Mother’s Day Supply Chain: How Sustainable is Your Breakfast in Bed?
When we were little, me and my brother decided to surprise mom with a homemade breakfast in bed on Mother’s Day. With all the excitement and ambitious brainstorming about the shape of the pancakes, the last thing I remember was mom had to clean the kitchen after we (ok, it was me) dropped the marmalade jar in the middle of the kitchen floor. But in the end, she appreciated the idea and the effort, even though it meant more work for her!
For this Mother’s Day (which is on Sunday, May 8 by the way), many moms will get breakfast on a bed tray: Pancakes, Coffee, and beautiful flowers on the side. Luckily, nowadays kids are more conscious of sustainable practices compared to adults. Just imagine how many times you heard you are using too much water or that’s plastic, that doesn’t go there! They may know less but care more about sustainability than we do.
Have you ever wondered how much of these are coming from a sustainable source? And as a customer, is there a way to know whether the supply chain processes were sustainable, or the people were treated and paid fairly?
#1 Coffee: From bean to the breakfast tray
Making a long way from tropical places to moms’ breakfast trays all over the world, the coffee is widely known for its supply chain complexity. Not only the growing and harvesting of coffee but it has more stages such as drying, blending, roasting, packing, and let’s not forget transporting, exporting, and distributing to the retailers. Each of these intermediaries means extra hands involved in the supply chain. So, how can companies be sure their profit is based on humane working conditions through all these intermediaries; and as a consumer how can I sip my coffee with a clear conscience?
A key enabler of sustainability is traceability. To ensure sustainable sourcing and fair labor practices from ethical harvesting to green distribution, the key is having traceability across the supply chain. Even though we are using the word ‘chain’ as in the supply chain, what we need is to create a collaborative network where buyers, producers, and third-party providers can have real-time visibility by interconnecting each other’s systems. So, they can keep up with the government regulations as well as their social responsibility goals.
At the end of the day, it is ‘traceability’ that adds an incredible amount of trust across the supply chain. Not only for the manufacturer, exporter, regulatory agencies, or third-party providers but also it provides trust for the consumers by answering questions such as: where is my product coming from? Where does the packaging go at the end of its lifecycle? Is this brand Fairtrade? What about carbon footprint? and so on.
Having the answers to these environmental and social or brand valued questions (or even knowing which brands are refusing to answer these questions), gives me the ability to make more conscious decisions.
#2 Pancakes: The more sustainable, the batter
Flour, as one of the main pancake ingredients, is the world’s most favored food source. Even though the working conditions of wheat flour production have not been a major driver of humanitarian supply chain concern, poor irrigation practices are causing serious nutrient pollution over the globe. Considering most of the wheat is transported via road and carried out overseas via container ships, it is also a contributor to the greenhouse gas emissions around the world.
The second ingredient is the egg. I was curious enough to check if there is a way to measure how much carbon footprint an egg produces. I can tell you; it is a hard egg to crack. For per serving, an average egg causes 270g of CO2 emission, which is a quite high carbon value compared to many other sorts of food.Adding the rest of the ingredients, flour, milk, and marmalade (my mom’s favorite spread) to this calculation, just one pancake with topping is around 200 CO2e. Luckily, it is still not comparable with the CO2e level of beef or bacon strips!
Food supply chains, as a negative contributor to water and air pollution, can be a great area of focus to take action. Organizations can utilize the environment, health, and safety management to create structured and reliable support for their environmental, social, and governance model. Having the direct integration of data sources and real-time tracking of compliance enables businesses to maintain government regulations. Also,they can track and report on air pollutants, greenhouse gas emissions, and wastewater emissions.
SAP’s customer Bumble Bee Foods for example can track their products from source to table. Consumers and customers can see the history of their product by simply scanning the QR code on the product package. By doing so, companies give each customer to be the voice of the worker harvesting the coffee beans at the farm or be the voice of nature that cannot speak as loud as us.
#3 Flower: Warm hearts deserve cold chains
Flowers are not only fragrant and beautiful but also fragile and highly perishable. The appeal to the senses is everything. It has to be fresh, and good-looking, and the smell has to create that wow effect. But even when I buy flowers from the shop, the 15-minute drive home can make them look unhappy. Now imagine, 25% of the flowers sold in the EU are imported from outside of the region, mainly from Kenya, Ecuador, and Ethiopia. So, how do keep flowers in the perfect condition for weeks during their journey?
Storing the cut flowers at the right temperature (2-4 Celsius) keeps them fresh and fragrant for up to 3 weeks. Businesses use tracking and monitoring technologies to prevent temperature fluctuations between refrigerated environments as well as non-refrigerated environments. From farm to trucks, to the cargo plane, and then to the customs hall, then to the flower shops. If the flowers are waiting at a warm temperature more than they should, it affects the price. Businesses utilize logistics networks to achieve real-time visibility and transparency, as well as alert supply chain partners for possible product issues beforehand, which savescosts and improves customer satisfaction.
On this very special Mother’s Day, providing your loved one with a timely and thoughtful gift may seem simple. Let’s not forget to give a big hug to the supply chains of the world that make this possible.
Happy Mother’s Day to all you moms out there!