Sergio Barberá Durban, founding partner of Conexión Social and Director of the Ethical Trade Forums.
When we talk about sustainability, social responsibility or responsible production, we all agree that these great words must be included in the principles of our companies, but do we know what they imply? Are they really not used as marketing and little else? And finally, are they really necessary?
Go ahead, since 2003 I ask myself these questions, I try to answer them and from time to time I go back to review my own answers because fortunately, nobody is in possession of the absolute truth and the experiences I live and the opinions I receive help me. to evolve in my thoughts.
Do we know what it means to be responsible?
In my opinion, responsibility is not just the beautiful phrases that are written in the mission, values or principles of action of a company. Responsibility is largely the coherence with these principles and that is why it rests fundamentally on something much less tangible, on the mentality of each and every one of the organization’s workers, starting with its owners and senior managers.
Really, responsible production is not marketing and little else?
Unfortunately, it happens to many that “non-responsible marketing” works for them; With it sanctions or conflicts are avoided, smoke is sold and even customers are attracted. But in the long term, acting in this way causes a terrible impact because, the ones who best know the smoke that is being sold are the workers themselves, and their only motivation ends up being to collect a salary, losing everything that accompanies pride and incentive to work in a company that acts correctly, and that truly cares about your family and your community.
This negative impact is not easily measured because it is not reflected in the income statement, but it is part of the difference between being mediocre and being excellent. If excellence seems expensive to anyone, they should consider how much more expensive mediocrity can be in the long run. Unfortunately, this is learned suddenly and by force, when one day the smoke dissipates and shows what is really behind and going back, if there is one, is hard and complicated.
“The responsible mentality includes, among other things, looking far beyond the next campaign or the next 2 years”
Is it really necessary to be responsible?
This is perhaps the most difficult question to answer since, as I have said, responsibility is a matter of mentality. If you don’t have that mentality, why should you be responsible?
The responsible mentality includes, among other things and as I have already said, looking far beyond the next campaign or the next 2 years, and implies thinking not only about the company’s sustainability, but about that of an entire sector that needs be perceived as a sector whose production is responsible with the environment, with its workers and with society in general. For this reason, it is really necessary for our production to be responsible, because our future as a sector is at stake, and this is known by those who see how customers choose between transparent supply chains that they trust because they prove to be responsible and whose price could sometimes being larger, and opaque supply chains whose only added value is a lower price at whatever cost. If finally the clients who choose the former lose confidence in our responsibility and transparency, they will find few differences between them. It is essential that we work together, as a sector, to demonstrate with facts that we are truly consistent with the responsible principles that we claim to have. And fortunately many of us are doing it, although there is still a lot of work to be done to convince those who still do not agree.
As an example, back in 2012, when we launched the initiative of the Ethical Trade Forums (www.foroscomercioetico.com), these began as annual meetings in which critical challenges that affected our daily work and the working conditions in the agri-food sector.
In October 2020, after years of evolution of the Forums, we asked the companies in the sector if any of the good practices that they had developed in recent years had been inspired by a meeting, seminar or working group of the Forums. We were impressed with the response, since they responded with more than a hundred responsible practices, which we are already collecting, and which benefit the lives of thousands of workers and their families.
These good practices show the effect of that distant decision to start a collaborative initiative together to see where it led us and motivates us to continue on that path.
In conclusion, someone once said that what we do today will have a multiplier effect on all of our tomorrows. And I believe it. That’s why I think it’s better to start today and not leave it for tomorrow. We have a lot at stake.