Openness

Embracing openness as a way of business

We operate in competitive markets, where our customers have countless alternatives for the goods and services they require. To have the privilege of serving them, our virtues as a business must align with their values.

For guidance, we need only consider our own preferences as customers. One of the qualities we most appreciate in our suppliers is openness. We value straight talk, candor, and full disclosure. We dislike deceptive packaging, misleading labels, and carelessness with the truth.

We understand that fallibility is part of life. In part, what distinguishes great businesses from the rest is how they deal with mistakes, and particularly whether they handle them openly and forthrightly.

Openness does not mean disrespect for privacy, lack of discretion, or sacrifice of competitive advantage for counterproductive ideals. Rather, openness is an approach, a demeanor, a disposition—a way of business. It is choosing to be sincere, transparent, authentic, and generous with information. Openness accelerates learning and self-correction. Properly construed and implemented, openness leads to competitive advantage.

Supporting our mission

Our mission is to perfect the sourcing and supplying of nature's most beneficial goods. We care deeply about food safety and security, conservation and environmental responsibility, and prevention of the spread of pests and disease. Our concerns encompass the primary ingredients and products of agriculture, industry, and commerce. We best address these concerns and serve these markets through openness—not as some distant goal, but through every step of our operations.

Standards development

Too often, entrenched interests in various industries have promoted standards not for the common good but to suppress competition and innovation. Instead of developing standards openly, they have done so surreptitiously and with hidden agendas. And in some cases they even hide standards behind paywalls, only to cheat the market at large of the benefits of standardization.

Standards and proper grading are important to the markets we serve. Good standards emerge from wise and prudent business practices, not from edicts or secrecy. They represent consensus, not forced conformity. And standards and responsible grading go hand in hand. Deceptive product grading defeats the purposes of sound product standards.

We will contribute to the development and improvement of broadly beneficial standards and grading practices in the markets we serve—openly, cooperatively, and transparently.

In our forage markets, for example, advances in technology make feasible richer and more reliable product characterization than ever before. But because this technology is fairly new, market participants have yet to reach consensus on standard classifications for several, useful measures. We do not presume to know or determine unilaterally the delineations that will ultimately emerge, but by publishing public-domain models and suggestions that may eventually aid the formation of such consensus, we can certainly help. We will do so through open processes and the willingness to collaborate with all who share our commitment to free, open standards for product quality in commodities markets.

Open Source software

Our commitment to freely-available market standards is kindred to our respect and appreciation for the Open Source software movement. We use Open Source software and hope to make significant contributions both to new and existing Open Source projects. Our first initiative in this regard is the creation of an open wiki using the same software that powers Wikipedia. There, we have already published for peer review and collaboration a product definition for hay that anyone may edit. We hope this initial work may eventually lead to application program interfaces and software products of significant benefit to the market.

Dealings

Just as we appreciate others who share with us the information we need in order to make well-informed decisions, we will conduct ourselves accordingly. We will be candid and forthright in our dealings with counterparts and—in facilitating market activities for others—provide tools and services that enable them to trade under principles of openness. Anticipating and disclosing information that people need in order to make good decisions lowers transaction costs and makes everyone better off. We expect that one of our most valuable contributions as a firm will be to help people communicate and share vital information that improves their operations in the marketplace, whether in sourcing or supply activities.