If, in 20 years time, someone should ask me ‘tell me a little something about the year 2019?’, I would struggle to come up with an answer. ‘Tell me something about the year 2020?’, however, would have me talking forever.
2020 will undeniably go down as a black page in the history book of humankind. Sticking to the Fairfood spheres, we saw how the people behind our food went from already being vulnerable to being completely dependent on decision makers further down the value chain. One Dutch retailer went as far as to introduce a ‘corona penalty’, which has producers pay a fine if, due to COVID-19 measures, they aren’t able to deliver agreed quantities on time.
Big fashion retailers – with long, opaque and international value chains comparable to the ones that deliver us our food – lived up to their bad reputation when they let the big blow fall on production factories at the very beginning of the chain. Not taking any responsibility, they cancelled orders that were long taken into production, leaving factories with costs that were already made and worthless clothes. You can only guess what that will have meant for the people behind the assembly lines.
But I do believe that optimism deserves its place in the year 2020. Because as we collectively hit rock bottom, I also recognise how the world is gaining momentum to build back better. The awareness for the need of sustainable business practices is ever-growing, with consumers, citizens, governments and, finally, the private sector chipping in.
In our network, we noticed how challenging times didn’t stop our partners in the private sector from wanting to make a change. For one, we saw specialty coffee importer Trabocca enthusiastically kick-off a transparency and traceability project using our platform Trace. They actually sold a batch of coffee that proudly told its background story for a higher price, with the extra profit ending up directly in the farmer’s pockets. A follow-up project in collaboration with Simon Lévelt, that grows the number of participating farmer to 500, is about to kick off.
Governments, all the while, are setting a backdrop that should make it easier for frontrunner companies to work on their sustainability ambitions without losing a competitive edge. All the while forcing companies who are falling behind to finally take responsibility. At the time Dutch Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation of the Netherlands, Sigrid Kaag, and Gerd Müller, the Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development of Germany signed a joint declaration in January 2021, on the importance of living wages and incomes.
More promising even, is the legislative initiative report – approved by 504 votes in favour, 79 against and 112 abstention – that calls for the urgent adoption of a binding EU law that ensures companies are held accountable and liable when they harm, or contribute to harming, human rights, the environment and good governance. It goes as far as to guarantee that victims can access legal remedies. “For consumers, it’s ensuring fair products. For workers, it’s enhancing protection. For victims, it’s improving access to justice. And for the environment, it’s taking a step that is very long overdue”, Dutch Lara Wolters said, who was in the lead for the parliament report.
As we join forces, we can actually make a change.
Which is the more reason I’m overly excited about RECLAIM Sustainability!, a joint programme of Fairfood, Solidaridad, Trust Africa and Business Watch Indonesia, that we just kicked off in strategic partnership with the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. This programme taps into the aforementioned momentum using smart innovations, heralding an era of truly inclusive supply chains, in which farmers and workers have reclaimed their rightful voice.
There is one final reason I want to end this year’s foreword on a celebratory note. 2020 was after all the year in which Fairfood turned 20. A time for reflection, and for reinforcing our mission. Although we can only dream of a world that no longer needs Fairfood, the year 2020 had us especially dedicated to our long-standing mission: to fix the food system for good.
Sander de Jong – managing director
This annual report has been approved by the Supervisory Board and an independent accountant on June 16th. Download the statement from the accountant here.