Chapter 2: Our work

Chapter 2: Our work

Annual report 2020

TOOLS AND PLATFORMS

Who are the people behind your products? How are they doing? Trace helps companies answer these questions while they trace their products all the way back to the farmer. Did someone say storytelling? Yes, that too! On an interactive page, consumers can dig through the history of the product. True transparency!

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The Living Wage Lab helps companies in the agri-food sector find solutions for the payment of a living wage in their supply chains. Companies are often not able to solve the problem of low wages alone. That is why the Lab brings together representatives from government, trade unions, producers, retailers, NGOs and certification agencies in order to come up with solutions together.

ALIGN is one of the solutions to have stemmed from the Living Wage Lab. Once companies  have set themselves the ambition to realise living wages and incomes in their food supply chains, the tool guides them through the process. The platform offers a clear overview of research, tools and potential partners. The main goal of ALIGN: reducing the complexity of the topic, and offering guidance and resources for the steps that are ahead.

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SHARING KNOWLEDGE

One of Fairfood’s aims is to democratise the access to new developments and technologies in the agri-food sector. To reach both consumers and agri-food companies that are looking to make a positive impact on the lives of the people behind our food, Fairfood works as a knowledge hub, having focused on four main themes in 2020:

Innovation to improve transparency
In two webinar series, we unpacked new innovations and showed the value for agri-food companies as the way to achieve transparent supply chains. Our first-ever webinar series had our blockchain specialist Rafael da Costa Guimarães interview blockchain experts, like Topl’s Chris Georgen and quantum researcher Gideon Kruseman, to discuss how blockchain could help shape the future of food supply chains. 

As the pandemic further unfolded, and lockdown measures forced everyone into their homes, Fairfood also turned to a virtual seminar to joyfully launch Trace, our blockchain-based transparency and traceability platform. The enthusiasm we encountered in this seminar gave birth to a deep-dive series: Trace Talks. In three episodes we explored relevant trends and issues, like how certifiers are looking into new technologies while shaping the future of certification, and the imminent threat of data colonisation. With guests like Peter D’Angremond, director of Fairtrade Nederland, Sander Reuderink, commercial director at Trabocca, and Shiv Aggawal, the CEO of MyEarth.ID. 

The four Trace webinars together reached 350 live attendees and were replayed 235 times

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Owning and making sense of fair tech
A lot hasn’t been said about the potential of innovative technologies for the greater good in agri-food. Fairfood is therefore closely following new developments in the realm of tech for good, sharing insights, innovations and potential issues we think everyone should be aware of. Like the birth of the self-sovereign identity or the threat of data colonisation.

One innovation that has been on our radar for some time is blockchain technology. After first writing the elaborate report A Chain of Possibilities, on the potential of blockchain for agri-food, together with Wageningen University & Research, we entered into a partnership with CTA, the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Co-operation, to further break down the technology. In 2020, we published three info sheets that shine a light on different parts of our food supply chains: Small farmer, big data; Smart Supply Chains; and Restoring a Human Connection.

Strategic partnerships
We acknowledge the fact that no one can ensure fair food all by themselves. Usually, what is needed is a combination of consumers who care, governments that require at least some level of good business practices, and supply chain partners that work together to extinguish any issues from their chains and ensure fair value distribution. 

The Living Wage Lab is an especially fruitful place where new initiatives and partnerships between governments, retail, food brands and NGOs are born. The Lab saw its fifth birthday in 2020, which called for a celebration. During a live broadcast, we shared lessons learned, promising trends and hopes for the future with living wage and income enthusiasts from all over the world.

With some of the most inspiring speakers from our network: Noura Hanna, a Board Member of Global Living Wage Coalition and a human right activist herself; Jos Huber, Senior Policy Advisor for the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Paula de Beer, Living Wage Officer at Fair Wear Foundation, and many more.

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+companies, organisations, government officials and experts are currently taking part in our Living Wage Lab

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Mandatory due diligence

Capitalism today means that businesses working on sustainability may lose their competitive edge. We got news for you: sustainability ain’t cheap. That is why Fairfood supports a more ambitious starting point for all businesses operating on a global level, in the form of mandatory due diligence. Let the foundation be fair, and have frontrunners take it from there, is our idea.

Through elaborate talks and discussions, by sitting in on events ourselves, and with our membership of the MVO Platform, we stay on top of any developments that should help take the world closer to mandatory due diligence. We break the information down in blog posts and in our newsletters.

PROJECTS

Right at the core of our daily work lie the projects that we embark on through partnerships with the private sector. As we assist brands and retailers in resolving any issues in their supply chains, we as an organisation realise that this is the biggest impact we could have. Some important projects that we worked on in 2020:

Trabocca

On their journey towards poverty-free coffee, specialty coffee importer Trabocca saw the importance of transparency and traceability, and employed Trace to find out whether coffee farmers are earning a living income. What started out as a question slowly morphed into a reality where Trabocca’s specialty coffee from the Guji region in Ethiopia became 100% traceable.

Trace was introduced to the supply chain to track both the farmers’ deliveries and the payments they received — a first step in answering the question if they are currently earning a living income. Trabocca was particularly pleased with the project and is currently expanding the use of Trace to new value chains.

The group of farmers that participated in our first project consisted of

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small-scale producers in Guji, Ethiopia

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farmers will be onboarded to Trace in a follow-up project kicking-off in 2021

“In the specialty coffee sector, we tend to believe that because we pay a premium for higher-quality coffee on our end, the farmer earns more. But how sure are we that that is actually true? And how much more is enough? To answer these questions, we decided to start tracking our farmers’ ability to earn a living income. The platform allows us to provide our customers with insights about these transactions.” – Sander Reuderink, commercial director

Tesfaye Bekele, a coffee supplier for Trabocca, explains that the simple fact that Trabocca, with the help of Fairfood, went there and saw their problems from up close already was transformative: “They respectfully engaged with our community and understood what we needed. Trabocca saw us, and made consumers see us as well, so they can understand what they are paying for, and how the work impacts our lives. It motivates us. In the future, I imagine consumers coming to visit, to learn more about their coffee. With transparency, I can show what it is that we are working on. It makes us measure our quality as well. Both the farmer and the consumer wins.”

Verstegen Spices & Sauces

It was in 2019 that Verstegen first approached Fairfood for a transparency and traceability project. They used Trace to make the product chain of Indonesian nutmeg transparent, which ultimately gives the farmer and consumer greater involvement. The farmer strengthens her or his position by gaining new knowledge about the chain, while the consumer gains insight into price agreements and quality claims. Additionally, research into living income was carried out on the Indonesian Sangihe islands, where the nutmeg is grown, to set a benchmark for Verstegen’s ambitions on social sustainability.

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+farmers that work with
Verstegen have been
onboarded to the Trace
platform

In 2020, a follow-up project took shape (also see chapter 4), that expands the use of Trace to different spices’ production chains. We asked Marianne van Keep, director of sustainability at Verstegen, about the impact the project has had so far internally: “We have 500 people working at our company, all with their own conscience and vision. A project like this helps put a dot on the horizon; to put together your individual visions and build a bigger, collective one. We have asked ourselves how to involve the company in this subject, and decided to do regular, internal webinars. Besides that, we introduced the concept of CSR ambassadors; colleagues who take the lead on certain CSR topics. What I found hopeful to see, is a switch in how we talk about the people at the beginning of our product chains; now that, thanks to Trace, we know their faces, social sustainability topics are starting to come to life. As we are looking to positively impact the lives of the farmers, we need to mobilise the Verstegen colleagues first. That I see happening in front of my eyes.”

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Jumbo

Dutch supermarket chain Jumbo wished to gain a better understanding of the origin of their mango. After initially analysing the risks of human right abuses in the production countries of their mangos, Ivory Coast seemed like a good (or really: bad) place to start; the risk of such abuses is highest in this country.

2019 and 2020 saw further investigation of the value chains originating in Ivory Coast. We analysed the working conditions on the mango plantations. Impact Institute was assigned with the task to do a social impact scan on two plantations, during the harvest season in 2020. They developed a methodology in line with the OECD Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, which should help map working conditions and set out recommendations for improvement. We are, of course, slightly disappointed to learn that the corona pandemic, together with a shorter than anticipated harvest period, made it impossible to properly execute the scan and plans to do a follow-up in the new year. Read more here.

Total Produce

If you eat fruit and vegetables, you are involved with the company that is called Total Produce. The producer and distributor deals in over 200 kinds of fruits and vegetables and supplies retailers, wholesalers, and food service companies in over 20 countries.

They recognise that with being a big company comes big responsibility, and so decided to start exploring improved transparency as a means to become more socially responsible. 2019 and 2020 saw a first exploration of a partnership between Total Produce and Fairfood, for which we decided to start small, namely with citrus products from South-Africa. Soon, we hope to launch a joint project that is about giving South African farmers a voice in the value chains.

It seems you also care about the people behind our food.

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