In addition to our well established supplier programmes, SRTP and BEST, we have endeavoured to identify and develop ‘win win’ solutions to support our suppliers, reduce our impacts and drive sustainability throughout our operations.
Social Responsibility in Tobacco Production (SRTP)
In 2009, there were 22 SRTP reviews of tobacco leaf suppliers in 14 countries and, by the year end, 96 per cent of suppliers had been reviewed at least once. Our leaf suppliers’ average scores are outlined in the SRTP charts and they are generally very encouraging, although we have seen a decrease in 2009. This was largely due to more stringent assessment criteria introduced in 2009.
As part of our commitment to SRTP, we have worked to increase the overall fuel efficiency of curing and have investigated the use of alternative fuels and the viability of ‘live’ curing barns to further reduce growers’ reliance on natural forest.
Through our leaf extension services in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda, we have introduced a furnace design that has significantly reduced fuel consumption rates. We hope to see further improvements as a result of similar changes to curing barn design.
The development of alternative fuels for curing is a focus for our Leaf Research and Technology Centre. Investigations are currently being carried out into biofuels, solar-assisted curing and the re-use of waste products.
The use of ‘live’ burley barns, where living trees are used to provide the main structure, is being evaluated by our leaf extension services in Uganda. It is thought that the trees will provide a natural defence against ants and termites, prolonging the life of the barn and reducing the need to harvest wood for barn construction.
Global centre of excellence in agronomy
In 2009, we continued expanding our Leaf Research and Technology Centre and plant breeding facility in Brazil in order to establish them as a global centre of excellence in agronomy. The Centre provides farmers with technological assistance and initiatives to support the sustainability of their business and our efforts to become farmers’ preferred leaf purchaser.
The Centre’s focus is on providing basic but effective methods of agronomy that are realistic and proven to increase both the yield and quality of farmers’ crops. This means farmers can maximise their profits while we can secure our leaf supply at the quality we expect. The Centre also provides advice on complementary crop rotations that enhance soil fertility and water holding capacity. This enables farms to operate on a multi-crop, multi-income basis rather than relying on a single crop, while also delivering leaf quality.
Tobacco crop insurance scheme
Working with an independent insurer, our company in Kenya has trialled an insurance scheme with some of the farmers in vulnerable areas, to cover crops and farmers’ livelihoods against natural disasters. This provides security for farmers and offers them an additional benefit in working with us as a business partner.
Business Enabler Survey Tool (BEST)
BEST establishes the standards we expect from our suppliers of materials other than leaf. During 2009, we carried out 22 BEST reviews and re-reviews of 13 global, and nine regional goods and machinery suppliers. Of these, seven gained the minimum Approved status, 10 gained Qualified status and four gained the highest Certified status. One potential supplier failed to gain Approved status and will not be used until it is able to gain this status. It is currently developing an action plan to help it achieve this.
Our supplier programmes: what’s next?
We will continue to focus on building our capacity to support farmers by developing our global centre of excellence in agronomy. Twenty-two SRTP reviews across 10 countries are planned for 2010. We also aim to continue developing innovative ways to address challenges in the leaf supply chain.