Moving Boundaries

Happy People – Great Shrimp

What is a company’s most valuable resource? For METRO, it is people. This is why the wholesaler is committed to the protection of human rights in its own operations and along the entire value chain. In Asvini, a shrimp supplier from India, METRO has found a strong partner that is committed to social sustainability.

Air-conditioned bedrooms, a canteen, laundries, lounges with TVs and indoor games, a small shop, a medical centre and outdoor areas for relaxation: what sounds like a leisure centre or hotel complex actually describes the staff accommodation provided by shrimp supplier Asvini. ‘Our staff accommodation is well equipped,’ says Selvam Chandrasekar, Managing Director and owner of Asvini. The Indian company built new, free accommodation for employees at its two factory sites in Bhimavaram and Tuticorin in 2018 and 2019. For Chandrasekar, it is clear that the success of his company depends on its employees: ‘We want to ensure that our employees are happy and satisfied with their job – that is the greatest responsibility of any company.’

Sustainability at METRO

Read more about our sustainability strategy and the 8 strategic focus areas in our Corporate Responsibility Report 2019/20.

A showcase project in India

Selvam 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.
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Photo: Vicky Tang, MFS

Socially and environmentally sustainable

By 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 responsibly

Asvini 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.
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Photo: Vicky Tang, MFS

About Asvini

Asvini was founded in 1976 by D. Chandrasekaran, Selvam Chandrasekar’s father. In the beginning, the company had 25 employees and produced 75 tonnes of shrimp per year. The shrimp were caught in the sea. Since then, Asvini has grown to around 3,800 employees. The company produces around 17,200 tonnes of shrimp annually, which are exported to China, Japan, Canada, Europe and the USA. Nowadays, the shrimp come from aquacultures. Asvini is responsible for the processing – peeling, freezing and packaging – of the shrimp.

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