Corporate Ethics, Bananas & Frogs

12 Dec 2005

For my paper of Ethics I interviewed George Jaksch from Chiquita, currently the senior director of corporate responsibility,
responsible for social and environmental matters within Chiquita’s European team. The interview was recorded on Friday, November 25th and took 48 minutes. Today the paper was due, so this weekend I’ve been busy making the transcript of the conversation which had been put on DVD from the MiniDV of the Cam. It’s a really long interview in which we talk about the code of conduct of Chiquita, about the efforts they’ve made to comply with the Rainforest Alliance standards and about the green frog they’ve added to their banana logo. I felt it would be a waste of effort and time I’ve put in the transcript if I didn’t share it with ‘the net’, because what has been said really was interesting. I learned a lot about how a company like Chiquita deals with corporate responsibilities, how they live by their values and make every employee aware of the importance of living by the code of conduct, which is in fact a 35-pages code.

First there’s some info about George Jaksch, then some related links, and then there’s an 11 page long transcript. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

George Jaksch was born in London and grew up in the UK and Germany as a citizen of both countries. Following studies of economics (Cambridge, UK) and agriculture (Seale-Hayne, UK), he for several years developed his own farming business in Colombia. He first joined Chiquita Brands in Colombia, then later held management positions in banana production (Panama, Ivory Coast), quality assurance in Europe and the USA, sales and marketing, and recently corporate responsibility and public affairs with residence in Antwerpen, Belgium.

Related links to this interview :

- Chiquita
Nature & Community Project
The Rainforest Alliance standards
- Sustainable Agriculture Network Standards for Bananas (pdf, 89k)
Chiquita’s Core Values
Chiquita’s Code of Conduct
The Better Banana Project
The Television & Print ads
That Famous Jingle

What exactly is your function at Chiquita? What is it that you’re responsible for?

My title is senior director of corporate responsibility and that means I’m responsible for social and environmental matters within Chiquita’s European team. I have another colleague who has a similar function in the tropics and public affairs is also part of my responsibility, which means that when we get inquiries from the public or communicate to the public or when we advertise in public ‘in matters which affect social and environmental responsibility’ then that becomes part of my world.

Well, I was browsing through some of the documentation you handed over to us and I have a question about the fact that only 9 selected countries will have the new label, that says you’re in the Rainforest Alliance. Aren’t there more countries in Europe, or are there just 9 countries in which you do business?

No indeed, we do sell in more countries, in many more countries in Europe, but we selected these countries for several reasons . One very important reason for us is that these are the countries where our brand is best known. In other countries like France or the UK, for historical reasons, our brand is not so well known. So we decided to concentrate on these 9 countries. It is also just a fact of logistics that we couldn’t provide or we couldn’t guarantee fruit from Rain Forest Alliance Certified Farms in all countries of Europe because that requires a volume which at the moment we don’t have. Even so as you can see from the documentation, we’re talking about the very considerable amount of bananas that’s 500.000 boxes. That is a lot, and it’s a big effort for us to guarantee. It’s around 500 truckloads, that gives you a rough idea.

Yet still, Belgium seems to be only 10% of your market, or maybe I interpret it wrong. It says here in the stats : “volume deemed to be at risk in the absence of Rain Forest Alliance” is 10%. So is 90% of our market guaranteed to come from those Rainforest Farms?

No, that statistic reflects the situation three years ago. What this is intended to show is the volume which would be possibly lost, e.g. the sales we would not have if we did not have social and environmental certifications. This is relatively low in Belgium because at the time my colleagues who worked with our Belgian partners or retailers felt that it was not so critical in that business, probably because the Chiquita brand is very strong, very well established and very well known, and so there’s a lot of trust of consumers towards Chiquita. Maybe even more so than in some other countries. They’ve never really asked us for ‘evidence’ in the same way as in other countries.

So Belgium is not really aware of the fact that you do have all these certifications, or the green label, the green frog you just added wasn’t really necessary for Belgium and it’s an extra service you’d like to make us aware of?

That’s true. Also over the last few years the situation has definitely changed. I think we can also see in Belgium that the consumer’s becoming more aware of these matters. That’s happening relatively quickly. But Belgium is a very important market to us where we have an important market share and we absolutely felt that it was the right time to us to communicate to the Belgian consumer about this work with the Rain Forest Alliance and our environmental responsibility and generally, from what I’m hearing – we have not done a full evaluation yet of the response of consumers in Belgium – our impression is that it’s generally been well received by Belgian consumers. We have not had critical voices in Belgium. We have had them in some other countries.

What were those critical voices about? Was it about environmental problems?

Some critical voices, there haven’t been many, but some critical voices have, I think, misunderstood our campaign as a campaign against Fair Trade. Our campaign is not against Fair Trade, it’s for Chiquita but we do regard it as ‘against something’, and it is against a situation where companies do not do anything, and there are many companies in our business who have no commitment, who have still relatively low standards in their plantations. So we do want the Belgian and other European consumers to know that this is in fact a better product then products coming from other companies where there’s no social or other form of commitment.

You’ve been working for 10 years to get this label. What exactly was the evolution, I mean it took 10 years to take all the steps necessary to get this ‘certified label’?

Well the development of this is actually quite interesting. In 1992, Chiquita and other banana companies were invited by the Rain Forest Alliance, which is as you may have heard an American based NGO which works in fact with many Latin American environmental NGOs, we were invited by them to cooperate in testing a set of rules or criteria which they had developed for sustainable banana production. Sustainable meaning: with social and environmental standards. They had previously developed something similar in forestry, because they had good experience. We at the time were very hesitant, but we didn’t say no. We said: “we’ll try it”, so then we tried the system on two farms. It involves a very extensive set of rules, it involves also annual inspections of the farms by people from independent nature conservation organizations from the region and when we tested this on two of our farms, and then obtained in 1994 that certificate of the Rain Forest Alliance which means you comply with the minimum standard.

Those rules are listed in the two-page advertisements you’ve printed in the newspapers?

Those are in fact all the rules, that is correct, they’re also published in several languages, but not in Flemish, on the website of the Rain Forest Alliance. So, after that we’ve had that experience, in 1995 I think it was, Chiquita published a commitment to obtain this certification for all Chiquita-owned farms. That took a lot of effort and in fact we’ve completed that in the year 2000. It cost us around $20 million. Some people say that’s not a lot of money for a big company, but it actually was a lot of money. We were going through a very difficult time financially but we felt this was a very important thing to do.

Then after we’ve had, in the year 2000, completed the certification on all of our farms, we still had a very big job which was to get our many independent farmers with who we work to also obtain that certificate. We felt that in order to be able to guarantee to the European customer/consumer that the bananas come from Rain Forest Alliance certified farms, we needed our producers to also obtain that certificate. So it really was only in this year, 2005, that we came to a sufficient volume where we could say: “we can now arrange for all Chiquita bananas coming to most of Europe that they will come from Rain Forest Alliance certified farms.” In fact over 80% of our independent growers now have also obtained the Rain Forest Alliance certificate. Of course we want it to increase. But some of the bananas which are coming from farms which haven’t completed the certification process are now going to Eastern Europe, Southern Europe and the UK and France. Other countries outside the nine.

I’ve also seen on the website that you do housing projects. You have these small villages, I believe there’s one in Honduras. Are there any other actions alike from Chiquita?

The answer is yes. This kind of projects where we enable our workers to become home owners is very important to us. I should say a little bit about the background to this. In the past, banana plantation have been established in regions where often there were no villages or towns, so we have provided settlements, housing for workers. But it’s been company housing.
And that meant that the workers are very dependent of the company. When they retire, that house is needed for someone else so they would find themselves without a house and in many cases they haven’t made any provision for that. What we’ve now wanted to do is to enable them to become home owners. In Honduras, in cooperation with the Honduran government we have now created a new settlement of new homes for Chiquita workers.

It was once small, it’s not small anymore. It’s now 1300 houses, so it’s really turning into a small town. It’s away from the farms, which is good because a farm is a workplace which for children isn’t always a good place to grow up in. There are tractors and certain risks to health, so now we’ve created something much better for our workers. They’re now not only home owners, they’re living closer to cities where they have access to health services, education, libraries, theatres, entertainment and so on. We have similar projects in Costa Rica, not on the same scale, but in Costa Rica we’re doing it slightly differently. The plantations are established very recently there, so many of the workers are living in company owned housing which is of quite a high standard. We have arranged for that to be transferred to them at a very reasonable cost, I mean a two-bedroom house may cost them around $1000, to give you an idea.

So that’s been very important. In some cases we have moved the houses, these houses can be dismantled, so we moved them out of areas where there’s a risk of flooding for example, into a higher area. In Guatemala, just this year a new housing project was inaugurated by the president of Guatemala, president Berger, on the 22 nd of April. We will be building 330 new houses there, 200 new houses already exist which are owned by workers, so it’s an extension of an existing project. This is a very important step for workers. I’ve visited this project myself several times and I know how valuable it is for them.

You’ve given us an article of the Financial Times from 2002, was this the time it was actually first noticed that Chiquita was doing such a great effort? Could you explain a little more of the background and importance of this article?

Sure. We published our code of conduct in the year 2000, just to give you an idea of the chronology. What we call “corporate responsibilities” started in 1998. We spent about 2.5 years developing our values (which by the way are on the back of my business card). We spent then some additional time developing our code of conduct. The values are listed in the code of conduct and everybody in the company, with very few exceptions, has them on their business card as well.

We feel it’s extremely important to us to maintain these values alive, because it’s very easy for companies to print brochures and pretty pictures and so on, you know all companies and agencies do that. For a lot of money you can get it done by tomorrow if you like. But these values were developed with a lot of effort. We’ve had about 1000 people participating in their development. In the year 2001 we’ve signed the agreement with the International Union of Food Workers, a very important development. And in the same year we also published our first corporate responsibility report.

So in fact in 2001 we did several things which were very new in our industry which awakened a lot of interest. In the year 2002 appeared that article from the financial times. They heard of it through a lection which I or one of my colleagues gave, and the became aware that this was a company which in the past had quite a bad reputation, we used to be called “United Fruit”, but that clearly something was happening. In fact if you look at the subtitle, it’s very interesting, it mentions the word “partnerships” with environmentalists and unions. And that for them was a signal also of willingness to do this in a transparent and open and sincere way, because these were totally new concepts in our industry, or in many industries to work so closely with NGOs, so closely with trade unions.

Do you think that Chiquita was doing groundbreaking work and was in fact ‘leading’ so that other companies would now have to do the same for themselves to develop, to grow and comply with the same rules and ethical standards?

Okay I think you really ask me two questions. One is about the word ‘leading’, and certainly we feel that there are certain things which have made us take this initiative. One is very clearly to maintain our leadership position in the industry. We feel that the European consumer especially is looking for products which are responsibly produced, the organic movement, the Fair Trade movement – these are evidence of this, and so we wanted the concept of Chiquita to include not just a good product which tastes good, but also a product which comes from a good company it a product that is produced under responsible conditions.
That’s been the background to this. That’s clearly our ambition, to lead the industry. In that, and in other aspects.

Concerning the role of other companies – yes there are initiatives of other companies and we are very pleased that other companies also accept that kind of commitment to environmental and social responsibility. Some have begun to do that, some have advanced quite far – others haven’t started. But there is a movement. Have we influenced that movement? I’m certain we have.

Would it be because Chiquita was a rather large company and really needed to set an example?

I don’t think we needed to set an example. I think we had the choice. We have made the choice right through the last decades of Chiquita’s history to lead and to be a, what we call, a premium brand. Which means a brand which is recognized as to be a leading brand, a brand which can also ask for higher prices and it would’ve been so easy for us at some stage to say: “this is too much effort, too much cost – no let’s just be a commodity producer” We’ve had that discussion But our decision has always been “no”. Part of our personality as a company is to lead, to be better in ways. To have the best quality systems, the best people and now also the best environmental and social practices. We see it as part of the brand personality today and in the future.

The code of conduct of your company is rather long compared to other companies in Belgium, who often limit theirs to something of two or three paragraphs. Is there any particular reason for this 35-pages long document?

Yes it is rather long, and we appreciate that it is probably too long for most readers, but we wanted to produce a document which was quite comprehensive in fact if you look at it – may I just walk you through the structure of that document? That’ll explain a little bit why it is so long. Of course probably the most important pages are number one and two. Number one, which is our values, and number two which is a letter from our CEO, where he says: “the successful implementation of corporate responsibility is one of my highest priorities.” You see that’s a very strong leadership, and this kind of thing can’t happen without leadership.

Then the next few pages describe what it means and why it is important to be a company with high standards. It says here for example “What about the obligations?” on page two, what are the obligations of workers, what are the obligations of managers in order to maintain these high standards.

I actually used the wrong word because it says in the code of conduct : “as employees we share common responsibilities” so that includes everybody, I mean the president is a worker or employee as much as somebody who maybe can’t read or write and is working in Guatemala in the plantations. So there it sets out the obligations and then there is a very interesting discussion of what ethical behaviour means. When you have the opportunity I advise you to read that, because you study ethics, are you not? And that’s a big question: what is ethical conduct? We understand corporate responsibility as – if you’re looking for a simple definition – it means: high standards of conduct. It means high standards of legal compliance with the law, so there can be no exception to compliance with the law in this country, or international law or the local law in Guatemala or Costa Rica, wherever we are.

So that is legal compliance. Secondly high ethical standards you know, thinking not just about the law. It says in fact here (in the code of conduct) “to comply with the law is not enough”. You’ve got to think carefully because indeed just complying with the law is often not enough. You’ve got to think about your relationship with others in fact it (the code of conduct) asks some interesting questions : “would I feel comfortable explaining my decisions or action to my children or my family and to the senior management of Chiquita?” So you know ethics is also about how you feel about what you’ve done.

Then, the next few chapters going right through to page eleven are a reproduction of the social standard we have adopted which is SA 8000 , with very few technical exceptions the whole SA 8000 standard has been incorporated into our code of conduct. We had long discussion whether this was the right thing to do. Some of my colleagues said: “no, we should develop it ourselves” you know “if it is made by ourselves then it would have more credibility within the company”. We argued, and I myself argued that it’s not going to work. First of all it won’t have credibility outside the company and secondly it is an unending process because there will be endless negotiations inside the company. Let’s find the best standard we can find outside the company developed by real experts in human rights and labour rights and ethics and then let’s take that. And that’s exactly in the end what we did. So now as you know our own farms are all certified to social standards according to SA 8000, a very thorough and effective process in our experience.

Then the foreign chapters is concerned with additional social responsibility which are not addressed by SA 8000, for example food safety, environmental protection, due diligence for potential acquisitions and supply agreements, which means to examine who you’re going to business with or which company you’re going to purchase (from). Workforce reduction, what to do in the case of workforce reduction. There are clear rules which are also spelled out in our agreement with the IUF, because sometimes you need to close a farm or a business because it’s not profitable or for other reasons – Employee privacy – And then it goes on to ethical and legal responsibilities such as harassment which are covered by laws, international laws or especially in our company very much by American law. Our company is an American company and we’re subject to American law and many Europeans don’t realise how severe and strict American law is about certain things. For example: there is a law called “the foreign corrupt practices act” which is a prohibition of bribery or corruption. So that means that American companies and employees of American companies are subject to very severe penalties if they engage in giving bribes or in receiving bribes.

For example I, and all management colleagues in Chiquita have to sign every three months a statement certifying that they have neither received nor given bribes. Every three months, four times a year. The other law which is mentioned here – it is mentioned under ‘fair competition’ but also under ‘anti trust compliance’ – is about not cooperating improperly with competitors. For example no price agreements. That kind of thing. No quantity agreements. And again we have to sign a certificate every three months confirming that we have not engaged in any conduct of that kind. So another law which had a big influence on us recently is that we’re also prohibited of any kind of contact or cooperation with terrorist organizations -conflicts of interest – and the rest is about who to speak to if you have a problem, where the policies are, so it’s quite comprehensive.

Suppose I would offer myself for a job at Chiquita, is this code of conduct something I get on the very first day, before I sign the contract?

Anyone who enters the company receives that, and not just the document but also an explanation of corporate responsibility.

Do they have to know everything that’s mentioned in this code of conduct?

We expect them to know. In fact, a new version of the code of conduct has just been issued and it says very clearly in a letter from our current CEO: “ignorance is no excuse”. We expect you to know, all employees, the rules of our code of conduct. So yeah, you literally have to read it. What of course is something, because it’s a very practical question you’re asking, what about workers who cannot read or write, very well. We have many workers like that in developing countries. So we’ve developed a simplified version with drawings and almost cartoon-like drawings explaining to someone who’s not very literate what this means.

For example a simple picture, when we’re speaking about the prohibition of child labour, there is a child in the offices of the company and the person who is obviously the company representative is pointing through the window. And on the other side you can see, across the street, a school. So what it is saying is: you should go to school. You should not be here, we want you to become educated. So that a very simple practical way to explain it.

So if somebody working at Chiquita violates one of these rules, is there – probably depending on the degree of violation – discussion possible or are you “out” when you violated these terms. Is it negotiable?

That’s a good question. We do in fact have a policy of zero tolerance, meaning if you commit any significant violation of the code of conduct, that’s the end of your time at Chiquita. We’ve found that to be very important, to create complete clarity. Obviously if it is a minor violation – let me give you an example: respectful treatment of your fellow workers is very important, so if you have a manager reported to have shouted at a worker obviously you won’t be kicked out immediately because of that, that would be unreasonable. He would be called, there would be a meeting, there would be an investigation and it is found to be true that that happened than he will receive a warning and he will be asked to change that behaviour.

So it’s not so utterly draconian that with the slightest misconduct you’re fired, but if you have bribed somebody, if it is an important violation of the law, if you’ve spoken to a competitor about how to arrange prices and so on – that’s your last day. In that case there’s no hesitation at all. We’ve had cases. We also have something which is not mentioned here, which is relatively new and it’s called: the hotline.

There are posters put up to encourage any employee who knows of any behaviour which is in violation of the code to phone and to report. But he doesn’t call a Chiquita person, he calls an independent company. He doesn’t have to mention his name, he can remain totally anonymous, he or she of course, and in fact that person has the right then to ask a few weeks later for the results of the complaint. It’s a very effective tool.

Does it happen a lot that people call to report something?

Not so very much, I know that last year we had about 30 calls, so for a large company that’s not a lot. It’s partly because workers are now beginning to understand that they have this tool. Although we’ve communicated it very widely, but there’s always some hesitation to use something like that, and also because within the company we have many alternative ways of complaining if you want to.

Yes I saw it’s stated in the code of conduct that you are always free to talk to your first superior manager in rank if there are any questions you should have or if you’d like to report any misbehaviour.

Of course, let me just name some of the instruments there are our workers can use, or managers can use, to complain, or too make suggestions too, of course. There’s a positive and a negative type of communication. One is: to your supervisor. But of course if it’s something serious, if you know your supervisor is violating the law for example, it’s going to be difficult to go to him obviously. There are people within the organisation who are, like myself, corporate responsibility officers who are committed to complete confidentiality. If you were to come to me with a problem, I would make certain that your name or your involvement would never become public knowledge. The second and very important instrument is the trade unions.

We as a company have very strong trade unions, we work very closely with them, we have very extensive agreements with trade unions, what are called collective bargaining agreements. And if a worker has been mishandled or treated disrespectfully he will normally go to his trade union and the trade union will ventilate it with management. That’s two. The third possibility is: if people have access to email, they can write a letter directly to our CEO. We have a provision for that. It can also be anonymous, so you just fill in a form, you don’t have to give them your name if you don’t want to and those letters are always responded to. If the person doesn’t give his name, in fact, all of the answers are published on our website, so you know exactly what the complaint was and what the answer was.

Is it accessible for external people too?

No I don’t think so. I think it’s on our intranet site.

And then the other (last) means is of course the hotline, so this kind of information is not accessible for external observers but for people working within the company it’s marvellous to have these options, definitely. And they’re quite actively used. And I think it’s part of corporate responsibility, there’s been a big effort within the company to have a more active communication with employees. So for example our CEO Fernando Aguirre, who’s our first Latin American CEO, he holds a quarterly employee meeting when we all connect by video conferencing, and anybody can ask him any kind of question. And sometimes he’s asked quite difficult questions.

That’s pretty interesting. I didn’t know CEOs were so easy to reach.

Usually they’re not that’s the big exception. And now on the 15 th of December he’s going to be in his offices and he’s invited me and other people to a thing called “coffee with Fernando”.
That’s not just with managers, there will be secretaries, maybe some of the cleaning personnel, somebody from transportation and so on. He’s very very open it’s quite remarkable. He cultivates that.

You’ve just mentioned the cleaning personnel, isn’t that usually an external company that comes in and cleans the desks?

Yes, it is as a matter of fact.

Do they have to comply with this code of conduct too? Are they asked to sign anything, to live for the same agreements?

Well, as a matter of fact, we are obliged by SA 8000 to do whatever is in our power, to make certain that they also comply with the law and with human and social rights. There’s a section in the code of conduct called “control of suppliers” and it says here: “the company shall establish procedures to evaluate suppliers and select suppliers based on their ability to meet the requirements of this standard.” So we could never work with a supplier who’s employing children for example. That’s very important in our case, and in the case of many other companies, because we work with thousands of companies, we work with, I suppose, a thousand agricultural producers who provide us with food, vegetables – but then also I know we work with about a thousand suppliers of goods and commodities, you know, paper, fertilizer, boxes, coffee, cups and so on.

We’re still working out how to handle them, because there’s so many of them. Some of them only supply Chiquita and have no other customers. Well then we have a very direct relationship. But some of them supply a hundred companies so we have very little influence over them. But we do make a considerable effort to make sure that they comply. Our contracts with all of our banana growers for example oblige them to comply with human rights, labour rights, international and local. And if they get Rain Forest Alliance Certification, we provide them with a bonus for that which for them helps them to get that certification but for us costs us several million dollars a year, so it’s a big commitment.

Now you have the green label from the green frog, has it really changed the company for the customers? Do they see the company differently now?

This campaign is still relatively new, you know we only started this for example in Belgium in late October, so we have relatively short experience. We know in customers, and when we speak of our customers we mean retailers like Delhaize and so on, they have for years been very much informed about what we’re doing. We see it as out duty to keep them informed and they expect that. But the people who go into their shops, the consumers, have never been informed by Chiquita in this way before. We waited for years before we were willing to do that. We had a policy called “create facts first” so we had a good solid foundation to communicate about. Now how is the consumer receiving this information? Just so you know, we are conducting every month surveys of consumers , I suppose this also comes into interactive marketing to see how the consumer is responding to this, and we haven’t yet had the first report from Belgium, we’ll have that now in week 52, but where we have started a bit earlier, for example in Sweden, there appears to be a significant shift in the way we are understood.

For example they (consumers) are asked a number of questions about the company in this survey. For instance: “do you consider that Chiquita bananas are produced responsibly in compliance with environmental standards?” And similar questions, and the answers to these questions have shifted apparently in a positive sense. Most people didn’t even know the answer to the question and now we appear to be seeing a difference. We believe the answer is yes, because first of all we’ve invested a lot of effort and a lot of money in this campaign, you may have seen we have print adverts, we have not just tried to produce pretty pictures but to provide information as well whenever we can. I don’t know if you’ve seen our double paged adverts. So that is a lot of information so it’s not just a superficial campaign.

We know that the poster in Belgium doesn’t really say much about the background, we get questions like, what is the frog? If they go into the store and they pick up a leaflet, they can learn about that, so we use that if you like as a teaser, and then when the interest is there they become receptive to information. Because people normally don’t read much information.

Are there any similar projects that Chiquita is involved in, that aren’t really accomplished yet?
Are there any other labels you’re trying to obtain?

Yes, there are some things we are doing which we haven’t spoken about, which over time may become important. But we’re not at the moment looking for additional labels. We are looking for additional partnerships, because we have found that when we work together in partnership with a retailer, NGO or trade unit it creates a lot of energy. Maybe two examples: we’ve just recently signed an agreement with the WWF, the World Wildlife Fund to work with them, to ensure the purity of rivers and streams coming out of banana farms and flowing into the Caribbean, that’s one (we haven’t published that yet).

And another one is our Nogal project, I don’t know if you’ve seen it – the nature and community project that’s on our website, and that is a very interesting project I personally have invested a lot of time in, where we’re working together with Migros, which is a Swiss retailer, the biggest retailer in Switzerland, and the German government, the GTZ – their development agency – in Costa Rica to develop an educational nature reserve. We’re trying to create a model of cooperation.

Together with the Rain Forest Alliance we’re working on this project. We’ve got three objectives: conservation, we have some forest there which we are protecting, we’re also connecting, we’re planting strips of forest and connecting one forest to another so the species can migrate, especially the monkey species. Next: environment education. We’re going to train 4000 school children, Chiquita workers, families -to create awareness for this project.
Last “Livelihood” is mentioned here because we’re trying to enable these people to create additional sources of livelihood. They’re not just depending on agriculture, and we have created so far four small cooperative groups, handicrafts, eco-tourism, textiles, health care products (shampoo and so on) all of this based on nature and natural products.

So that’s what we’re doing. Very interesting, but we’re now in the first year of this three-year project with the GTZ, of course we don’t want it to stop then but that’s what we’re doing.

One thing I’m trying to do with colleagues is to develop additional such projects, where we work together with retailers, our customers in developing exceptional model projects which are focused on environmental and social improvements. The next one we want to do in Panama, in fact I’m going to speak about it with the customers on Monday (November 28th), to propose another such project.

Thank you for the interview and your time.

Pieter Janssens from my class also attended this interview session, and helped to write the rest of the paper, as did Joachim Rombaut, who contributed the part where we compared Chiquita’s standards to the Ethibel standards. We made a good team together and we really impressed our teacher.
Ethibel is an independent consultancy agency for socially responsible investments that advices banks and brokers offering ethical savings accounts and investment funds.

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Posted by Miel Van Opstal in Corporate News, Interviews, Marketing


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