Saint Michel is only one example of what brands can do when they set their own values freely; and start talking transparently; about who they are and what they do for their consumers.
Last week I was in Paris for our meeting with retailers and refiners to discuss the palm oil sustainability question.
Hungry after a light dinner I decided to buy some biscuits at the local épicerie and chose a few “Saint-Michel galettes”. Saint-Michel is one of those traditional brands that whoever has grown up in France will at some stage have ended up eating. They do those traditional butter “galettes” typical from Brittany, simple, tasty and delicious.
I don’t know if Saint-Michel has now been bought by a big group or if it is still a family owned business. In any case it doesn’t really matter, I love their biscuits and am happy to eat them when I can.
So, seated on the corner of the bed of my hotel room, I was distractedly looking with an eye at the packaging after having eaten half of the biscuits while the other eye was watching the weather forecast. And what I saw on the packaging really interested me:
For once, there was no label, no eco-European flower, no carbon neutral logo, nothing. Just a few bullet points stating Saint-Michel values and where the biscuits were made: no preservatives, no hydrogenated fat, and in smaller font I could also read an explanation about how they make sure that the wheat they use in their recipes is locally grown, free of insecticides and – something new – that they make sure “the fields they source the wheat from are far away from road from at least 250 meters in order to avoid pollution and the farmers have decided to keep their wheat for Saint Michel”. (They also talk about why they use fiber coming from responsibly managed forests for their packaging, the inside corrugated carton that keeps the biscuits dry).
Now, do I think all this is greenwashing because there is not “third party verified label?” No. Why? Because I trust them. I trust the Saint Michel brand. They are serious people. I have never heard anything bad about them in 35 years of existence so if someone proves me that I am wrong then yes, I may reconsider my judgement…but right now, I tell you, no headache: I find that what they do is great and it only strengthens the good feeling I have about the Saint Michel brand.
Why I am writing all that? Because Saint Michel is only one example of what brands can do when they set their own values freely; and start talking transparently; about who they are and what they do for their consumers. Not only does Saint-Michel push sustainability in all their products but they also raise the bar: this work they are doing on wheat sourcing is superb and it is pushing innovation in agricultural sustainability. They just did it by working locally in partnership; with the farmers THIS, to me, is true sustainability.
Also it is a sustainability that ANYONE can understand, as long as one can read. No tricky acronym to understand or complex labels that no one knows what it stands for. Just words.
What people could potentially criticize is whether this is ROBUST as there is apparently no so-called “third party verification”. But let’s not forget that nowadays the world is more and more transparent. We don’t need those third party verifications anymore because people are the ones verifying by themselves. Information circulates fast those days and journalists, NGOs, farmers, competitors, ex-employees can easily check all those claims that Saint-Michel are making. And we can be sure that they will rush to challenge the brand if they notice lies or lack of honesty. Consumers and people trust their peers, not auditors. And this is why the whole St Michel process is ROBUST even without third party telling us so.
We need more brands like Saint Michel who freely live their values, innovate and transparently / honestly communicate what they do. Their biscuits made me grow when I was ten and they are still doing now!