Last updated on March 25th, 2021 at 07:19 pm
During its show in Indianapolis in June, KeHE Distributors launched what it calls its “Care Trade” program. Scott Silverman, VP of growth solutions and own brands, made the announcement with a panel of speakers representing brands that are part of it.
“I’ve known their brands as a consumer for quite a while, so we’re really here today to support the social impact and these entrepreneurs who are helping others,” he said.
Care Trade is KeHE’s version of Fair Trade.
“It’s really a manifestation of our KeHE Cares program, in which we’re truly blessed with leadership that wants us to evolve into a world-class giving organization,” Silverman said. “Care Trade is an extension of that calling to give.”
Panelists included Andy Fyfe from the nonprofit B Lab, which certifies companies as “B Corps,” meaning they meet standards relating to social and environmental performance, accountability and transparency. KeHE was the first and largest food distributor in the U.S. to certify as a B Corp, Fyfe said. That happened in March and was celebrated at Natural Products Expo West, where KeHE executives and guests signed a “Declaration of Interdependence.”
Fyfe manages the U.S. business development arm for B Lab. Its mission is to support people who use business as a force for good “in hopes that one day all companies will commit to be not just the best in the world, but the best for the world.”
Fyfe said the process to certify as a B Corp is arduous.
“It’s a long journey to get there, and for being such a large company, KeHE serves as an internal champion for it to happen with the leadership on it and encouraging the entire team to really rally around what this means,” Fyfe said.
B Corp started out about a decade ago with a handful companies. Today, there are 2,000 certified B Corps operating across 138 industries and representing 70,000 employees in 49 countries. B Lab looks holistically at a company’s operations, community involvement, environmental impact, how it treats its own workers and its overall governance, among others aspects. A free assessment, which Fyfe said approximately 40,000 companies are now using, is available online at bimpactassessment.net.
“Just as your customers are looking to make more informed decisions, we want companies to do the same,” Fyfe said. “We want companies to say ‘this is a great assessment tool for us to make more informed decisions as a company, see what we’re doing well and where there are gaps we could improve on.’”
He said the program is resonating with many companies, but there is “a lot of vulnerability when you’re trying to solve social and environmental problems through your company.” No one is 100 percent sustainable or responsible, but the assessment can help set a path forward to a “better version of ourselves, a better version of our company.
“You know, we’re all in this together and really for that brand equity to be built for B Corp to exist, for customers to care and buyers and retailers, it takes all of us,” Fyfe said.
Brands make an impact around the world
In addition to Fyfe, panelists also included Nasser Abufarha, Canaan Fair Trade; Sam Shisler, Alter Eco Foods; Purity Ginkunju, Coffee Growers Alliance; Tyler Gage, Runa Beverages; and Betsy McPherson, Women’s Bean Project. Each shared stories about their organizations.
Canaan Fair Trade was created with a mission to protect the olive trees in Palestine, where it is based. Some of the trees are 2,000 years old and still fruiting every year. The company’s primary product is olive oil.
Canaan Fair Trade developed a “sustainability minimum price” that is paid even if market prices plummet, and it also pays a social premium, Abufarha said.
“In years when the market price is above the minimum price, we pay market price plus the social premium, and the social premium we pay on olive oil is half a dollar per kg of olive oil,” he said. “That’s very significant to be invested in the social well-being of the community. Today we purchase an average of 800 tons of olive oil, so it’s $400,000 going into the community for social projects where they spend it on their own.”
Fifty-two villages—about 2,000 farming families—now are organized into cooperatives that work together in the Palestine Fair Trade Association.
Canaan Fair Trade also has the Trees for Life program that gives 10,000 to 15,000 seedlings to farmers each year. It also founded CORE, the Center for Organic Research and Extension to help small-scale olive farmers compete in yield and quality while ensuring the sustainability of the business model.
In addition to paying living wages to farmers and producers and benefiting the communities where they live, Canaan Fair Trade has helped stabilize the market price for olive oil.
“It’s beneficial for everyone in the farming industry, and the food source can continue,” Abufarha said.
*Editor’s Note: Read more from the panelists in the September print edition of The Shelby Report of the Midwest.
The KeHE Holiday & Product Innovation Show was held June 13-14 at the Indianapolis Convention Center in Indianapolis, Indiana.