Discounter Lidl Raises The Bar On Supplier Transparency
We may be living in the era of social media, but Lidl founder Dieter Schwarz is one individual that you're unlikely to find working on his Instagram profile.
In fact, multi-billionaire Schwarz, who turned 80 last year, maintains such a low profile that when a Süddeutsche Zeitung reporter captured a rare picture of the businessman last year, it bore the caption Das Phantom von Heilbronn, or 'The Ghost of Heilbronn'.
Remarkable Act Of Transparency
Thus, it was somewhat remarkable that Lidl, a retailer which, like its founder, has retained a cloak of secrecy over much of its operations, recently took the bold step of publishing a list of all the businesses that supply the private label ranges available in its Germany stores, both in food and non-food.
While the discounter has published details of its production sites in the past, this latest list goes into significantly more detail – including the names and addresses of close to 3,000 firms from as far afield as Cambodia, Sri Lanka and Indonesia, as well as more than a thousand European firms. It's a remarkable act of transparency for any retailer, especially a discounter like Lidl.
'At Lidl, we source our goods and raw materials from suppliers all over the world,' the retailer said in a statement on Lidl.de, its German site. 'In our own-brand range, we work directly with the manufacturers to develop more responsible production methods.
'To know where and how our products are manufactured, it is important to know our business partners closely.'
The full list of suppliers can be found here tinyurl.com/LidlSuppliers.
As a Lebensmittel Zeitung analysis of the geographical spread of suppliers found, the majority of the group's hardware and textile supplies are sourced from Asian markets.
China, which features 1,523 suppliers in total, is by far the biggest contributor, while there is also strong non-food representation from Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Cambodia, Vietnam, Pakistan and other Asian countries.
In food, however, the range is distinctly more European in scope – while Germany accounts for the largest proportion of suppliers (563), there is also strong representation by Italy (87), France (73), Netherlands (51), Belgium (36), Spain (36), Poland (32), Austria (25), the UK (19) and Greece (15).
It's worth noting that as this data corresponds to Lidl Germany, some countries are under-represented: Sweden, for example, boasts just fie suppliers, Portugal features three times and Ireland features twice – in Lidl's different geographical markets, the percentage of local products is generally higher.
As Lidl states on its website, its customers are 'increasingly asking for information about the origin and production method of our products. [...] We want to fulfil this wish, combined with our own claims for transparency.'
Its octogenarian owner might still be seeking a reclusive lifestyle, but Lidl's bold step has set a benchmark in terms of supply chain visibility.
What other European retailers are willing to step up to the plate?
© 2020 European Supermarket Magazine – your source for the latest retail news. Article by Stephen Wynne-Jones. Click subscribe to sign up to ESM: European Supermarket Magazine.