Study shows that interactions in poultry production generate sustainability lessons
In southern Brazil, continuous interactions between poultry producers, suppliers and a client have generated learning cycles, impacting sustainability practices in the supply chain.
According to a paper by two researchers at Fundação Getulio Vargas’ Sao Paulo School of Business Administration (FGV EAESP), Karina Santos and Susana Carla Farias Pereira, published in the International Journal of Operations & Production Management, the sharing of knowledge between these stakeholders can allow new values and ideas to be learned while undoing old practices, in the areas of waste management, biosafety and animal welfare.
Santos and Pereira carried out a qualitative study, based on 24 interviews in October and November 2019 and from August 2020 to April 2021 with representatives of different levels of the poultry supply chain. The investigated interactions involved a purchaser (a multinational restaurant chain), first-level suppliers with sustainability certification, non-certified suppliers and a network of sub-suppliers made up of 1,073 farmers. The article was also based on documentary research and two ethnographies carried out over the course of 55 days in 2020 on two non-certified farms and for 19 days in 2021 on a certified property.
Knowledge shared between experts and novices, for example, can be incorporated into concrete practices and bring solutions to everyday processes. Neighboring sub-suppliers tend to share lessons learned from experience among themselves, even those on non-certified properties, who are therefore less impacted by the requirements of the buyer and the certification organization. One example is the use of a dehydrator to reduce the volume of waste, adopted by a non-certified farmer after this method was used on another property.
In another case, a veterinarian who provides technical support to a supplier learned from the son of a chicken farm owner how to use an application to monitor environmental conditions. In yet another observed interaction, a sub-supplier was suspicious of the veterinarian’s technical advice but adopted it in his practice after verifying good results.
To optimize these interactions, the researchers stress that companies need to better convey the value of sustainability to suppliers and sub-suppliers, considering how current practices were taught and learned.