Saturday, April 18, 2009

The Saga of Socially Responsible Sourcing – Chapter Three. Non Profits Are No Better

Frustrated with the situation with my blender, I turned to a non profit organization my daughter has interacted with over the past few years.  They are working with indigenous peoples in the Ecuadorean Amazon to take their organic cocao, process it in Quito into chocolate bars and cacao, export it into the US and sell it at Whole Foods.  They were even on 60 minutes for their achievements.  Amazing. 

So, I thought, I’ll talk to them about buying cacao from them.  Should be a no brainer.  My daughter and I work in the same region of Ecuador and could do a water project in their community.  I could visit their farmers and know where my cacao is coming from.  Could be really powerful.

To my chagrin, the same people who used to be friendly collaborators in the cause of preserving the Amazon for all of us by giving indigenous people the opportunity to earn an income while sustainably harvesting cacao, have now embraced the no transparency mantra.  Apparently someone in Bolinas CA visited their farms and professed to use their cacao when in fact they were using cheaper stuff.  So, no more transparency.  I am not welcome to visit their farmers and apparently can’t even buy cacao from them, all because I asked to visit their farmers while I was in the same region of the Ecuadorean Amazon.

Makes me wonder what they are hiding, not a good plan for an organization that professes to be doing what it’s doing on 60 Minutes….

Sunday, April 5, 2009

The Saga of Socially Responsible Sourcing – Chapter Two. The Blenders.

Turns out that when a person wants to make a whey protein product for human consumption, there are only  handful of companies in the US that can help.  Unless you want to purchase expensive precise blending and packaging equipment, it’s difficult to make these products yourself.  Also, a typical nutritional supplement product contains many different ingredients, all of which can be difficult to source, have minimum order quantities, etc.

As a result, we all work with companies who  source ingredients, blend, and package products.  These companies are wonderfully helpful, but there’s a problem.  They consider the source of their ingredients (and by extension, my ingredients) to be proprietary information.   Their suppliers, ingredient companies, consider their sources to be proprietary, the importers who supply them consider their sources to be proprietary.  The result of all of this is that it is completely impossible for a company like mine, which works with suppliers who all know their farmers personally, to know the other farmers who grow or gather the wonderful fruits and stevia we use unless we source everything literally ourselves, import it ourselves, and force the blenders to blend our own proprietary ingredients.