Case Study: United Biscuits

Since discovering that ingredients accounted for over half of the total carbon footprint of its products, United Biscuits (UB) has made great strides towards investigating and improving the sustainability of its supply chain, starting with its approach to sourcing.

As a means of tracking and comparing its supply chains, UB has been using the SEDEX (Supplier Ethical Data Exchange) system to make ethical assessments of new and existing suppliers. From having 9% of the supplier base on the SEDEX system at the beginning of 2009 UB now have 90% of suppliers registered and are aiming for 95% by the end of 2012.

UB is also member of the Progress SEDEX Working Group, a food industry group within SEDEX comprising most of the large international food manufacturers. This group has agreed to share data, so reducing duplication and work for suppliers serving other members of the group. Members also share the often costly ethical audits that they conduct, particularly on 'high risk' suppliers. Cross-industry collaboration give companies the opportunity to learn from each other and is therefore a more efficient way to tackle both the current and future challenges.

An early success story has been that all palm oil and palm oil derived products used by UB. These have been certified 100% sustainable since 2010 and 70% is segregated through the supply chain so that UB can trace the sustainable palm oil in its products to the plantation. In 2011 the company's progress was recognised by WWF in their Palm Oil Buyers' Scorecard, who awarded UB top marks - the only company in its volume category to achieve this.

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Last reviewed: 28 Jan 2014