The German chemical company was already working with Rewe as a partner in its Best Alliance programme – a consumer brand intended to highlight products that adhere to social and environmental best practice.
As consumers are paying increasing attention to the ecological and social conditions under which their food is grown, the retailers who serve them are requesting assurances from food processors and manufacturers about the origins of ingredients, giving greater weight to sustainability from ‘farm to fork’.
Rewe is working with a variety of partners for different produce in different regions; BASF’s original involvement was around strawberries in Southern Spain. Now, however, it has extended the cooperation as need has been identified for sustainable production of fruit and vegetables to be quantified.
The standards seek to answer the pressing question: ‘What does sustainable production actually mean?’. The full set criteria are understood to still be in development, and a Rewe representative did not respond to an enquiry as to whether they will be published in the interests of transparency, or whether they will be made available to other firms, too.
BASF has said, however, that long-term use of the ‘Best Alliance’ brand is dependent on showing continuous improvement in three fields: Optimised use of crop protection ingredients; adherence to defined environmental standards; and adherence to defined social standards.
The method is said to look at the economic and ecological effects of the fruit and vegetables over its whole life cycle, and looks at ways to improve sustainability all along the chain of adding-value.
“In this way, all participants in the procurement chain are involved in the improvement process,” says BASF.
Moreover, the basic criteria are not seen as the end-game, but more investigations are being carried out on how eco-efficiency analysis can be used as a central control tool for ‘Best Alliance’.
“It is crucial to implement more comprehensible criteria in the sense of ecological and social responsibility,” said Guido Siebenmorgen, head of strategic purchasing of food at the REWE Group.
The method has been certified by the German Technical Inspection Organisation (TUV).
A spokesperson for BASF told FoodNavigator.com that the chemical firm is working in a consultancy capacity for Rewe. It does have a policy of aiding its customers with sustainability, but the criteria are not designed to have a direct bearing on its own business relations.