Meeting the Fur Farmers

Interview: Björn Eriksson, Quality Manager

“We hold our suppliers up to the same level of integrity we expect from ourselves.” Björn Eriksson, Quality Manager

Björn Eriksson manages quality issues in the company’s farmer-supply chain in Nordic countries and carries out farm certification audits in Europe. Eriksson was himself a fur farmer and understands well what farmers are up against. “I know how they feel and what their main challenges are and I can speak their language,” Eriksson says.

Even though, Saga Furs is an auction consignment house, Eriksson and his team are aware that any violations of common ethical principles by farmer suppliers still represents a threat to the reputation of his company. “This is why we have such a strict certification and auditing program.”

In most cases the farmers are very responsible and have excellent health and safety procedures on farms or other supplier premises. Some are also pushing to close the loop on energy use and other high-tech farming practices.

One of the things Eriksson and his colleagues are expanding their certification criteria around is increased vigilance on farm appearance, which he says can be deceiving. “A farmer who has a good track record on environmental performance and animal welfare might leave their premises in untidy conditions, which creates a negative impression for visitors.” And in the spirit of transparency, the opening up of farms to visitors, including big brand fashion groups, is growing.

When looking at the farms, Eriksson explains there’s a lot of documentation of government health welfare and property inspections. He needs to see how farmers are keeping their accounting books as well as conduct a quality conversation with the farmer.

“I need to be convinced that their routines fulfill the criteria that we’ve set out for them and be sure that they’re doing what we’re telling our customers they’re doing.”

But once they get out into the field, Eriksson says I don’t like to follow the farmer around, and go where they want me to be taken.” He prefers to go off on his own and really look closely at the animals and their living conditions and get his own feeling for the whole operation.

In March, Saga Furs lead the industry 100% certified mink pelt offering. Eriksson was present at the auction room when the fully certified mink lots were sold and even he didn’t see a big overall price premium on these lots, Eriksson did see signs of a new direction. “At the auction, we could see in the room that those brokers representing the big brands were very interested in the certified lots.”