hiSbe supermarket procurement

Delivering a flexible tool for ethical, sustainable product sourcing

The client

hiSbe Food CIC is a new type of supermarket that puts fair and transparent trading practises first, sources food in a responsible way and helps people on average incomes and everyday diets make choices for a more sustainable food industry.

The brief

hiSbe required an ethical sourcing policy and tool to guide the procurement choices of their shop managers.

The policy needed to cover environmental, social and animal welfare issues in relation to the procurement of fresh produce. The format had to provide managers with a step by step process to guide the selection of suppliers across imported produce as well as local seasonal produce.

Our approach

To make best use of their budget we agreed with hiSbe to focus initially on meat procurement, a purchasing category that raises a wide range of ethical issues, on the basis that our approach could then be extended easily to other food types.

Firstly we carried out a broad range of research incorporating analysis of available academic literature, types of production system, certification standards and papers from relevant food related NGOs. We also contacted agriculture and food industry representatives and academics directly to discuss the issues. The output of this process was a summary briefing paper that provided a concise view of the ethical landscape surrounding meat. We then distilled this further to some key principles that could be used as guidance when thinking about ethical meat procurement and which could inform the second bit of the project, structuring and creating the tool.

We decided to develop the tool as an offline spreadsheet in order to maximise flexibility and keep costs low. We set out to create a framework for sourcing managers to use when considering complex and sometimes competing ethical objectives i.e. a tool to guide them on ‘how to choose’, rather than a one-off prescriptive exercise telling the managers ‘what’ ethical purchases they should make.  The tool also provided a format for documenting the decision making process, providing clarity and structure for hiSbe, but also useful information and knowledge that could be shared with their consumers via their policy statements.

The result

hiSbe are actively using the tool to help inform their sourcing decisions for meat and are finding that it usefully distills complex issues into a checklist format that’s practical to use with farmers and producers.