A showcase project in IndiaSelvam Chandrasekar himself grew up in the shrimp industry: the business is in his blood, because his father, who founded the company, always had a lot to say about it. Started as a small family business with 25 employees, Asvini now employs around 3,800 people. Some of them come from the vicinity of the factories and can commute to work every day. But others live further away, as Chandrasekar explains: ‘Our employees who come from areas of India more than 50 kilometres away need permanent accommodation on site. Until now, we have had sleeping accommodation for only 200 people. The rest had to live in rented houses with poor living conditions. We wanted to change that.’
The two new staff dormitories can accommodate 1,700 and 1,100 workers respectively. A regular cleaning service keeps them clean and security is also provided. In this way, Asvini wants to set an example of fair working and living conditions. METRO also appreciates the open-minded and responsible attitude of the long-standing partner. ‘Our cooperation has been going on for 8 years now, and is based on transparency, trust and a common understanding of values. Asvini knows how important it is to take care of its employees and to comply with social standards – which unfortunately is not a given in India. In other factories, employees sleep on the floor or share a bed and have no air conditioning,’ says Julien Andrau, Food Sourcing Director Asia Pacific at METRO.
Socially and environmentally sustainableBy investing in employee accommodation, Asvini is helping to sustainably improve the living conditions of its employees. ‘We can see that when people return to their homes, such as during their holidays, they implement hygiene standards and value healthy food. We are very happy about that,’ Chandrasekar reports. At the same time, the shrimp supplier also benefits: the good living and working conditions ensure that the employees stay with Asvini and are motivated to come to work every day, thus guaranteeing consistently high product quality. This is because shrimp must be processed and frozen on the very same day that they are caught – or rather harvested, because they are kept in breeding stations. Only in this way can they remain fresh and of high quality. The new accommodation allows Asvini to have sufficient staff on site every day and to avoid delays in the process.
Selvam Chandrasekar not only focuses on social sustainability in his company, but also on environmentally friendly and sustainable production methods. ‘Our shrimp are BAP (Best Aquaculture Practices) or ASC (Aquaculture Stewardship Council) certified,’ he says. ‘This means that they are reared on farms in a sustainable production process and processed in our factories – in harmony with nature.’ This enables METRO to guarantee its customers an optimal, fresh and healthy taste experience, as Vicky Tang, Sourcing Manager Seafood (Asia Pacific) at METRO, describes: ‘Since last year, together with Asvini, we have been exporting the first peeled, completely chemical-free shrimp to Europe in large quantities. So far, METRO is unique in doing this in Europe.’ At the same time, METRO is the only European wholesaler to buy the shrimp directly from the producer, thus ensuring short and transparent supply chains.
Growing responsiblyAsvini is constantly working to optimise its production processes and improve working conditions for its employees. ‘For those who do not stay in the new accommodation, we have invested in canteens and toilets. It is important for us to continuously expand our facilities,’ Chandrasekar says. In addition to a fair and transparent wage system, the shrimp supplier has its own corporate social responsibility programme. In this way, Asvini provides financial support to facilities such as schools and hospitals in the area.
Independent audits regularly monitor compliance with the company’s social standards. ‘We keep track of the results of the social standard reports and monitor the status on site. That is why we visit the factories ourselves to make sure that the working conditions and quality requirements are being met,’ says Vera Lau, Quality Manager (Asia Pacific) at METRO. In this way, METRO is sure of having a partner that contributes positive and sustainable value to society and treats the most important resource – people – with respect.