TSC received a grant from the Walton Family Foundation to convene organizations across commodity supply chains in order to gain transparency into the sustainability attributes used to reduce environmental and social impacts when purchasing commodities. Below you will see the findings from the case studies conducted with 14 companies including BASF, Bayer, Bunge, Campbell’s, Cargill, Dean Foods, Kellogg’s, Monsanto, Organic Valley, PepsiCo, Pharmavite, Post Consumer Brands, Syngenta, and Unilever.

What are the most important sustainability issues around commodities for your company?

What is your procurement/buying process for commodities?

Additional Findings

What are the most common sustainability “specs” used during procurement:

  1. Ingredient certification
  2. Supplier compliance with code of conduct
  3. Grower participation in farm-level sustainability initiatives

What is the most common data collection approach?  

  1. Metrics tools/projects (e.g., Cool Farm Tool, Field to Market) or other digital platforms.
  2. Other approaches include: Farm or field visits, precision ag technologies, commodity suppliers

What  are the barriers to data flow through the ag supply chain ?

  1. Data confidentiality and security
  2. Incompatible data collection and reporting systems
  3. Variable access to/use of modern technology (e.g., Internet)

What are the most common incentives offered to improve data flow?  

  1. Monetary
  2. Continued market access
  3. Sustainability marketing


Across the 19 supplier codes of conduct evaluated, the top sustainability topics addressed include legal compliance (18 codes), worker health and safety (17 codes), business integrity and ethics (17 codes), child and forced labor (16 codes), discrimination and harassment (15 codes), freedom of association and collective bargaining (15 codes), and working hours (15 codes). Sustainability topics with the least focus include nutrient management (1 code), pest management (1 code), biodiversity (2 codes), and migrant labor (2 codes). The only common issue addressed by each of the six ag retailer’s supplier code of conduct is discrimination and harassment. For the three commodity suppliers, legal compliance is the only common issue addressed. Among the food/CPG companies, two issues – business integrity and ethics and legal compliance – are addressed by all seven companies. In contrast, each of the three animal processors cover multiple common issues in their supplier codes of conduct: child and forced labor, worker health and safety, information security, and legal compliance.

I found the insights into the entire food value chain extremely interesting, and it helped me gain a better understanding of how companies view sustainability and their code of conduct at all points in the food continuum.  It helped me quickly uncover places of commonality and potential partnership around sustainability projects and efforts in the future, focusing on where Monsanto aligns with other food stakeholders at all levels.  Finally, I was able to provide the report to our team working on our 2017 code of conduct and sustainability report.  This helped provide additional information to them on areas where we could better align our own pledges and codes, as well as mirror our partners in the food world.

Eric Gassaway

Director, Sustainable Sourcing


By interviewing and working with stakeholders along commodity supply chains, TSC was able to produce a comprehensive framework, Case Studies and a Framework for Addressing Sustainability in Supplier Codes of Conduct”that identifies how companies procure commodities, which sustainability topics should be covered in codes of conduct, and what resources are available to support growers and suppliers to meet sustainability requirements in corporate codes of conduct. This report can be used by companies creating new codes of conduct or companies looking to revise and improve their existing requirements by strengthening sustainability signals to suppliers.


Sustainable Commodity Supply Chains Project 1.44 MB 8520 downloads

The primary objective of the Sustainable Commodity Supply Chains project was to utilize...