ESA embraces sustainability

The main challenges and opportunities for the Spice Industry regarding sustainability are:
  • A long and complex supply chain with more than 200 kinds of spices and herbs globally sourced by European spice companies. It is not only that the amount is high, but the different spices do also have different characteristics due to diverse geographical and climate conditions in the growing areas. This will add complexity when addressing sustainability challenges as well as opportunities to the supply chain. Many of the herbs and spices imported into Europe are produced in less economically developed countries by smallholder farmers who for a large part of their livelihoods depend on the income from their crops. As a result of global market forces smallholder farmers have increasingly moved to other more valuable sources of income, such as highly intensive crops. In addition, many young farmers are leaving agriculture and migrate to urban areas for works in non-agricultural sectors. This affects the scarcity of spices and herbs and can also negatively affect the environment- highly intensive monoculture farm systems cause serious land degradation, pollution and erosion issues- and communities that suffer from health problems due to the use of chemicals in such systems.
  • EU upcoming sustainability legislations, where EU Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive (CSDDD) requires in-scope companies to conduct due diligence on, and take responsibility for, human rights abuses and environmental harm throughout their global value chains. On 1 June 2023, the European Parliament agreed on its position on CSDDD. This legislation will be one that will impact all ESA members, though within different timeframe due to company size and where in the supply chain the company is. Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive and Forced Labor Ban regulation have also to be considered in the future.
  • There are a lot on the EU policy agenda regarding sustainability except for CSDDD. Within The European Green Deal with Farm to Fork Strategy, Circular Economy Action Plan and EU Biodiversity Strategy there are forthcoming EU initiatives regarding proposal for a legislative framework for sustainable food systems, sustainable use of pesticides, revision of EU legislation on Food contact Materials, proposal for a sustainable food labelling framework, packaging and packaging waste regulation, directive on green claims.
  • Consumers are looking for more sustainable foods. Protect the security of supply chain is important and consumers want to know the origin of the food they buy and will eat, and many consumers want to know the livelihoods of the people who grow the spices. Hence transparency and traceability are crucial.
The most important and relevant stakeholders for ESA regarding sustainability are, EU regulators, EU agencies & scientists, NGOs, members, consumers, retailers, B 2 B customers, farmers, collectors, and producers. ESA as a Trade association is composed of different types of members, National Associations, Direct Full Membership and Direct Associated Membership which is important to keep in mind when to decide what we can and will focus on regarding sustainability. Until now very much of individual companies work within sustainability has been voluntary commitments, but with all the upcoming EU legislation that will change.

Focus areas and UNs Sustainable Development Goals

According to the risks and opportunities in the herbs and spice supply chain, upcoming legislations and our stakeholder analysis, the focus areas for ESA sustainability work are:
  • Human rights and specifically child labor
  • Farmers livelihoods
  • Climate
  • Biodiversity
  • Agrochemicals including pesticides
  • Water
From the UNs 17 Sustainable Development Goals ESA has decided that the following are where we can achieve the most impact and these are the ones ESA will mainly support:
  • Sustainable sourcing where compliance to ESA CoC is needed will promote sustainable production and create impact at farm level.
  • To identify and address risks, due diligence is needed. When performing due diligence there will be identified risks within:
  • Water and waste management.
    Child and forced labor awareness and absence in living income.
    Climate change.
    Biodiversity and agrochemical use.
  • Finally, partnership is important to create impact. This will be reached through MoU with SSI and collaboration at origin.
What to achieve?
As being the umbrella association for the European spice industry we want the industry to work towards a more sustainable business and we want to help our members to drive impact in the entire supply chain. This will be done through awareness, education, tools and cooperations.

Since the ESA GA October 2022, we have the ESA CoC for responsible sourcing. This is a very important document for a more sustainable business, and it is mandatory for ESA members to ensure compliance with it. This will build credibility with clients through fair and transparent culture. Embed responsible business conduct into policies & management systems is also the first step in due diligence process according to UN Guiding Principles and the OECD Guidelines.

ESA goals 2023-2027
  • Establish an ESA Sustainability Committee.
  • Advice the membership how to comply with ESA CoC for responsible sourcing.
  • Support the membership with Due Diligence work regarding human rights and environmental.
  • Support one sector project at origin.
  • Strengthen ESA communication regarding sustainability.

Bonn, September 2023