Living Wage is a new retail concept, but importer Eosta is far ahead of the curve. The organic produce distributor already delivers three Living Wage products to shop shelves: mangos from Burkina Faso, avocados from Kenya, and passion fruit from Peru, which were added recently. Interest in the market is growing apace. Only dark green outlets in Austria and Germany were interested in early 2020, but supermarket chains such as Dennree and ICA are now on board and talks are underway with the largest purchasing organisations in the Netherlands and Germany.
A Living Wage is an income that is sufficient to offer a family a decent standard of living and a way out of poverty (see www.livingwage.eu for more info). The statutory minimum wage is significantly lower than the Living Wage in most countries. Social quality marks check for the minimum wage, but not a Living Wage. Studies have been carried out in relation to bananas, coffee and clothing, but until recently fruit and vegetables with a Living Wage guarantee were nowhere to be found in supermarkets.
Closing the income gap
In early 2020, Eosta was the first market player in Europe to launch fresh fruit with a Living Wage message in shops by offering organic mangos from Burkina Faso with a surcharge of ten cents per kilogram. The premiums collected are used to close the income gap of the African exporter’s employees. Living Wage avocados from Kenya were added in the Spring of 2021, and Eosta can now also offer Living Wage Verified passion fruit from Peru.
Success with avocados
Gert-Jan Lieffering, Quality Manager at Eosta, is leading the project. Lieffering: “In 2021 it became a real success. We ran an entire avocado season with an inclusive premium price. That money will be transferred in October. The idea for the Kenyan avocados is that we always use the premium from the previous year to close the income gap for the following year. The approach may differ for each product and grower, because it must be appropriate for local circumstances and the size of our share in the harvest.”
Passion fruit in Peru
The latest branch on the Living Wage tree is organic passion fruit from Peru (code 355 on www.natureandmore.com). Lieffering explains: “In 2020, the researchers Anker & Anker calculated a Living Wage benchmark for Peru that now enables us to measure the degree to which it is achieved by a grower. We first carried out an online assessment of the employment conditions with this grower, after which I went to Peru to talk with employees and study wage slips.”
Living Wage Verified
The results were surprisingly positive: “It became apparent that the 131 employees of this grower all earn the Living Wage already. That is unique and is related to the political situation in Peru. If you don’t measure this, you simply won’t know. You can now offer passion fruit in outlets with the message that they are Living Wage Verified. This is unknown and frequently also not the case for all of the other fruit and vegetables on the shelves.”
First external audit
Eosta is also taking steps to increase the professionalism of the audit. Lieffering: ‘The first audit of our Kenyan Living Wage avocados took place at the end of September. It was carried out by ETSA, Ethical Trade Services Africa. They calculated whether the income gap that we observed for our supplier’s employees is realistic. Apparently, it is. When this is clear you can monitor progress.’
Eosta’s Living Wage mangos are available from the end of March until mid-June, the avocados from the end of March until the end of September, and the Peruvian passion fruit all year round. Gert-Jan Lieffering now has another new product on his wish list: avocados from Tanzania. More about that later! See also: www.livingwage.eu.
Eosta, with Nature & More as its consumer brand and transparency system, is Europe’s most awarded distributor of organic fruit and vegetables. Eosta is known for its sustainability campaigns such as Living Wage, True Cost of Food and Dr. Goodfood. In 2018, the company won the King William I Plaque for Sustainable Entrepreneurship and in 2019 the European Business Award for the Environment. See also www.eosta.com and www.natureandmore.com.