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🗓 01/07/2022 👤 Jan Rein 👌 Simply

Between sustainability and profit: How sustainable is KoRo really?

Menschen wollen nachhaltig und bewusst konsumieren. Firmen müssen sich den großen Umwelt- und Klimafragen stellen. Und die Politik schafft mal sinnvolle, mal gut gemeinte Anreize für nachhaltiges Handeln. Nachhaltigkeit ist das Buzzword der letzten Jahre – und das ist gut so. Aber es gibt ein Problem.

Between sustainability and profit: How sustainable is KoRo really?

The sleeping giant's eyes have been opened, they have been torn open, and he is facing what is perhaps humanity's greatest challenge: the climate crisis. This crisis is multigenerational and global. Unlike other crises, it is not limited to regions, nations, classes, or humanity. It permeates our entire reality, our habitat. Our environment.

It's a controversial term. It suggests that we exist detached in a well-protected bubble, surrounded by a protective cocoon: the environment. In recent years we have seen through this error in thinking and put terms like sustainability high on the agenda - fortunately.

Sustainability, a rubber term

Let's get to the problem of sustainability. In everyday life, we encounter the term everywhere, in every medium. Influencers are fair and mindful, promote sustainablebrands; in the supermarket there is at least one reference to the sustainable production of the respective products on almost all packaging; people do without avocados and coffee in disposable cups; second-hand clothing is chic as never before.

We have the feeling: sustainability is a label. A controversial label at that, with no single definition. But one with a lot of weight.

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Our 2.5 kg muesli packed in paper. Paper - the solution for everything? Sustainability is not that simple.

The more often we encounter sustainability in different areas, the clearer it becomes: The term is as elastic as rubber.

  • Do you only buy unpackaged products?
  • Do you cut off the plastic of the window in the envelope?
  • Do you eat vegan? Or do you also live vegan?
  • Do you wrap your sandwiches in beeswax wipes? And then you fly to Sri Lanka anyway?
  • For years now you only go on holiday to the Baltic Sea (by train), you do every heavy shopping with your cargo bike, but you absolutely can't do without cheese and meat?

Do you notice how reproachful these questions sound in the context of our time? How much guilt resonates?

Far too often we observe discussions about sustainability in which objectivity and reason are exchanged for stigmatization and division. It is often forgotten that the underlying problem that needs to be addressed through sustainable action is one that requires cooperation and empathy.

Most importantly, we believe that important questions around the environment, climate and sustainability are too rarely answered in concrete terms. We want to change that with this article.

What KoRo as a company is doing for more sustainability

One thing is clear: as a company we have an even greater responsibility than a private individual. And we face up to this responsibility. We are aware that we are far from perfect. We are on a journey and are doing everything we can to combine profitability and sustainability.

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Managing director Piran in front of our warehouse snacking.

Perfection is not our claim, that would be presumptuous. Our claim is transparency. This starts with the price and also includes the topic of sustainability and the responsibility that goes with it. Because we are aware of how complex and important the topic of sustainability is for a retail company with a focus on food, we shy away from imposing the label of sustainability on ourselves. It seems so big, so unattainable, in this time where sustainability is translated into a system of zeros and ones. Either you are 100% sustainable or you are greenwashing.

The fact is, for a for-profit company, you have to look at different dimensions of sustainability. Unfortunately, there is no one sustainability template that fits all business challenges. So for each individual product, new considerations, discussions and decisions have to be made.

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The stamp of sustainability - too big for KoRo?

Bulk packaging for less packaging waste and emissions

One of the basic principles at KoRo is bulk packaging. These save packaging waste, not just on the way to you, but throughout the entire logistics chain. This enables the efficient use of transport means and thus the saving of emissions. If you're wondering why we still use plastic packaging, then read on here.

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Spoilt for choice: different packaging materials

Speaking of packaging: You may have wondered why our labels don't look as fancy as our competitors'. There are two reasons for this: On the one hand, it saves us resources (including ink, paper, and glue); on the other hand, it also reduces the amount of labeling required, so farmers and producers around the world can print and apply our labels without much hassle. This is another reason why we can buy so close to the source.

Why local is not always better

There is no question that it would be most sustainable to eat only fruit and vegetables from your own garden. Regional foods are also often the better choice - although "regionality" is a stretchy term in marketing. But it's also a fact that neither local, nor regional, nor even nationwide agriculture is enough to meet food demand. Whether we like it or not, we are dependent on international trade, on imports and exports.

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KoRo at a Berlin weekly market

At KoRo, we always try to take the shortest route. We skip trade stages and buy directly from producers whenever possible. Because we are in such close contact with farmers, we also know that in many countries the cultivation and export of food is one of the most important sources of income in rural regions. These are, of all things, the regions that are often hardest hit by poverty. A radical move to 'local at all costs' would not only smack of nationalism and isolation. The proverbial ground would be pulled out from under the feet of the people affected.

Quality and taste must be right

At KoRo we attach great importance to food safety and product quality in general. We therefore optimise our packaging with regard to these points:

  1. Food safety and shelf life
  2. Transport safety
  3. Packaging waste

We choose this weighting in order to optimally combine resource conservation and economic efficiency.

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Tightly sealed: The shelf life of our food is important to us.

As we mainly sell food, good taste is particularly important to us. Eating is a sensory experience and food must accordingly not only taste good. The smell, texture, appearance and mouthfeel must also be convincing.

Please do not misunderstand: Delicious food is also grown in Germany and the neighbouring EU countries. However, with some products there are such strong differences in taste that in some cases the product that is convincing in terms of taste and sensory properties - but has to travel a somewhat longer transport route - is preferred.

However, we are working on expanding our product portfolio so that we can offer more variety, also in terms of origin.

KoRo offers variety

Which brings us to the subject of variety. With hundreds of products in our shop, customers can choose between dried apple chips from Germany and tender mango strips from Burkina Faso. What all these products have in common are the taste tests, in which we select only the best foods from a wide range of options.

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Our diversity makes us who we are

In any case, we don't want to blanket boycott any country as a place of origin. That would not only mean severely limiting our product diversity and possibly offering less good products. It would also mean depriving emerging and developing countries of two of their biggest sources of income: Agriculture and food exports.

How sustainable is KoRo really now?

If and how sustainable KoRo is, you have to decide for yourself - and we hope this article will help you. We will continue to work on offering more climate-friendly products, offsetting our emissions as a company and providing you with the quality you deserve.

We believe that dogma and finger-pointing are not the way to create an environmentally and climate friendly future. We also don't believe that looking at claims of origin alone is enough to evaluate a company's sustainability. We believe in open discourse and in challenging each other to evolve and learn.

And we look forward to meeting this challenge together with you.