Les Vergers du Mekong, winner of the CSR Award: a responsible business promoting sustainability and inclusive growth

Les Vergers Du Mekong - the orchards of the Mekong River in English - has clinched top awards for demonstrating social responsibility and sustainability excellence in its business practices on June 22nd at the French Business Awards 2018.

Actualité RSE  |   | Sophie Boyadjian - Marketing & Export Director of Les Vergers Du Mekong

The company was recognized for its positive influence and for the impactful social responsibility and green initiatives they've led in the last 18 years in the Mekong Delta in Vietnam. Les Vergers Du Mekong was recognized because the company goes further than CSR initiatives, SUSTAINABILITY is in the company’s core strategy. Let’s go through the sustainable initiatives that make Les Vergers Du Mékong a company with a purpose, a company that creates a positive impact in the world.

Since the creation of Les Vergers Du Mékong, Jean-Luc VOISIN, its founder and Managing Director, has made a clear choice for a long-term sustainable development by promoting sustainable farming and local sourcing proving that this is both achievable and profitable in today’s consumer driven Asia. Jean-Luc, a French healthy food specialist, has a positive ‘can do’ philosophy and highlights that ‘being sustainable is not only being a good corporate citizen, it is about creating new business models. Being sustainable is not compensating our activity by financing a good project, it is about acting, about making positive changes in the local communities.’

Les Vergers Du Mékong has adopted the following statement to describe its vision: ‘Paving the way for a sustainable and healthy Food & Drink environment.’

The company’s brands at LE FRUIT and FOLLIET have become wellknown for realizing cutting-edge ideas on sustainable supply chain, eco-friendly agriculture, product innovations that aim to inspire to drive changes and improvements to the environment, people and the planet.

LE FRUIT priorities are set for an exclusive local sourcing and always naturally healthy products. One of the priorities of the business was to secure the source of supply locally. Since 2000, Mr Voisin and its dedicated agronomists endeavored to build trust with local fruit growers and soon started direct, long-term and transparent relationships with them for the production and supply of twenty-two different type of fruits. The production plant is settled in Can Tho, in the luxuriant Mekong Delta, heart of the richest orchards of Vietnam to be very close to the farmers. LE FRUIT creates a social contract among agribusinesses to incite trust by supporting and training the fruits growers, creating decent jobs, rewarding small-scale farmers fairly, and investing in local communities. To go even further in the complete fruit traceability, LE FRUIT has launched an innovative approach to develop that ‘Sustainable Fruit Supply Program’ with the 2,000 local farmers. Since the beginning of the year their agronomist is developing a sourcing App together with a German start-up to enable farmers to gain new skills, record their crop and plantations and access agri-innovations.

The other priority for LE FRUIT is a clear choice to produce only 100% natural products that contains no preservatives, no chemicals, no artificial flavours and no GMO. What’s more, LE FRUIT juices are pesticide free. LE FRUIT tests all juices and jams for over 60 types of pesticide and there are NO pesticide residue detected. This is the result of 18 years of direct work with approximately 2,000 small-scale farms in Vietnam. LE FRUIT has a sustainable supply chain team that trains regularly local farmers on sustainable agriculture to strengthen climate resiliency, for example by using the factory own compost to protect the soil health. This is LE FRUIT’s commitment for a complete fruit traceability. In other words, LE FRUIT juices and jams are ‘organic’, but not certified.

The Mekong delta is the richest orchard of Vietnam thanks to sufficient water, quality of land and sun all the year round. However, the agricultural land of the Mekong delta is threatened by the climate change that brings more floods and consequently a steady growing salinization of the land. To safeguard fruit sourcing locally from the Mekong Delta the focus for fruit production and collection must move further in-land on the Vietnamese and the Cambodian side; knowing that in Cambodia, the fruit sector is underdeveloped. LE FRUIT created a pilot sustainable farm in Cambodia to experiment new farming practices with better natural resources management and to become a training center for the local farmers. They work with Vietnamese authorities ? to preserve natural eco-systems and they introduced GAP (Good Agriculture Practice) standards in Cambodia.

Furthermore, LE FRUIT believe saving the local fruit tree heritage is also its mission. Some varieties of fruit and vegetable are disappearing from our plates. Mass-production in farming has caused a homogenization of certain foods. Many endangered varieties are unique to a single local region, having never expanded beyond that community’s confines. When small farms or backyard operations shutter or decide to switch to conventional breeds, the local varieties disappear. This is what is happening to a small mango variety in the Vietnam Highlands. We use this flavorful mango in our LE FRUIT nectar and LE FRUIT no sugar added jam. We buy 200 tons of those small mangoes in the area directly from forty families, but this might be one of our last trips. The farmers choose to plant bigger mangoes with small stone originally from Australia instead. Conserving those endangered fruit species is our new challenge at LE FRUIT. “If we don’t grow them, we lose them,” says Jean-Luc Voisin. We are creating a nursery to help saving the local fruit tree heritage. Those small mangoes from the Vietnam Highlands will be taking the center stage in our LE FRUIT nursery.

FOLLIET works from ‘seed to cup’ on its gourmet roasted coffee as well as on its organic and fair trade full leaf tea. They work hard to nurture the entire supply chain from seed to cup and they master the art of small batch coffee roasting to perfection.

FOLLIET launched a shade grown and Direct Trade coffee from the jungle of Vietnam. FOLLIET has always been looking at sustainable sourcing in a big way, contributing to small Vietnamese family-owned farms, the enrichment of soils, the protection of farm workers from harmful pesticides, and the support of eco-systems. The mission is to create a higher return to the farmers (purchasing the green beans at a price 25% above the current market price), making sustainable agriculture a reality.

FOLLIET is also helping the environment one espresso at a time with its new compostable capsule launched in June 2018. Over 13,500 coffee capsules are drunk every minute, but the coffee capsules we all love are not great for the planet. They are tricky to recycle and most of them are just thrown away. FOLLIET is proud to introduce in Vietnam a 100% biobased, biodegrable, compostable espresso capsule to address these environmental challenges.

At the factory level, Les Vergers Du Mekong launched several initiatives to reduce their ecological footprint. The company is engaging all his partners (employees, suppliers and customers) to develop a mindset toward sustainability.

LE FRUIT chose glass packaging for its endless sustainability.  In 2005, LE FRUIT has started its own ‘Glass Recycling Program’ in Vietnam. It is difficult to get advices to set up collection and recycling centers for glass; that’s why they created six drop-off centers to collect LE FRUIT glass containers in Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, Danang, Nha Trang, Phu Quoc & Can Tho. LE FRUIT jam jars and LE FRUIT juice bottles are covered by a deposit return scheme to cut the litter polluting the land and sea by returning a small cash sum to consumers who return their glass containers. The very first company recycling glass in Vietnam.

In the factory, priority is given to waste management with the project ‘From Waste to Organic Fertilizer’ to make sure to closely monitor the impact of their production on the environment. The main objective of the project is to process organic waste into compost, reducing methane emissions otherwise caused in traditional landfills. In this way, greenhouse gas emissions from traditional landfills are reduced and high-value compost is being produced. The factory located in the Mekong Delta produces twenty tons of organic fertilizer monthly made from the fruit and coffee processing waste. The compost meets international quality standards regarding nutrient content and is used by the local fruit growers and on LE FRUIT pilot farm. Through this initiative we contribute to develop simple good environmental practices of our suppliers so that we select only the best fruits to process our juices, nectars, purees and jams.

Les Vergers Du Mekong was part of the UNIDO Eco-Industrial Park (EIP) Project, a project to reduce waste, minimize greenhouse gas emissions, reduce energy consumption and increase resource efficiency. They worked on their wastewater treatment and on the development of renewable energy in the factory by heating water from the Air Conditioning compressors.

The CSR award was given in recognition for the company’s social environmental mission and the genuine care for the communities they operate in. Jean-Luc says that his mission is to continue promoting sustainability and encouraging awareness and action for the environment and the local communities. He dedicated the CSR Award to his team, working hard beside him towards sustainable development.

 

Sophie Boyadjian - Marketing & Export Director of Les Vergers Du Mekong

Facebook.com/Le.Fruit.fresh — www.vergersmekong.com

 

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