News and press releases

EU DUE DILIGENCE LEGISLATION FOR A POSITIVE IMPACT: Council position takes a step back in making due diligence work for stallholder farmers and workers

1st of December, Brussels – Today, responsible ministers met as part of the Competitiveness council to vote on the Council position on the Corporate Sustainable Due Diligence Directive. Since the Commission presented the legislative proposal on the 23rd February 2022, the Council has been discussing their position and while there are some positive developments, the Council has failed to deliver a strong position that would hold business accountable.

The Fair Trade movement is happy to see that a slightly stronger role was given to stakeholder engagement by expanding the definition and by including human rights defenders, trade unions and civil society organisations. The position also strengthens the requirement to consult with stakeholders in some parts of the due diligence process, although not at all relevant steps. At the same time, the text remains gender blind, not acknowledging the need to account for different impacts felt by different groups in a vulnerable position.

The aim of the directive should be to support long term development of sustainable global value chains, which requires that the entire value chain is covered. In a positive development, the Council removed the concept of “established business relationships” which led to unclarity on how far through the supply chain the obligation reached and posed the danger of companies avowing long term sourcing relationships. However, at the same time, the scope of the due diligence obligation was narrowed from “value chains” to “chain of activities” which not only significantly limits the coverage of downstream impacts, but also unduly restricts the coverage in the upstream supply chain to immediate inputs into the production process.

Elena Lunder, Policy and Project Advisor leading on CSDDD at the FTAO comments that to ensure sustainable improvements in global value chains, the status quo of business as usual must be challenged so it is disappointing to see that the due diligence obligation does not include a revision of a companies’ purchasing practices.

Their importance is already acknowledged in the recital 30, that a company’s own trading, procurement and pricing practices can play a key role in the ability of business partners to produce sustainably.

Instead, the Council text sticks to the Commission’s proposed emphasis on the use of cascading contractual clauses that would pass on a company’s code of conduct to their business partners. Combined with verification of compliance by third party audits, this mechanism has the potential to enable companies to also “cascade” accountability to their business partners without addressing their own practices that might be causing or contributing to adverse impacts.

To reach the aims of the CSDDD a collaborative approach would need to be encouraged by the due diligence obligation which would mean that the accountability and responsibility for adverse impacts is proportionately carried by relevant actors. A step in this direction is the strengthening of the support to SMEs that should be part of due diligence by larger companies which includes guarantees for long term sourcing. Such agreements are key for smaller actors in global value chains to be able to plan for an invest into a more sustainable production. However, the Fair Trade movement was disappointed to see that the Council position narrowed the application of support measures in recital 47, excluding non-EU actors in global value chains. Without also offering relevant support to non-EU actors further up the supply chain, effective change in occurrence of human rights violations and environmental harm is not possible.

The same is true without good accountability and access to remedy provisions. The Council position has significantly watered down the proposed text of the Commission on civil liability. Without clear accountability mechanisms, including civil liability, none of the other elements in the due diligence process will be enforced to their full extent. 

In furthering a more cooperative approach, the Fair Trade movement also welcomes the clarification by the Council that disengagement from business partners should only be used as a last resort when previous attempts to prevent or mitigate the adverse impacts were not successful. However, it should be clarified, that stakeholder engagement plays a key role in this process. At the same time, the Council adds an exception to the need to disengage in cases where there is no comparable supplier and termination would cause substantial prejudice to the company. This is not in line with the UNGPs or OECD Guidelines and in practice, it would mean that business interests are placed above human rights and the environment even in cases of harm that are well known to the company.

Finally, the due diligence obligation only covers a limited list of human rights and environmental impacts. The Council position would only oblige very large companies to adopt a climate transition plan in line with 1.5°C objective of the Paris Agreement. The due diligence obligation does not include contributions to climate change and the responsibility to be held accountable for prevention, mitigation and remediation.

It is key that the CSDDD refers to living wages, however, by not also explicitly mentioning living incomes a large group of people working in global value chains will not be protected. This includes smallholder farmers who produce most of the world’s food, self-employed people, platform workers and other precarious forms of work.

Press contact: Elena Lunder (lunder@fairtrade-advocacy.org)

Human rights are not on sale: Living wages, purchasing practices and overproduction in the textile sector

Black Friday rhymes with great deals and aggressive discounts, including in the clothing sector. In the last decade or so, it has spread from the US across the globe to become the biggest shopping event of the year in many countries. But how is it possible for brands to slash prices to such extent and even extend sales in the days before and after Black Friday, when the prices they charge the rest of the year are insufficient to pay their workers living wages?

Let’s unpack!

First, it is important not to forget that for many people, Black Friday is one of the only times in the year where they can buy needed goods at a price that they can afford. This year, it may be the case for an increasing number of people, as food and energy prices are soaring around the world.

However, the scale of “exciting” deals and “limited” offers are designed to make customers feel overwhelmed with choice, to stimulate a sense of false urgency and in the end, to trigger us to purchase articles that we do not need, just because they are cheap.

Fast fashion brands can sustain this model thanks to their purchasing, trading and pricing practices, the conditions under which they buy the clothes they sell us from the manufacturers. They typically adopt practices which allow them to renew collections several times a month throughout the year, produce large quantities of clothes at a low unit price, and apply huge discounts during sales, including on Black Friday.

But these practices have a direct impact on the human rights of the workers who make these clothes and on our planet. The contract, order, pricing and payment terms between the suppliers (the factories where our clothes are made) and their buyers (the brands that sell these clothes to us) directly affect the ability of suppliers to respect the human rights of their workers.

How?

  • Low buying prices: due to the high competition between small suppliers in the garment sector, brands are able to purchase orders for very low prices, often below the cost of production. Two thirds of suppliers have already accepted a price below total production costs per unit because they feared losing business (ILO study, 2017)[1]. Worse, when the minimum wage almost doubled in Bangladesh in 2014 from 3,000 to 5,300 Taka, almost no buyers agreed to a price increase to reflect increasing labour costs[2]. It is well documented (ILO, EU) that most companies do not check whether their purchasing prices allow their suppliers to implement living wages.
  • Short lead times: to keep up with renewing collections in a short time frame, making available huge amounts of styles, sudden changes in order volumes, etc., deadlines for the manufacturing of products are often unreasonably short. Like above, because of high competition between suppliers, they may lose orders if they refuse to reduce the time between the date of the order and the date the products are shipped out. To meet such deadlines, suppliers often resort to excessive and forced overtime, or turn to unauthorised subcontracting, often to informal workers based at home who are exposed to particularly acute risks and bad working conditions.

Other irresponsible and unfair purchasing practices include changing or cancelling orders at the last minute, late or delayed payments, unilateral amendment of contract terms or shifting the risks on the suppliers in contractual terms. Other impacts on human rights include cuts in wages, social security contributions, health and safety facilities, delays in payment of wages (even no payment of wages in cases of sudden cancellation, like often was the case during COVID-19), the imposition of unreasonable production quotas per worker, increases in risks of violence and harassment.

This is possible because garment supply chains are buyer-driven: brands and retailers have a lot more power than their suppliers, which allows them to control the activities of companies in the supply chain that they do not own, who in turn transfer this pressure to the workers[3]. This power imbalance also creates a culture of fear where suppliers tend to not sue the brands for those of the unfair purchasing practices that are illegal.

The business model of fast fashion enabled by the above mentioned irresponsible and unfair purchasing practices also leads to overproduction. The amount of overproduction is unknown due to lack of transparency by brands, but there are estimations of 30% of produced garments are never sold, and often these are blatantly destroyed.[4]

How can Good Clothes, Fair Pay help change this?

Good Clothes, Fair Pay not only calls for living wage legislation across the garment sector, it also calls for the prohibition of unfair trading practices which cause, or contribute to, harms to workers. These include:

  • Buyer paying the supplier later than 60 days after the end of an agreed delivery period;
  • Buyer cancelling orders without notice;
  • Buyer changes or fails to provide complete information regarding the terms;
  • Buyer requiring the supplier to pay for damages that occur after ownership has been transferred to the buyer;
  • Buyer refusing to agree on a production price that enables suppliers paying living wages to their workers.

We are convinced regulating brands’ purchasing practices so that they become fair will lift one of the key obstacles to living wages being paid to the people who make our clothes.

Coming back to Black Friday

Right now, suppliers are pressured to produce more clothes in shorter time frames at lower cost, ultimately leading to overproduction and waste and massive human rights violations. Now is the time for a systemic shift away from fast fashion. Putting fairness at the centre of fashion will not only result in increased respect for human rights but would also help the whole sector move away from overproduction and excessive waste, thereby reducing its environment and climate impact. Join the movement and sign Good Clothes, Fair Pay!

A silver lining is that according to a recent report, Black Friday’s popularity among consumers is dropping, with sales declining every year[5]. One of the factors for this loss in popularity could very well be sustainability concerns, which push consumers to make more conscious decisions in what they buy. Consumers expect more from their favourite brands – so let’s change the fashion industry!

[1] ILO, Purchasing practices and low wages in global supply chains: empirical cases from the garment industry, 2017. Available here.

[2] ILO, Purchasing practices and low wages in global supply chains: empirical cases from the garment industry, 2017. Available here.

[3] ILO, Purchasing practices and low wages in global supply chains: empirical cases from the garment industry, 2017. Available here.

[4] Fashion United, Infographic: the extent of overproduction in the fashion industry, Marjorie van Elven, 2018. Available here.

[5] Fashion United, New report suggests Black Friday’s popularity is continuing to dip, Rachel Douglass, 2022. Available here.

COP27 Press Release – The Clock Is Ticking

November 2022

At COP27, Fair Trade organizations reiterate their urgent call for inclusive climate solutions as smallholder farmers and workers face growing climate threats.

BONN, Germany – Global leaders must strengthen and accelerate efforts to enforce human rights and environmental due diligence in supply chains, confront trade injustice, and ensure that climate financing mechanisms reach the world’s smallholder agricultural producers in order to deliver successful and equitable climate action before it is too late, the world’s leading Fair Trade organizations have warned.

In a position paper titled The Clock Is Ticking! and released ahead of the 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference, also known as COP27, Fairtrade, the World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO), and the Fair Trade Advocacy Office (FTAO) have intensified their calls for trade and climate justice, indicating the critical measures for delivering fair climate solutions and demanding the enforcement of public climate commitments and for trade actors to be accountable for their climate promises.

“International trade today is not only one of the leading contributors to climate change, but also drives high costs of doing business that cut across supply chains, affecting farmers readiness to respond to climate catastrophes. As Fairtrade, we seek a multi-stakeholder partnership and collaboration approach, towards addressing efforts that strengthen producers resilience and capacity to manage adverse impacts of climate change,” said Sandra Uwera,
Global CEO at Fairtrade International.

“With world leaders, international delegates, and civil society actors now gathering for COP27, Fairtrade and the Fair Trade movement are once again called upon to remind them of their duty to right the global wrongs that continue to disproportionately impact our planet’s most vulnerable communities and deliver equitable climate action once and for all.”

The Clock Is Ticking!

Held in Sharm El Sheikh from 06 November to 18 November, COP27 will bring together global leaders and leading stakeholders to discuss the international community’s climate ambitions and a pathway to building back sustainably following the ravages of the COVID-19 pandemic. Against this backdrop, the Fair Trade movement’s position paper calls on leaders of government and the private sector to immediately deliver on climate targets by meeting the $100 billion USD climate aid commitment promised by the end of 2022; ensuring climate finance delivers for small holder farmers, Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), and workers by including them in the design of climate programmes; agreeing on regulations that tackle the root causes of environmental degradation, such as deforestation, by penalising noncompliance; and supporting farmers, SMEs, and workers with the costs of adaptation and mitigation.

In addition, the paper reiterates the organizations’ long-standing call for businesses to “pay fair prices to smallholder farmers, SMEs and workers.”

“The biggest challenge to combatting climate change is eliminating the current economic system that is dependent on fossil fuels and the extraction of natural resources,” explained Leida Rijnhout, Chief Executive of WFTO. “Without real accountability on what the big polluters are doing, mission-led business models, including SMEs, are the only way to go.” “WFTO members are showcasing that another economy is possible,” Ms. Rijnhout added. “They can be the driving force to achieve climate justice.”

Empowering through inclusive climate finance

According to Fairtrade, WFTO, and FTAO, among the persisting obstacles facing small-scale farmers remains the lack of financial assistant to empower them to successfully mitigate and adapt to climate challenges. In fact, the organizations have long noted that less than 2% of climate finance makes its way to small-scale farmers and that awarding criteria and procedures of financial mechanisms must be aligned to small producers and their organizations so that they can access available funding and manage it in a non-bureaucratic way.

In addition, the Fair Trade organizations are once again urging governments and the private sector to ensure that climate efforts are constructed in an inclusive manner, noting that smallholder farmers and workers have the most comprehensive understanding of how climate change affects their local environments. Such an inclusive set-up, the organizations argue, can help provide invaluable insights on how farmers and producer organizations can make the necessary changes towards becoming more resilient and more sustainable through renewable energies and energy efficiency, reforesting and stopping deforestation, and restoring soil health to enhance its productive potential, thereby limiting the expansion of agricultural land in places with high carbon stock.

“It is urgent to untap the potential of worldwide smallholder farmers, producers and artisans to contribute to climate and social justice,” said Jorge Conesa, FTAO Managing Director. “Major consumer regions, like the EU, have great leverage and also a great responsibility: they must live up to their climate ambitions, while refraining from sabotaging themselves by not addressing global abusive trading practices.”

# # #

Read full press release here

For press inquiries, contact press@fairtrade.net

FIRST EURO-LATINOAMERICAN GOVERNMENTAL MEETING ON FAIR TRADE TAKES PLACE IN QUITO, ECUADOR

October 2022

Quito, Ecuador – In the framework of the international conference of Fair Trade Towns that took place between 21st and 23rd of October, the Fair Trade Advocacy Office (FTAO) and the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Commerce of Ecuador organized the first Euro-Latin American governmental meeting on Fair Trade. Under the theme of “Fair Trade as a strategy to combine environmental and social sustainability in trade relations between Latin America and the European Union”, it gathered government and agency representatives from Ecuador, European Union, Ghana, Germany, Belgium, Mexico, States of Africa, Pacific and Caribbean, Chile, Mexico, Panama, Honduras, Colombia and Paraguay. As well as a representative from the United Nations Forum for Voluntary Sustainability Standards.

The participants exchanged their national experiences on public policies and/or national projects that promote Fair Trade or its principles. From recognition of Fair Trade at constitutional level to workshops on gender and Fair Trade, all efforts put Fair Trade at its core and bring countries closer to achieving sustainable development. A second objective was to discuss the consolidation of a network of countries interested in promotion of Fair Trade, also through joint international efforts. In that sense, main takeaways from the participants were that there is a need of joint collaborative work among governments and to install Fair Trade in the public agendas. As well as the need of creating spaces to discuss creation of public policies for promotion and uptake of Fair Trade. The latter point links directly to the value of this first encounter organized by the FTAO and the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Commerce of Ecuador. In terms of next steps, the formalization of such a network will be sought among participant countries and the identification of the best vehicle to bring to existence this network of friend countries of Fair Trade.

As stated by Ambassador Isabel Albornoz, we hope this is “the first of many encounters that allow to connect consumers with producers and retailers and that allows producers to receive a fair price throughout the supply chain”.

The FTAO thanks the representatives from Ecuador, European Union, Ghana, Germany, Belgium, Mexico, States of Africa, Pacific and Caribbean and from Chile, for their active participation in this encounter and for the sharing of their experiences in implementing policies and projects in their territories. The FTAO hopes this network can be consolidated and that joint efforts are sought for more promotion of Fair Trade through public policies also for other countries. We would like to thank also to the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and of Foreign Commerce of Ecuador for their support and commitment in the implementation of Fair Trade.

Press contact: Virginia Enssle (enssle@fairtrade-advocacy.org), +31 627214411

Full press release

CSOs recommendations to make the EU regulation on deforestation-free products work for smallholders and forest communities

November 2022

As the European Parliament, the European Commission and the Council of the EU are negotiating a compromise on the EU regulation on deforestation-free products, we call upon them to maintain a high level of ambition and refrain from any harmful trade offs. The undersigned CSOs have at heart to ensure that the realities and needs of smallholders and forest communities are taken into account, to ensure an effective implementation of the future EU requirements. We welcome the game-changing amendments introduced by the Parliament, which have the potential to enable an inclusive implementation of the regulation in smallholder-intensive sectors. read more

Mid term recap – Young Fair Trade Advocates programme

In September 2021, the FTAO launched a brand-new learning academy for young and engaged citizens across Europe who share an interest in Fair Trade and sustainability, the Young Fair Trade Advocates programme, generously supported by the European Climate Foundation and the Erasmus Plus project EU Wise. From the numerous applications we received, we selected 146 highly talented and motivated advocates to be part of the academy. Every week, they have the opportunity to take part in modules with experts in several topics, ask their questions and dig into engagement opportunities on various fields at EU and national levels.

That way, in the past three months, they have gained knowledge about sustainable food, consumption and production, history of the Fair Trade movement, how the FTAO conducts its advocacy work at the EU level, how the EU’s trade policy affect producers, etc.

In addition to this theoretical background, they also acquired practical skills and learnt about tools they can use to influence policymaking themselves. They notably had the opportunity to discover how social media can be used for this purpose from expert and former FTAO colleague Cass Hebron, and have received guidance on ways to engage at EU level as young citizens

In the runup to the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference or COP26, they had the chance to meet with two Fairtrade producers and Youth ambassadors, Rutuja Patil from India and Deborah Osei from Ghana, who shared their views on Fair Trade, climate change, and the UN conference.

The COP26 itself was one of the highlights of the programme. Applying the knowledge they obtained in it, many advocates took to social media to express their view that decisions taken there should take trade justice into account. Furthermore, they had the opportunity to follow our side event on “Youth and decision-makers discuss nature, energy, water and sustainability in the global economy“, where youth leaders, including Malawian Fairtrade coffee producer Rachel Banda, discussed with politicians how youth can be more involved in decision-making on climate, agriculture and sustainability. Three of our advocates were even present in Glasgow with the different organisations with which they cooperate. Here are their thoughts.

Participants in the COP26 side event -Copyright: Daniela León

Mutesi Van Hoecke, Oxfam ambassador in Glasgow, carrying the voices of the Most Affected People and Areas by the climate crisis:

Daniela León, Peruvian organisation AIDESEP, dedicated to defending indigenous communities:

  • “For me COP26 was an opportunity to come together with other young people and work together to demand action from world leaders and hold them accountable for their decisions that have a global impact. I went to COP with an organization of indigenous people from the Peruvian Amazon and getting involved with different indigenous leaders and hearing their testimonies really gave me a deeper understanding of what the climate crisis actually is.” 
  • In her own words: “COP26 and indigenous peoples”, 25 November 2021

The Young Fair Trade Advocates is a great learning opportunity for both the fellows and the FTAO team. We are looking forward to the second half of the programme, where the advocates, as part of their national subgroups, are expected to organise local actions and engage with their communities in a more independent way.

If you are interested in the programme, follow us on social media and on our website to get all the updates on the next edition.

More information about this will be made available in the coming months.

New report showcases inspiring examples around the world that confirm the key role of governments in promoting the uptake of Fair Trade

November 2021

Full report on Public Policies on Fair Trade

Fairtrade International and the Fair Trade Advocacy Office are pleased to jointly publish the results of a research project on Fair Trade public policies around the world. The report, authored by experts Veselina Vasileva and Didier Reynaud, provides an overview of current and past public policies on Fair Trade and related policy fields. The study presents six case studies: Brazil, Belgium, Ecuador, the European Union, France and Italy, and includes snapshots on Tanzania and Sri Lanka – two emerging cases from Africa and Asia that show potential for further development.

The study analyses how public policies on Fair Trade can enable access to markets for Fair Trade producers, support Fair Trade enterprises and enhance recognition of Fair Trade principles and networks by governments. The report classifies four types of public policies on Fair Trade and related policy fields. The screening of 23 country cases during the first phase of the research clearly showed that in most of the countries there are laws as well as frameworks, programmes and initiatives of governmental support (non-binding legislation) related to Fair Trade or at least to one of its principles. However, a direct reference to Fair Trade is given in only a few cases.

The study presents six case studies: Brazil, Belgium, Ecuador, the European Union, France and Italy, and includes snapshots on Tanzania and Sri Lanka – two emerging cases from Africa and Asia that show potential for further development. By presenting the variety of public policies that can enhance Fair Trade and sharing the diverse experiences in different countries the study aims to motivate and inspire Fair Trade movements worldwide to take action and advocate for public policies on Fair Trade in their own countries.

The Brazilian case portrays a multi-stakeholder process of establishing a unique Fair Trade certification system. The Ecuadorian case highlights how many opportunities for the uptake of Fair Trade can open up when Fair Trade is already addressed in the Constitution of a country and how a complex, inclusive multi-stakeholder elaboration process can lead to a comprehensive and multi-dimensional Fair Trade strategy. The Belgian case teaches us ways to establish a sectoral multi-stakeholder initiative on Fair Trade cocoa. The ‘Beyond the Chocolate Initiative’, for example, is based on the Belgian Charter for Sustainable Development and aims to fight child slavery, make a specific sector free of deforestation and guarantee at least a living income for all producers involved in the value chain; and show how beneficial it can be for the whole process when the Parliament of the country expresses the will to become a Fair Trade country. It also shows the impact of international cooperation using Fair Trade as a tool to empower partner countries.

The French case tells of the first country in the world where Fair Trade has been defined in law. It demonstrates that North-North and South- North Fair Trade can co-habit and offers a great variety of legislation on Fair Trade, such as the International Solidarity “Equite Program” and the expected recognition of Fair Trade labels. The Italian case tells of the first country in Europe that has managed to include Fair Trade criteria as a mandatory requirement in public procurement law for some food products like chocolate and banana. The EU case shows how important it is to achieve a certain policy (EC Communication on Fair Trade), even a voluntary one, in order to go further and upgrade the policy some years later (‘Trade for All’ strategy). The Sri Lanka example offers an inspiring example of a legislative process and a unique framework of cooperation on Fair Trade between the government of Sri Lanka and the international Fair Trade networks. The Tanzanian example – which is more so about advocacy activities – shows which enabling and success factors can influence a parliament´s decision in favour of Fair Trade coffee and a reduction in coffee taxes.

All the cases prove the importance of multi-stakeholder processes, government commitment and institutional support for the elaboration and implementation of public policies on Fair Trade. In most of the main case studies there are active Fair Trade networks and well-established structures that have played a crucial role in the elaboration of public policies on Fair Trade. Nevertheless, the analysis has shown that there is an urgent need for strengthening the Fair Trade movement’s structures and capacities – especially on advocacy activities – and for encouraging exchange of knowledge and experience among Fair Trade actors. Awareness-raising among governmental authorities on different political levels is also still needed in most of the cases.

The study concludes that there are many different public policy instruments to achieve support for Fair Trade, such as laws, non-binding resolutions, national action plans, strategies, initiatives, etc. The case studies give ideas and inspiration on the steps to take and the institutions and actors to approach to achieve more support for Fair Trade at policy level.

Several interesting cases emerged during the research that were not explored further given the limited scope of the study. These would be worth studying in the near future as they show that there a lot of potential to encourage Fair Trade actors to strengthen their advocacy activities and lobby for effective and progressive legislation on Fair Trade. Thus, a continuation of this research is strongly recommended.

This research project was possible thanks to the financial support of the European Union and the Charles Leopold Mayer Foundation (FPH). Translated versions in Spanish and French will be made available before mid 2022.

EU Deforestation proposal released: A landmark legislation for EU supply chains, but will it deliver on the ground?

Fair Trade movement statement – EU Deforestation legislative proposal

November 2021

Virginijus Sinkevičius, EU Commissioner for the Environment and Frans Timmermans, Vice President of the European Commission, have unveiled the long-awaited EU Regulation proposal to minimize the risk of deforestation and forest degradation associated with commodities and products placed on the EU market. The Fair Trade movement welcomes the proposal as a major milestone to clean up EU supply chains from deforestation but sees room for improvement to achieve the holistic approach needed to effectively reduce deforestation on the ground, hand in hand with producer countries and smallholders.

This week, the European Commission has presented its EU regulatory proposal to tackle imported deforestation. The proposal models how the EU intends to minimise consumption of products coming from supply chains associated with deforestation and ultimately increase EU demand for and trade in legal and deforestation-free commodities and products.

Based on three main components, namely market prohibition, due diligence obligations and a benchmarking system, the designated agricultural commodities (soy, beef, palm oil, wood, cocoa, and coffee), as well as some of their derived products (e.g., chocolate, leather, and furniture) will have to comply with the EU Deforestation free criteria while being also produced in accordance with the laws of the country of production.

Smallholders play a key role in globally traded agricultural products, especially in sectors like Cocoa where they often form the backbone of the economy in producer countries. Ensuring a smallholder inclusive proposal is thus of greater priority.

We welcome therefore the recognition that smallholders may face specific adaptation challenges. The late cut-off date is considered in the proposal as the main measure to mitigate the negative impact on smallholders, but this does not constitute a silver bullet. It also foresees an assessment of the impact of the Regulation on farmers and the possible need for additional support for the transition to sustainable supply chains at a later stage which is a step in the right direction. We strongly encourage the EU to think ahead of it and already plan concrete measures to support smallholders to comply with new EU requirements and ensure a fair share of the costs of adjustment among all supply chain actors.

This will help prevent a situation in which EU supply chains might become free of deforestation while smallholders are driven to produce in an unsustainable way, selling their products to less regarding consumer markets while stepping further away from a decent standard of living. Closer attention should be given to smallholders trapped in contexts (e.g., poor land and forest governance, lack of access to income, land, information, finance) that force them to degrade the environment. Reducing possibilities to generate sustainable living through restricted EU market access could accelerate the negative cycle of structural poverty and exacerbate levels of forest degradation.

“If serious about achieving the overall objectives of the EU Green Deal as well as the SDGs, the EU should aim at ensuring that any new EU policy that primarily focuses on the environment does not neglect social sustainability. Both are two sides of the same coin and should be considered on equal footing to guarantee EU rules that are fit for purpose”, stated Sergi Corbalán, Executive Director of the Fair Trade Advocacy Office.

In that sense, we welcome the EU’s willingness to step up engagement with partner countries to develop partnerships and cooperation, allowing full stakeholders participation and aiming to strengthen the rights of forest-dependent communities including smallholders. This inclusive approach will be key to create an enabling environment, and further promote the transition to sustainable and deforestation-free production of commodities. The explicit reference to potential Agreements that would address deforestation or forest degradation and facilitate compliance sends a positive signal, we encourage the EU to prioritize and build upon existing dialogues with producer countries such as those currently taking place in the cocoa sector.

Ultimately, a successful transition will require making the business case for sustainability and create new economic perspectives for smallholders where trees are worth more standing than cleared. To this end, the EU should aim at using its trade leverage and partnership potential to a greater extent and set up positive incentives that can reward those producers that are restoring and protecting the forests.

The proposal remains however too timid on certain aspects to face up the challenge in all its dimension and ensure a real paradigm shift on the ground. Deforestation being both a conservation and a human right issue, we can only regret on the one side the restricted scope of the Regulation in terms of covered commodities and ecosystems and on the other side the absence of any reference to international standards of human rights. Efforts to ensure compliance and effective enforcement of the Regulation, including provisions on liability, are furthermore necessary.

Moreover, the new benchmarking system under which countries will be assigned a high, medium or low-risk status only captures country-level risks and misses to account for landscape specificities within the same country, facing different levels of deforestation, forest degradation and associated human rights risks.

Applying simplified due diligence to companies sourcing from “low-risk” countries entails a worrying degree of uncertainty as regards potential counterproductive impacts on the ground, both for people and the planet. This might indeed prompt a cut-and-run wave from companies sourcing from “high-risk” countries, driving producers in greater poverty while increasing the environmental pressure on the forests of neighbour countries. A further assessment would be needed.

We look to the EU to drive a sustainable and inclusive transformation hand in hand with all actors involved in its supply chains. As major importer and consumer of Forest Risk Commodities, the EU can play a determinant role to curb deforestation and forest degradation in producer countries, provided that the EU legislation builds on the reality of the ground and is part of a long-term engagement with smallholders and producer countries. It is only by raising the bar as much as the floor that the EU will help effectively reverse current trends.

For more information or any question you might have, contact Charlotte Vernier at vernier@fairtrade-advocacy.org

COP26 side event – Youth and decision-makers discuss nature, energy, water, and sustainability in the global economy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This November, leaders from around the world negotiated at COP26 in Glasgow, UK, possible actions to address the climate crisis at the global scale. On 11th November, the FTAO took part in a COP26 side debate on how to make decision-making on sustainability policies more participatory, particularly when it comes to youth. The European Economic and Social Committee hosted us and other organisations at the EU Pavilion. Four youth representatives, including Fairtrade Youth Ambassador and coffee producer from Malawi Rachel Banda, had the opportunity to ask questions to EU and UN policymakers.

More information can be found here: Youth and decision-makers discuss nature, energy, water and sustainability in the global economy | European Economic and Social Committee (europa.eu)

You can find the recording of the event here: Youth and decision-makers discuss nature, energy, water and sustainability in the global economy – YouTube

Find the full line-up here:

Webinar – How to be protected against Unfair Trading Practices when you export to the EU?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In 2019 the EU adopted the Directive (EU) 2019/633 on Unfair Trading Practices in business-to-business relationships in the agricultural and food supply chain. The Directive instructed all EU Member States to put in place laws to forbid certain unfair trading practices between buyers and sellers in agri-food supply chains. It aims to mitigate vulnerability of food suppliers to abusive trading practices due to imbalances of power between larger actors (often buyers) and smaller actors (often suppliers). Both EU and non-EU suppliers, are entitled to protection from said practices.

The FTAO is organising this webinar to share information about how this law provides non-EU suppliers with the  tools to be able to benefit from such protection. We will answer questions about its functioning and provide information and assistance. Our speakers will include Henrieta Jany-Roskova from the European Commission’s Directorate General for Agriculture (DG AGRI) and legal experts from different EU Member States.

The same event will take place twice so that partners from the Global South with different time zones and languages can participate:

  1. 17th November at 10.00 to 11.00 CET for Africa and Asia with interpretation from English to French.
  2. 17th November at 16.00 to 17.00 CET for Latin America with interpretation from English to Spanish.

Register here for the webinar! You can find here more information about the event and here general practical information about the Unfair Trading Practices Directive.

If you have any questions you wish to submit beforehand or any other comments, please contact enssle@fairtrade-advocacy.org

If you were unable to follow this webinar, you can find the recording here.