This week saw one scandal run into another with the revelation that horse meat was a common ingredient of many ready meals labelled as being made of beef. Initial thoughts have turned to complex supply chains and criminal activity. All of this reminded me of a play I saw called Six Degrees of Separation. The idea being that, on paper at least, we are all connected to everyone else. As the play rolls out various unexpected revelations, and crimes and misdemeanours arise leading to much soul searching and hurt.
Several years ago I led a project into corporate responsibility. This brought me into contact with a number of organisations including a multinational furniture retailer that sourced products through a complex supply chain. They took their corporate responsibility very seriously indeed. There were policies and systems in place along with resources to make sure those audits and checks on suppliers were carried out. Suppliers were supported to develop staff, improve conditions and to invest in the future. But many of these supply chains were very long running across many countries. Even to them there was no guarantee that a child was not sitting in a poorly lit room sewing on buttons fourteen hours a day despite all their efforts.
Perhaps the problem is the degree of separation. If six degrees of separation can provide a stage for criminality and misunderstanding, we need something more straightforward – what about four degrees of separation from producer to consumer. Perhaps this is too simplistic, well if that is the case I don’t have faith in a more complex solution.
To my mind we need a new movement for simplicity in food and I suggest we call it 4Degrees.