As imports of fresh produce have risen significantly throughout the last decade, the area of social responsibility has become quite popular amongst North American retailers, according to importers. They say that over the past five years, auditing requirements of US chain stores and wholesalers have become more demanding. But Nogales, AZ-based grower/shipper Divine Flavor said this responsibility of treating farm workers with dignity and respect comes as no surprise as the company believes the employees have the greatest impact with the final product.
"As a company philosophy- to successfully grow and harvest fresh produce, the promise starts much before the hands of the farm worker, but rather, it begins by understanding that they are the heart and soul behind each fruit or vegetable sold to consumers. As a core value of Divine Flavor’s mission, being socially responsible for each employee is the greatest factor to grow and supply the best produce," said Michael DuPuis of Divine Flavor.
He added that paving the way in the areas of social responsibility is the company's grower, Viva Organica, an organic greenhouse vegetable growers in Culiacan, Ensenada, and Sayula, Mexico. Since the start of the company’s first season in 2015, the grower's aim was giving the best amenities to its workers; providing housing, offering free medical services, and adding new facilities for playing sports and other recreational activities, according to DuPuis.
David Bon, Director and Owner of Viva Organica explains his first-hand experiences which inspired his vision for social responsibility. “My brothers and I would always visit the fields and spend time with the workers when we were younger. Around the holidays, my father would have us pick grapes, allowing us the opportunity to talk with the people working there. This gave us the sensibility to understand the farmers are the same as us…they’re people and this will always be personal to me”, says Bon.
When asked about how much influence the workers have on the final product, Bon replied, “How can I achieve the best product if the working conditions are bad? How am I able to motivate the employees if they’re unhappy, or ask them to be clean regarding food safety practices if we don’t offer clean living conditions. The elements we ask of our employees must also be returned with the working conditions provided to them by the company”.
As of late in the North American markets, DuPuis said stores such as Walmart and Costco have influenced other companies to require social accountability audits and certifications. As consumers have been the primary reasoning behind this, the companies who sell imported product want to know the produce they receive is ethically sourced.
“Our commitment to our employees allows us to fulfill our commitment with the customers. It’s a situation where everyone wins. The infrastructure provided to workers invites them to do a great job while being given a quality life”, Bon concludes after discussing what social responsibility means to his company and the industry.