Converging for Quality

Converging for Quality

How METRO GROUP addresses food safety issues throughout its global supply chains

Hans-Jürgen Matern

VP of Corporate Sustainability and Regulatory Affairs

Senior Operations Officer, Advisory Services, Europe and Central Asia, IFC

What guides METRO GROUP’s sustainability work?

All our work rotates around the customer. “Customer centricity” is our main goal. At METRO GROUP we focus on safeguarding food supplies, conserving resources, and promoting sustainable production, taking into consideration demographic changes – all important parameters in the retail sector. We aim to ensure that our customers, and their customers, get what they are expecting from us: fresh, safe, and sustainably produced food.

Your standards strategy is global but originates from Germany. How do you apply the same standards in Germany as you do, for example, in Ukraine?

To operate efficiently in the supply chain, standardization is a pre-requisite for business. We believe that there must be one single standardization solution throughout the supply chain that works for our sales lines as well as for our competitors. A sector-wide, efficient solution helps our partners in the supply chain to focus and to expand their business. Since we have aligned our approach with others in the Global Food Safety Initiative, we have achieved a significant reduction of audits per site and improved the delivery of safe food.

Can you tell us about the innovative solutions that METRO GROUP has employed for food safety worldwide?

We are running a global food safety system that focuses on the delivery of safe food to consumers worldwide. Supplier certification by schemes that are accepted by the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) is a key aspect of this. We also recognize that it is difficult for many small farmers around the world to fulfil the GSFI requirements. This led us to develop Metro’s Assessment Service program a couple of years ago, which today builds the basis of the global market’s tool within the GFSI, to raise capabilities in the supply chain and to guide the companies to full certification. With this program we run projects in Egypt, Vietnam, China, India, Russia and Ukraine in order to help our suppliers meet customers’ expectations.

The Consumer Goods Forum, of the parent group of GFSI, believes in “better lives through better business,” and works to develop and implement best practices along the value chain and includes pilot programs with AEON in Japan and Malaysia and Walmart in Africa.

What was the biggest challenge in rolling out your sustainability programs?

Our biggest hurdle was convincing other companies — our competitors — that our strategy and approach are non-competitive. Food safety and sustainability are key principles in ensuring that we can feed an additional nine billion people by 2050. Competition does not help in tackling this challenge. We must work together.

You are also very focused on E&S standards, including the Ocean initiative. Could you talk a little bit about that?

METRO sells around 200,000 tons of fish a year and fresh fish is one of our unique selling points. Overfishing and illegal fishing are daily issues in the news and as a result, traceability and improvement of fish stock management is a key part of our engagement. As a first step, we launched a pilot project for the product group fish in 2013. Transparent supply chains are the only approach we can take to stop illegal fishing activities and secure a basis for feeding the world’s population in future. Secondly, we will apply this industry solution to other product groups, including meat, fruit and vegetables. Non-food products will also be integrated into the program at some point in future.

What advice would you give to suppliers who are keen to work with METRO GROUP?

I like to motivate partners in the supply chain to join multinational activities which support efficient operations. We currently have 700 global certification programs with more or less the same purpose. Some of our suppliers have been certified by five, ten or even fifteen of these programs. This is where I like to step in and say, ‘Please, let’s just aim for one solution. It does not make any sense to invest in five or more certification programs.’

What can organizations like IFC do to help with the implementation of food safety standards?

Metro appreciates support from groups like IFC. We can’t convince all the companies in the world by ourselves and we do not want to bind all factories directly to us. They should have the freedom to choose their customer, but all partners should go through the certification process. Organizations provide technical support, staffing support, and at the end of the day a commitment to ensure that together we are all on track –– following with the same approach.

Metro Cash & Carry teamed up with IFC in 2012 to launch a new program to help Ukrainian food producers learn about international best practices in food safety. The program was expanded to Kazakhstan in 2012. Since 2009, IFC has also been promoting agribusiness standards in Europe and Central Asia, in partnership with the Austrian Ministry of Finance. As a result, investments in IFC’s client food producers have risen by $156 million, while their sales and exports have increased by $173 million.

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