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Deoleo: Helping small businesses grow and thrive in a sustainable way

Over the past four years, the world’s leading olive oil company, Deoleo, has been taking steps to implement and improve sustainability practices across their value chain. Juan Carrasco, Deoleo’s global sustainability manager, speaks about his vision for more economically, environmentally and socially sustainable farming and milling businesses.

How would you say that Deoleo is pioneering sustainable practices?

We developed our Sustainability Protocol four years ago which was the first-of-its-kind for our sector. Since then, we have been working with our suppliers, guiding them towards a more sustainable future, economically as well as environmentally and socially. At Deoleo, we have a long heritage in olive oil blending and production, and we care deeply about the quality of our product. Our ambitious goal is that by 2030, 100% of our top-selling extra virgin olive oil brands in Spain and Italy will be certified by our Sustainability Protocol. Last year, over 30% of our extra virgin olive oil came from certified suppliers, and we continue to increase this year on year.

How does Deoleo support more sustainable farming and milling?

The Deoleo sustainability team supports suppliers to meet the protocol criteria. One of the key actions we take is encouraging mills and cooperatives to employ a field technician who can offer expert opinion and guidance when analysing soil and leaf health, assessing plant cover, and identifying the best seeds. This expert counsel increases the quality of the olive grove and lessens the need for agrochemicals and pesticides. Working with field technicians and implementing these practices in the field, such as ground plant covers, can ensure that suppliers are reducing their carbon footprint during production as well as improving the quality of their olives – and therefore our olive oil.

We work directly with each supplier to come up with a unique and comprehensive action plan encompassing different areas of sustainability including social, economic, and environmental. Each measure will have different objectives and deadlines. We work with ‘live documents’ which are constantly adapting in accordance with the supplier’s progress and new learnings. In addition, throughout the year we support farmer-led initiatives and workshops to share best practices.

Part of the protocol is built around the need for greater transparency. As such, certification is verified by third-party auditors to ensure that the practices of each supplier are in line with the Sustainability Protocol’s criteria.

How do you ensure economic success for your suppliers?

At Deoleo, we believe that ‘sustainability’ is not just a trendy buzzword but a philosophy that can boost environmental, social and economic stability alike. Part of our job is to help olive growers understand that sustainability and economic success go hand in hand. With an initial investment, these suppliers will be able to reap the benefits for years to come. Not only will they be working to protect the environment and the rural community, but they will also be putting themselves in a more competitive position for the future. We at Deoleo are keen to stress to our suppliers that our goal is to increasingly work with cooperatives and mills who can be certified as complying with our Sustainability Protocol; thus, becoming a preferred partner of Deoleo can long-term ensure economic opportunities.