Gustavo Gómez is the president of Asoexport, an organization that exports more than half of the colombian coffee. In this interview, he talks about Asoexport’s new sustainability strategy developed with the support of the Sustainable Trade Platform.
Interviewer: In your opinion, what are the three most important aspects of the Sustainable Trade Platform?
Gustavo Gómez: There are many topics to highlight about the Platform: One is knowledge. Everyone (the technical secretariat team) has great knowledge on the matter. Two, the international connection they have. But three, and most important, is that exporters trust them and believe on them. When the Platform calls the exporters attend.
In this sector, trust is a very important issue. Exporters trust in what the Platform can do, they see them as an authority and know that with them they can achieve important results.
I: Asoexport has a new image. Tell us what’s behind that change.
G.G.: The logo was very old and needed a newer look. We wanted to modernize Asoexport, an association with great potential for communication due to its tradition and to its members that are representative companies of the sector.
A key aspect in this change, which began last year, is that we made a strategic alliance with Analdex to offer more value to the associates. We asked ourselves “What do they need?, How can we help them being more competitive?” and we identified that there were some common points on which we could work together.
I: Can you tell me more about those points in which you agreed?
G.G.: We realized that there were some areas of work in which we could move forward: transport, logistics, markets and sustainability.
I: How was the process of developing the sustainability strategy?
G.G.: We started looking for people or institutions related to sustainability that had common goals with us. Since Asoexport had already worked with Solidaridad, we contacted them again and saw that our goals were very well connected with the Sustainable Trade Platform and the Global Coffee Platform ones.
Then, we worked on aligning Asoexport members’ strategies to avoid duplication of efforts while helping direct resources in what is most needed.
I: How did you do that?
G.G.: We work with Solidaridad to identify pre-competitive factors and common goals of the members of Asoexport. We already made a first committee, in which we gathered several companies and defined the topics on which we could work together. These issues were taken to the board and approved. The next step is to develop the plan.
I: What is the most relevant point of the strategy that was developed?
G.G.: We understood that the impact generated by exporting companies is very high when we look at it in a joint way. This factor must be analyzed, quantified and communicated.
I: Can you give me an example?
G.G.: For example: there a several farms where exporters have programs. The exporters have their agronomists, collection points, threshers and sustainability programs… So when you analyze them separately, the support given to number of farms, number of coffee growers, regions of the country, can be interesting, but in an aggregate way it’s very important.
We must tell the world that we are working on sustainability, that it is not an easy task but we are working on it.
There’s another topic quite relevant to the strategy: it allowed us to see how we could add value to companies on sustainability issues, not getting into the details of the operation, but rather aligning strategies.
I: How will this strategy benefit the members of Asoexport?
G.G.: We should avoid duplicating efforts. For example, if I am going to train my agronomists, and bring an international expert, I should not do it separately. Instead we should benefit from economies of scale, like doing joint purchases and bringing experts together to optimize resources and benefit everyone.
I: And the main result of that is…
G.G.:Greater impact on sustainability. We should understand better our concrete needs: what’s already being done and what goals we need to start working on.
G.G.: There is a generational handover issue. Not only in coffee, but in many other sectors, people no longer want to be in the countryside. There is a need to convert these small coffee farms into companies, to technify fields and to implement innovation and technology. The farms need to be more productive and give more benefits to the coffee growers. We need to engage college students, interested in innovating, into applying their knowledge in the field and give added value to products and processes to be much more efficient.
In relation to our field as exporters, the challenge consists on implementing efficient energy. For example, in relation to threshers that have a very high energy consumption, how could we work with more efficient renewable energy? We should think not only of hydroelectricity networks or thermal energy sources, but also solar energy so we can decrease global warming.
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