Big business ‘can be ethical’ says major regional grower

BIG business can be ethical, a major East Anglian vegetable producer insists.

Andrew Burgess, Produce World’s Director of Agriculture at Produce World, which has a base at Isleham, near Mildenhall, and grows vegetables across the region, told delegates at the Organic Producers’ Conference that its own values were based on principles such as fairness and care for the environment.

“It’s not the size of the company that decides ethical outcomes,” he said.

“It’s the values and behaviour of its leadership.”

In his presentation to the conference, which was organised by the Organic Research Centre, he outlined the background to Produce World, which is one of the UK’s largest growers and suppliers of fresh produce and has its headquarters in Peterborough.

Organic produce makes up a significant proportion of the company’s business, providing more than a third of all organic root vegetables to the UK retail market.

More than 500 acres of its crop fields are dedicated to growing organic vegetables, which include potatoes, carrots, swedes, and parsnips and it is one of a small number of fresh produce companies that are members of the Organic Trade Board.

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Mr Burgess described how the company’s own values, right across the business, are closely aligned with the principles of organic as laid out by the International Federation of Organic Agricultural Movements (IFOAM) in terms of health, ecology, fairness and care.

As well as being a pioneer in large-scale organic farming, the company has a cutting-edge Corporate Social Responsibility programme which includes care for the environment, community outreach and workplace culture.

It works closely with its grower-suppliers through a series of grower groups that enable the company to share best practice.

“By many people’s standards we are a big company with a turnover of more than �200million and some 1200 employees. We are dealing with some of the UK’s largest retailers and supplying the needs of around 35 million consumers. That doesn’t stop us from thinking and acting in an ethical way with long-term aims. In fact, I would argue that such long-term thinking is in the best interest of Produce World as well as global agriculture as a whole.”