Whole Foods, a supermarket known for its commitment to carrying organic products and taking on green corporate social responsibility challenges, is now further inspecting its processes to ensure complete sustainability. According to BevNET, a popular media resource for those in the beverage industry, Whole Foods is requesting its coconut water suppliers to submit documentation that certifies their supply chains are ethical and responsible.
Coconut water supply chains a concern
As more consumers learn about the drink and it grows in popularity, shoppers are turning to Whole Foods for coconut water, as the store is known for stocking natural, organic and hard-to-find products. Coconut water companies are also relying on the company to sell their merchandise, as the beverage has not achieved mainstream popularity and hasn't yet caught on with many large grocery retailers.
Whole Foods, which vocally supports green, sustainable and responsible sourcing efforts, is now pushing its coconut water suppliers to be certified by the company's pre-qualified social responsibility auditors. As demand for coconut products continues to grow, the industry has become more global, resulting in supply chains that touch many corners of the world. This gives coconut water companies less control over their sourcing and procurement policies, which can result in the oversight of unethical labor practices, harmful purchasing practices or a lack of sustainability initiatives.
"As the coconut water category has grown, so has the reach of our brand's supply chains," read a letter to suppliers from Errol Schweizer, Whole Foods' global grocery coordinator, according to BevNET. "Unfortunately, we have seen very few brands actively market and promote their commitment to ethical sourcing and sustainability in this category. We do prioritize the few folks who have taken such heroic steps, but are not wanting to know what everyone else is doing."
Whole Foods vets many suppliers
The coconut water supply chain aren't the only suppliers Whole Foods has put under inspection. According to the company, its farms and ranches are also audited and certified in accordance with the 5-Step Animal Welfare Rating Standards Program, standards put in place by the Global Animal Partnership. Farms must be inspected in person, and those that don't meet requirements are allowed to correct any problems and undergo another review.
While these frequent audits and supply chain inspections may not be ideal for companies looking for business cost reductions, they're necessary for specialty companies to get their products on the shelves at Whole Foods and introduce consumers to their merchandise.