Sustainability lesson from KFC’s ‘potato-gate’ scandal

Ideas & Debate

Sustainability lesson from KFC’s ‘potato-gate’ scandal


A farmer harvesting potatoes on farmland. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Carol Musyoka

Summary

  • In the case of KFC Kenya, unfortunately, the company was left with a lot of eggs and breadcrumbs in its face as a global supply chain crisis exposed a local company policy of importing raw materials staples like potatoes in an agriculture-based economy.

I am an arborist and sheep farmer. Now remember I’m a city girl who takes up farming as a hobby so of course I have to look a bit classy if I’m going to the farm because, well, you’d have to be a city girl to understand what I am talking about.

So in 2013 I went to one of Kenya’s favorite shoe chain stores and bought some trendy rubber boots. Not the gruesome, industrial-strength, Armageddon-ready black kind, but a really nice pair of cheetah prints.

I also bought a zebra print. This expensive indulgence for double shoes was born out of the frustration that every time I liked something and went to buy another pair, it would always run out. Or it wouldn’t be there in my size.

Fast forward to 2021. I’ve been to the Yaya, Junction Mall, and Cedar Mall Nanyuki branches of this chain many times looking for one shoe or another. The type I wanted was out of stock or not available in my size.

I’m clearly a sucker for pain, but the truth is this chain has good prices and good quality shoes when you finally find them. I always ask the various store managers why this happens all the time.

The constant answer is that the head office knows about it and the store manager can’t do anything about it. By the way, I never saw the animal print wellies again, so my indulgence was totally justified.

I remembered this story during last week’s scandal, rightly called by someone “potato-gate”. KFC, the fried chicken franchise, ran out of fries. Fleas! You couldn’t have missed the big uproar surrounding how a multinational company ran out of crisps because it hadn’t received its regular imported supply from Egypt.

What do KFC and this shoe chain (also a multinational by the way), as well as many other companies have in common? A supply chain for their products. Whether you produce restaurant food or shoes, the underlying product is made with locally sourced, imported inputs, or a combination of both.

Your supply chain manager works closely with the sales team as they know the quickest items which then need to be stocked in abundance, with raw material purchases made in advance when potential disruptions are anticipated.

Such potential disruptions can be caused by a shortage of shipping containers, local political upheavals that can cause logistical problems, or the chance in a million that a huge tanker gets stuck in the middle of the Suez Canal and causes the largest chaos of the shipping industry in recent history.

If products are 100% locally produced, having the distribution team monitor which stocking units (SKUs) need constant replacement is a basic, kindergarten-level performance indicator for the distribution manager. of a shoe retail chain.

The biggest issue here is what the respective local councils (if they exist) should have done? Ensure that these companies run sustainable activities.

For the board of directors, sustainability should mean that not only do the profits of the company allow the company to exist in the longer term, but that these profits must be generated in a responsible way.

This would include ensuring that raw material suppliers do not produce in an exploitative manner, such as the use of child labor, and are paid fairly for their product or that the environment of the communities in which the company operates is not degraded by emissions.

This should also include ensuring that the company’s own employees work in a safe environment and are paid fairly.

In the case of KFC Kenya, unfortunately, the company was left with a lot of eggs and breadcrumbs in its face as a global supply chain crisis exposed a local company policy of importing raw materials staples like potatoes in an agriculture-based economy.

Never waste a crisis, or so some experts have said. A sustainable way to get this potato salad out of a snafu will be to start conversations about how this raw material can potentially be grown in a country that has been producing standard European Union horticultural crops for decades. .

If there’s a local board, a constant nagging discussion at the board meeting should be: what do we do to get into hearts (other than in a way that clogs the arteries of cholesterol ) and the minds of the community in which we operate, other than just taking their money?

How do we leave Kenya in a better place than when we found it when we entered this market?

For shoe manufacturer advice, if any, please walk around your retail stores and try to buy your own products. Let me know your (frustrating) experience when you’re done.

[email protected] Twitter: @carolmusyoka

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