Elvira Agurbash: Auchan interferes in internal affairs of producers under the pretence of good intentions

Op-ed column of the vice-president of Mortadel agricultural complex about the new politics of the French-Turkish retailer

Elvira Agurbash: Auchan interferes in internal affairs of producers under the pretence of good intentions Photo: rbk.ru

The third French-Turkish retailer in terms of sales volumes Auchan has announced its politics: the trade network is introducing social audits for food suppliers. If experts are not satisfied with employers' working conditions of the checked enterprise, their salary and other several factories, Auchan will stop working with the supplier, give 3 months to reduce inconsistencies and then hold another audit. The claim of the trade network already drew Irina Yarovaya's attention who asked the Prosecutor General's Office to evaluate Auchan's social audit. At the same time, Russian producers are sure that the keynote of the retailer's politics is an attempt to take them under control. Vice-President of Mortadel agricultural complex Elvira Agurbash tells why the social audit of the trade network in the third enterprise is nonsense and what abuse Auchan's new politics can bring to.

''Can you imagine Auchan in France, Germany or Austria, near Big Ben? While we will have it in the centre of Moscow''

Monitoring the media from time to time, I read news about everything that has to do with relations between producers and retailers. But Auchan and its recent statement have been in my line of vision not only for this reason. A long story of uneasy relationship preceded it. We offered them to cooperate many times. However, each time we were replied the chain did not need different types of sausages and this kind of products in general. And when we sent our offers, we were always put off to either three or six months. I have recently known that Auchan is opening a meat processing factory in Tambov Oblast for 40,000 tonnes of products.

I admit that I was sincerely surprised that the trade network that insistently told that it did not need these products is opening a factory. Moreover, 3,300 tonnes of products a month could easily be covered by Russian producers. Of course, Auchan justifies that their meat will be the purest, without antibiotics. But I have a question: what's wrong with other producers? For instance, our pig breeding complex has the fourth compartment, we have a selection and genetic centre as well as other producers – excellent meat, the same production. In addition, we give a discount. Why are not we chosen? Then there appeared information in the media that Auchan was going to open a leading three-storeyed shop near the State Duma, not far from National hotel where many foreign guests come. Can you imagine Auchan in France, Germany or Austria, near Big Ben?

''I admit that I was sincerely surprised that the trade network that insistently told that it did not need these products is opening a factory. Moreover, 3,300 tonnes of products a month could easily be covered by Russian producers.'' Photo: apkholding.ru

''I have a state worker mind. I trust nobody except state bodies''

Then there was information that from 1 January 2018 Auchan will visit the producer and hold its social audit: they will look at the workers' salary, their fines, awards, working place, child labour. I will presuppose that all the internal processes of the enterprise will be examined during the audit. Considering that the retailer is opening its own factory, I think it is obvious it is interested in the personnel, job order cost cards, technological secrets that have being created in big meat processing enterprises for years.

Auchan interferes in internal affairs of producers under the pretence of good intentions. It might seem the retailer is good who cares about our people. However, a simple shelf that has one function – to take a product, put it on the shelf, sell and settle with the supplier takes not internal functions. Anyway, we have Prosecutor General's Office, Labour Inspection, Federal Environmental, Industrial and Nuclear Supervision Service and many other supervisory bodies.

Look into the working history of Deputy Director of Federal Service for Veterinary and Phytosanitary Surveillance Mr Vlasov – the person went through such a school, he is such a professional! And when people from such organisations come to check us, I understand we are checked by the Government. There is a scale of fines approved by the power. And I feel fine about it because professionals come to check me – if there is violation, I will pay a fine and fix everything because we work with food, we supply it to people. But all of a sudden representatives of the same working region like we come about who are going to fulfil not their functions and check us. I trust nobody.

''When people from such organisations come to check us, I understand we are checked by the Government. There is a scale of fines approved by the power. And I feel fine about it because professionals come to check me.'' Photo: uralpolit.ru

''Shop suddenly starts to fight for social justice in society''

Auchan changes the society's consciousness with this initiatives by making it get used to absurd things – a usual shop suddenly starts to fight for social justice in society and care for workers of enterprises that make goods for it. I will emphasise it is not its shops but others' enterprises.

At times some chains talk to us and say they want to audit. But what do they mean by this word? Do you want to know what an enterprise we have? Do you want to go for a walk, look whether it is clean and whether we exist as enterprise, in general? Come as a guest, we will hold an excursion, show you constitutional documents, our financial statement, our products, expertise on it. What Auchan requires is nonsense already.

Fine, let's imagine you produce your house brand for a trade network. But even in this case, we can't be speaking about an audit. If a person is poisoned with a house brand product, God save, who will be responsible in front of the government? Yes, if the trade network's temperature regime was violated, it will be responsible (if it is proved, in general). In other cases, only the producer is responsible. Of course, if we are speaking about the creation of a joint venture of the network and the producer, in this case, their rights are equal. And such audits can exist. But when the producer is responsible for everything, what a social audit are we talking about?

''Irina Yarovaya talked to Prosecutor General's Office. This step, first of all, is aimed to protect rights of Russian producers, citizens of the Russian Federation and the state, in general.'' Photo: Federation Council / flickr

''Statement of Auchan — not PR''

In one or two days after Auchan announced its intention to hold a social audit, Irina Yarovaya talked to Prosecutor General's Office. This step, first of all, is aimed to protect rights of Russian producers, citizens of the Russian Federation and the state, in general.

In our country, any business unit including a unit with foreign capital must obey laws of the Russian Federation. And nobody except the state can introduce new types of control over our business entities. Nobody can take functions of supervisory bodies or substitute them.

In my opinion, a trade network that has considerable market power tries to find additional tools to put pressure on producers. Consequently, it affects the social and economic politics in Russia. Sometimes the producer has to sign an agreement on conditions that were unfavourable beforehand to remain on the shelves. And the modern examination of Prosecutor General's Office of such initiatives – to include discriminatory conditions – will enable to protect us.

I am sure the statement of Auchan is not PR, from my point of view. They just want to make money. The number of publications in the media on this topic proves it: I read about it in a themed newspaper, a piece in Parlamentskaya Gazeta appeared, and that's it. In my opinion, the social audit of this trade network can become a good way of putting pressure on the business. Auchan is a Turkish and French company. Next year it can have a possibility to cross our Russian producers out and expand shelves for Turkish products. I think it can bring to the conquest of the market by foreign manufacturers.

Realnoe Vremya online newspaper