ofi, Presents Creating Collaborative Trails to Sustainable Nuts for the INC Sustainability Award


Company/organization and country: ofi (Olam Food Ingredients), Singapour

Type of project: Business implementation

SDG(s) relevant to the project: 2, 6, 12, 13, 15

Topic(s): Energy efficiency, supply chain transparency and traceability, diversity, equity and inclusion, nature-positive approaches and regenerative agriculture, water management, Scope 3 emissions

Product(s): Almonds, cashews, hazelnuts

Project end date and duration: 31/12/2030 (10 years)

Abstract: Our project submission is more than a decade of establishing and implementing programs to improve the environmental and social impact of almonds, cashews and hazelnuts. Most recently, we have taken this experience and pushed ourselves further by launching dedicated sustainability strategies with 2030 targets focusing the highly specific challenges of each supply chain: Cashew Trail in June 2021, Hazelnut Trail in December 2021, and Almond Trail in July 2022. All targets are aligned with the UN SDGs and we will report annually —with our first Cashew and Hazelnut Trails to be published this year, and Almonds in 2024.

Why did we do this?

Consumers increasingly want to know that the ingredients in their nut-based products are also healthy for the people and landscapes they come from. That they are supporting a supply chain where farmers can afford a decent living, children go to school, and the natural world is protected. However, each nut faces its own challenges:

  1. Cashew farmers are among the poorest in the world. ofi, which has directly supported over 50,000 cashew farmers over the last decade, hopes to change this and encourage others in the sector to collaborate for measurable change. Our ambitious 2030 targets set out in Cashew Trail focus on improving economic opportunity in smallholder communities by increasing average yields by 50% and helping 250,000 cashew households improve their livelihoods, as well as addressing health, education, gender inclusion, and climate action.
  2. The challenges in the hazelnut supply chain in Turkey are complex and deeply entrenched. The harvest is carried out by a large migrant work force, which means that children can be travelling with their parents with no access to schools or childcare. These challenges are beyond the scope of any one actor to tackle alone which is why, since 2012, our Turkish team has partnered with the local and national governments, NGOs, industry bodies and many of our customers, to improve conditions in the sector. We launched Hazelnut Trail with 2030 targets including 100% of all female seasonal migrant workers trained on health, nutrition and labor rights; implementing child labor monitoring and remediation in all managed programs, training 100% of farmers on crop residue management, and achieving traceability for 80% of all our hazelnut volumes.  
  3. As one of the world’s largest almond growers, we’ve invested in practices and infrastructure over many years across our almond orchards in Australia and the USA, focused on water and emissions reduction, carbon capture, bee-friendly farming, and lowering our carbon footprint. Now we’re working to expand our impact and increase transparency under our 2030 Almond Trail strategy and targets.

How are we doing it?

Having teams on the ground in farming communities and on our own almond estates is key to creating products that are healthy, natural, sustainable, and traceable. That’s why we’re constantly innovating to deepen our physical and digital presence on the ground to gather better data, improve traceability, and plan social and environmental initiatives. Digital tools like Olam Direct have a role to play by providing farmers with an easier route to market so they can earn more, and we can digitally trace crops back to them. It allows farmers to transact directly with ofi online with visibility into regular market prices, as well as providing advice on weather forecasting, planting and fertilization strategies, and inputs.

The positive impact we’ve made to the farmers, communities and landscapes we source from and operate in is thanks to the joint efforts of our customers, NGOs, and national and local authorities, through public-private partnerships.

Outcomes: In 2008, we formed our first farmer group in Côte d’Ivoire to provide traceability. With our customers and partners including GIZ, ComCashew and Gain, ofi has already supported 50,000 smallholder cashew farmers in Africa and Asia through 24 sustainability projects with more than 15 partners.

After the launch of the Cashew Trail, we have ramped up our sustainability efforts to achieve our ambitious goals. In Vietnam, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana and Nigeria we have trained more than 21,000 farmers on good agricultural practices in 2022. We have distributed approx. 1 million USD premium to small farm holders to support their livelihood. Around 80,000 beneficiaries have been reached through our health and nutrition programs organized within cashew communities.

In 2018, ofi worked with farmers and labour contractors in its supply chain to introduce labour contracts for hazelnut harvest workers —a first for the hazelnut sector, and also for Turkey’s agriculture sector. This resulted in contractual agreements being signed by 11 labour contractors and farmers and 535 seasonal workers, approved by the Employment Agency (İŞKUR).

We’re constantly innovating to deepen our physical and digital presence on the ground to gather better data, improve traceability, and plan social and environmental initiatives. Over 9,000 hazelnut farmers are registered on the ofi Farmer Information System (OFIS), which uses GPS and detailed surveys to give them a new level of insight into how to increase yields and quality. This specific data and corresponding action plans are captured through the built in Child Labor Monitoring & Remediation System app on OFIS.

We have renovated worker houses in selected villages to provide seasonal workers with access to basic services, such as clean water, electricity, proper toilets and bathrooms.

In partnership with the International Labor Organisation (ILO), Ministry of Education of Turkish Republic, and local governorships we have established 24 summer schools for children of seasonal workers, attended by 339 children in 2022. These schools provide safe spaces where children have access to educational facilities including libraries, information technology classes, sports and playground facilities, as well as healthy daily meals.

Since 2013 we’ve had extensive sustainability programs happening on the ground in Turkey, supporting over 20,000 hazelnut farmers.

With the Hazelnut Trail targets, at the end of 2022, we trained more than 18,000 farmers on Good Agricultural Practices, 3,500 women seasonal migrant workers on good social practices who are working in the hazelnut harvest.

Sustainability programs in our Almond business kicked off in 2014 with our Bee Friendly farming and continued with initiatives in the area of water, healthy ecosystems and biodiversity, GHG Reduction and supporting communities in almond growing regions. In 2020, we launched the “More Crop per Drop” trial, to better understand the behavior of almond trees under different conditions. Using innovative technologies to track everything from tree growth to soil health helps us to understand and reduce our water footprint. Collaborating with partners like the California Water Action Collaborative (CWAC) can also offer supportive frameworks for water stewardship.

Managed properly, almond production can be effective in capturing carbon. We’ve also been cutting emissions by making our operations more fuel-efficient through reducing shaking and sweeping engine hours. Stepping up orchard carbon capture activities, processing efficiency and using the latest innovations in smart-farm technology is key to lowering our footprint —we produce more, by using less.

ofi relies on pollinators in Australia and the US. Balancing pest control, while fostering bee-friendly communities is a challenge. We balance this risk through the controlled or non-use of certain chemicals to deter unwanted pests, while maintaining a limited impact on biodiversity, and championing bee-friendly farming techniques.

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