Olam Food Ingredients announces targets to tackle poverty and scale up sustainability in global cashew supply chains

Olam Food Ingredients (“OFI”), one of the world’s largest suppliers of ingredients[1] from almonds to black pepper, has published sustainability targets to tackle the biggest challenges in the global cashew supply chain, starting with farmer livelihoods.

Cashew farmers are among the poorest in the world. Most are smallholders in rural areas across Africa and Asia and cannot always grow enough to feed their families, afford much-needed healthcare or send their children to school. OFI, which has directly supported over 50,000 cashew farmers over the last decade, hopes to change this and encourage others in the sector to collaborate for measurable change.

The Cashew Trail strategy sets 2030 targets across OFI’s cashew business – in line with the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals and OFI’s commitment to deliver naturally good, sustainable ingredients. These include ambitious goals to fight poverty by increasing average yields by 50% and helping 250,000 cashew households to improve their livelihoods.

Along with economic opportunity, Cashew Trail includes commitments around health, education, diversity and climate to ensure that by 2030, 100% of own processing volumes are traceable to farmer group-level; 250,000 cashew households benefit from improved livelihoods through training and access to inputs like fertiliser; 100% of children from cashew communities for directly sourced volumes benefit from investments into education infrastructure; 30% of farmers in directly sourced cashew communities are women; 50% reduction of Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emission intensity in OFI cashew supply chains

OFI is making these goals real by innovating its approach to sustainability – providing customers with a pathway to drive tangible change in farming communities. This innovation is both practical, like using data to deliver training tailored to individual farmers, and disruptive, like Olam Direct, which reaches farmers further afield, giving them access to the latest market prices, and the ability to negotiate directly rather than through traditional buying agents, thereby retaining more value for their crop.

Progress on Cashew Trail will be reported annually, tracked and supported by data from 100+ economic, social and environmental metrics on Olam’s sustainability insights platform AtSource, including carbon, water and land use foot printing which can be used by customers in their own sustainability programmes and consumer communications. This includes measuring impacts in OFI’s cashew processing facilities located in both Asia and Africa. Currently, most of the global processing for cashew nuts takes place in Asia. OFI seeks to boost job creation and reduce emissions through transportation of the raw nut by increasing the processing in Côte d’Ivoire and Nigeria.

Ashok Krishen, managing director and CEO of the OFI nuts business, said: “One of the greatest impacts we can have as a business is to help farmers earn a living income and help protect the environment that nurtures their trees and communities. We’ve worked with customers and partners for over a decade to make the cashew supply chain fairer, stronger and more sustainable, but cashew farmers are still struggling for survival. This is especially true right now with many reporting even lower incomes and lesser food for their daily survival than before the COVID-19 pandemic.  

“The good news is that with plant-based products becoming more popular – where cashew isn’t just for a Trail Mix but is now used to make vegan butter, milk and cheese – there is greater opportunity for awareness and impact across the nuts value chain. Consumers want to know that when they buy these products, they are supporting a supply chain where farmers earn more, communities are supported and the natural world is protected, from the farm right through to our customers’ factory gates. These new goals, the first of their kind in the sector, will drive positive impact, today and tomorrow.”

A. Shekhar, CEO of OFI, said: “OFI is focused on providing ingredients that are right for the producer, the consumer and the planet. This means sharing specific goals and targets with our customers, whether they are food brands, food service outlets, or retailers and grocery chains. To this end, we have launched public strategies for cocoa, coffee and now cashew – three of the most challenging supply chains for a whole range of issues, especially the poverty of the farmers who toil hard to bring these products to our homes.

“We started on this journey many years ago and realise that it is still a long and tough road ahead. We will share our progress transparently through the sustainability insights platform AtSource, from which customers can track and use the data in their own consumer marketing and sustainability programmes. For those customers relying on a variety of nuts in growing end-use categories such as bakery confectionery and plant-based milks, we will soon be launching our public targets for hazelnuts and almonds so we continually reinforce our ability to supply great-tasting ingredients that also create sustainable impact across these supply chains.”

The Sustainable Nut Initiative, added: “We share this goal to create sustainable supply chains, improve the livelihoods and conditions of farmers and workers, and help the sector to flourish. Increased transparency and traceability are essential to making this a reality, so we welcome the publication of a clear roadmap and targets by OFI and encourage others in the sector to do the same. To achieve a sustainable future for cashew, we need all nut supply chain actors to come together and show a shared commitment to sustainability.”