Sustainable landscapes and commodities – what are the emerging trends?
03 Nov 22
Toby Webb and Ian Welsh
Innovation Forum’s flagship sustainable landscapes and commodities conference welcomed 280 supply chain experts to Amsterdam to two days of frank and open discussion. Here are some of the themes that emerged.
There’s a real sense of urgency now. Roadmaps to 2030/40/50 are all well and good but we heard a lot about what companies are planning for 2025 and that’s where we need to focus. We need to think about what must be achieved now to get to net zero by 2050.
There was a real focus on carbon, and the potential for carbon finance. Net zero commitments appear to be driving this.
Despite the challenges presented by increased human negative impacts on nature overall, there are reasons to be cheerful. Deforestation in Indonesia has declined considerably in recent years, and Brazil’s re-elected president, Lula Da Silva, has made a commitment to end deforestation as soon as possible.
Collaboration is now happening at scale, through the Cocoa and Forests Initiative, the Consumer Goods Forum’s Forest Positive Coalition, and the work of important actors such as IDH, EarthWorm and Proforest, on the ground.
Bigger projects are showing what's possible: such as April’s approach; towards “nature needs half”, REDD+ and many others.
Regulatory and finance drivers are increasingly creating business interest in sustainable solutions through both legislation (flawed though it is) and improving financial mechanisms.
We’re moving beyond eco labels and certification, towards more aligned procurement programmes in many companies looking at how the landscape approach can work effectively.
There's a healthy debate around the limits of simple targets such as traceability, with an improved focus on farmers, communities and livelihoods.
There's a genuine understanding that deforestation and nature restoration enhancement is a social development issue, not just a target, with farmer livelihoods front and centre. Many more businesses recognise publicly that nothing can be achieved with smallholders and communities until they have a viable, sustainable income.
The how and when of engaging with grower communities is clearly increasingly recognised as important. The need for them to be involved in dialogue and not have “solutions” imposed – in other words, FPIC made to work in practice.
We’re seeing more focus on outcomes and performance, and improving conditions for farmers and their communities, rather than commitments.
Traceability is vitally important for all in value chains, but it’s a means to an end not an end itself.
Business and their suppliers and partners understand, need more on cross-learning and engagement between large companies and SMEs — avoiding duplication is good for farmers, and helps SMEs build capacity
There’s a huge need for greater engagement by government and for government-to-government work on the issues that underpin many of the development and sustainability challenges we face. Business needs to work much harder to encourage this to be done well.
Here’s a direct link to Innovation Forum’s 2020 report: Building resilient smallholder supply chains: How to enable transformation for farmers, institutions and supply chains, from December 2020.