Caffè Nero wrong to alter sourcing policy in face of protests, says poll

Will Green is news editor of Supply Management
29 June 2015

Caffè Nero was wrong to change its milk sourcing policy following protests over the ethics of the badger cull, a survey of buyers has found.

The SM Jury narrowly decided the coffee chain made the wrong decision by seven votes to five.

The company reacted after campaigners on a Facebook page called ‘Stop the cull’ threatened to protest at outlets unless Caffè Nero stopped buying milk from farms in Somerset and Gloucestershire that are subject to the cull.

Caffè Nero announced switching farms would impact just 2 per cent of milk supplies and it needed to act to safeguard staff. After the NFU criticised the decision, the company said: “Caffè Nero has long-standing relationships with farmers throughout the UK and we are working with the NFU to find a suitable outcome for all parties.”

Cristian Martin, procurement and contracts officer at the Commonwealth Secretariat, voted ‘no’. “I think it was a bad idea. It makes an unnecessary statement dividing a customer base that I doubt targeted them for action,” he said. “Longer term if other companies follow suit in a ‘me too’ knee jerk response, this could have very negative impact on dairy farming in the UK which is already underpaid, and unstable, as it is.”

Nic Porter, managing director at Procuring Group, also voted ‘no’. “Retailers have to listen to their customers when developing their buying strategies, but in this case the threat of protest has driven a sourcing decision. Looking at this purely from a procurement perspective it is hard to rationalise the decision, but looking at the wider business context it is understandable Caffè Nero took this approach to divert negative PR in their purchasing of a relatively price consistent commodity.”

Eunja Hwang, supplier expeditor at Howden, voted ‘yes’. “No matter what, health and safety should be the first consideration to be made before any commercial aspect.”

Brian Grew, senior vice president of commercial relationships at Live Nation, also voted in favour of the motion. “It is imperative supply chains respond and adapt to customer demands,” he said. “This example makes procurement and supply chain professionals part of the solution of responding to external pressures on their business. Expect more stakeholder influence as the digital world corrects information asymmetry.”

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