goals for spices requires a lot of work from us, as spice raw materials may not be available pre-certified. We work with our partners towards a sustainable and transparent supply chain. On the other hand, there is a lot of internal work as well; analysis and calculation as well as quality and taste evaluation.
Sometimes changes in raw materials require changes in the product level, e.g. in gram quantities of the packaging. During the last 18 months, we have turned 22 raw materials to sustainability certified or into a partnership program. Among other things, all of our black and white peppers come from farms certified under our partner’s sustainability program, and we purchase ginger and clove as Rainforest Alliance certified.
Product safety and responsible consumption choices are always at the heart of our operations.
Product safety and responsible consumption choices are always at the heart of our operations. Our roastery is FSSC22000 certified, and in the summer of 2020, we carried out a so-called gap analysis towards the requirements of the FSSC22000 certificate for the spice factory. From the Gap analysis we identified the necessary development points that we are working on right now. We also monitor the share of consumer feedback related to product safety in all consumer feedback, which was at a good level (coffee 14%, spices 21%).
We launched several sustainability certified products on the market, e.g. the superpremium coffee series of the Vallila Roastery dedicated to Vallila, the world´s coffee capital district, the certified Kulta Katriina Plus coffee series with both high-caffeine and decaffeinated alternatives, and the Meira Premium Spices series, whose products are Fair Trade and Organic-certified or domestic. In addition, we turned our existing coffee products, such as our Saludo coffee, into certified.
Environmental wellbeing: major commitments in the fight against climate change
The fight against climate change and the minimization of the environmental impact of our operations is the second pillar of our responsibility program. The highlight of the year was when we committed ourselves at the end of the year to setting science-based climate targets approved by the Science Based Targets initiative. We also switched to 100% green electricity from the beginning of the year.
In 2020, our recycling rate was already 78%. One interesting example of our circular economy projects is the sorting and recycling of biowaste generated as a by-product of coffee production in our roastery. The recycled biowaste is transported to our partner Labio’s biogas plant, where it is turned into biogas. The biogas produced this way is then used as energy for our own coffee production to roast about a million kilos of coffee a year. We also recycle other raw materials, such as film plastic as an energy source for the concrete industry. We return jute bags back to the jute fabric industry.
We also set ambitious long-term goals for our packaging development: by 2030, all Meira packaging will be made from 100% recyclable, recycled or renewable materials. A concrete example of the determined implementation of our packaging vision was the launch of our new coffee brand, Vallila Roastery at the end of 2020. In this product range, we invest in ethics and ecology, both for the product itself and for the packaging material: the coffee is 100% sustainably produced and the coffee packaging is made from completely aluminum-free and partially renewable plant-based raw materials instead of the traditional aluminum-containing laminate. The carbon footprint of the package is thus 45% smaller than of a normal coffee package.
We also reduced the share of stretch wrap used in coffee sales batches by approximately 25%, and the share of industrial recycled plastic used in the sales batch structure was increased to 30%. Annually, this means up to 3,000 kilos less plastic, which is equivalent to about 600,000 plastic bags. During 2021, we will continue thinning and reducing plastic as well as increasing the share of recycled plastic in sales batch and pallet films.
Well-being of people
Respecting human rights throughout the value chain is one of the principles of our company. More than half of our carefully selected, long-term suppliers are committed to our principles of sustainable sourcing, and most green coffee is purchased certified.Our work on implementing contracts and certified raw materials will continue until we reach 100% coverage.
Long-term partnerships with our raw material suppliers help us to develop conditions in the countries of origin; e.g. livelihoods, well-being and safe working conditions for farmers. Our partners in Colombia, Honduras and Uganda, for example, are working very hard to develop family coffee plantations; improving productivity and quality, ensuring safe working conditions and the rational and responsible use of fertilizers and chemicals.
During 2020, there were six occupational accidents leading to an absence of more than a day at our Vallila factor. This is unfortunately too many. Fortunately, none of the accidents were serious, and we will continue to work to promote a safe working environment, e.g. by developing our skills and working methods.
Meirans are satisfied with the work of their supervisors: according to the personnel survey, supervisors have been particularly successful in monitoring the achievement of goals. Meirans also feel that supervisors are genuinely interested in the opinions of their team members. In addition, Meirans strongly believe in the future of the company. The development areas were the display of the company values in everyday life and equal treatment. We have tackled these issues briskly with many different measures. For example, at the beginning of 2021, we launched our new company values, which are Transparency, Professionalism, Customer Orientation and Attitude.
At the beginning of 2021, we launched our new values: Transparency, Professionalism, Customer Orientation and Attitude.
We want to serve our customers as well as possible and offer consumers even more attractive, inspiring and responsibly produced products. We regularly survey both consumer perceptions and customer satisfaction. According to a customer satisfaction survey conducted at the end of 2020, both our retail and Food Service customers are very satisfied with Meira as a partner. From the point of view of sustainable operating principles, Meira is seen as a slightly better partner than the average – a good result for a company our size! Of course, there is still room for improvement. Our goal is both to do more good things and also to communicate the good work we do even better – this was a clear point of development.
We also do charity work both locally and internationally. We support the well-being of children in developing countries, e.g. by helping to renovate school facilities in the Lempira coffee district in Honduras. Locally, we co-operate with schools and food aid programs. During corona time, we have delivered coffee to the schools and received delighted and grateful greetings from the teaching staff.
Outlook for 2021 – our work continues
We will continue our determined work in sourcing sustainable raw materials. Our goal is that by the end of 2021, 80% of the raw coffee we purchase will be sustainability certified. In practice, we ensure this by purchasing sustainability certified (UTZ, Rainforest Alliance or Fair Trade) green coffee. In spices, we are aiming for the 2023 target of 80% certified or low-risk raw materials.
We will again this year launch several sustainably produced and high-quality innovations, such as Kulta Katriina Smooth Coffee. Later in the spring, we will launch more delicious novelties – remember to follow our channels!
We have raised our Good Workplace project as a strategic goal. The project includes e.g. an extensive management training program and development of management tools.
We will continue to minimize the environmental impact of our Vallila plant, e.g. by further increasing our recycling rate and by planning and implementing new energy efficiency projects. We are also constantly looking for new opportunities to make our packaging more sustainable and to reduce the amount of material used in it. Our biggest development project this year is the construction of a greenhouse gas emissions reporting model and the adoption of science-based climate targets in the SBT initiative. Meira is the third Finnish food company committed to setting SBT targets. The goal is ambitious for a company the size of Meira. Building the model and goals will take about six months, and by the end of the year we hope to have our goals approved. That is the beginning of a long effort to work with our partners to reduce emissions throughout our value chain.
Our biggest development project this year is the construction of a greenhouse gas emissions reporting model and the adoption of science-based climate targets in the SBT initiative. Meira is the third Finnish food company committed to setting SBT targets. The goal is ambitious for a company the size of Meira.
I couldn’t be happier to hear Meirans in the hallways talking about increased recycling rates, new opportunities to reduce the use of plastic or energy, or big achievements in raw material sourcing! I would like to thank every Meiran for his commitment to developing more sustainable operations
The writer is the Strategy and Sustainability Director at Meira