Low famer incomes, human rights abuses and environmental degradation still plague smallholder-based supply chains of soft commodities and other agricultural products. Throughout 2020, Innovation Accelerator has been running an action research project to understand why.
 
The initial findings of the research has explored a wide range of supply chains, including cotton, fruit and vegetables, dairy, coffee, soya, palm and maize. As well as bringing together cross-sector experience, the project sought insights from political science and development economics to explore the wider societal dynamics of communities and countries in which supply chains exist.
 
Innovation Accelerator is an annual process of engagement and dialogue. The findings are designed to prompt action and provide practical guidance for companies. 

Thank you to our partners

COLEACP is an association of companies and experts committed to sustainable agriculture. Its mission is to develop inclusive, sustainable trade in fruit and vegetables and other food products, focusing on how African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries trade with one another and with the European Union. COLEACP operates through strategic collaborations that form the basis of its ongoing support to the agri-food sector in ACP countries.

COLEACP’s vision is that ongoing changes in the global agri-food model will require continuous capacity building and training for current and future generations of producers, entrepreneurs, consultants, technicians and all economic actors in the agricultural and food system. This means moving forward and growing sustainably by giving companies and people the means to flourish while respecting the environment and the humanity of each individual. It means continuously capitalising on and disseminating COLEACP’s knowledge, know-how and specialised expertise, acquired over the years in all areas of the fruit and vegetable sector, to contribute to a profound transformation of agriculture that meets the needs of food security, ecosystem conservation and economic growth.
Building on a lifetime of public service, President Clinton established the Clinton Foundation on the simple belief that everyone deserves a chance to succeed, everyone has a responsibility to act, and we all do better when we work together. For nearly two decades, those values have energised the work of the foundation in overcoming complex challenges and improving the lives of people across the United States and around the world. 
 
As an operating foundation, it works on issues directly or with strategic partners from the business, government, and nonprofit sectors to create economic opportunity, improve public health, and inspire civic engagement and service. Its programmes are designed to make a real difference today while serving as proven models for tomorrow. The goal of every effort is to use available resources to get better results faster – at the lowest possible cost. 
 
The initiative firmly believes that when diverse groups of people bring resources together in the spirit of true cooperation, transformative ideas will emerge to drive life-changing action.
Nestlé is the world’s largest food and beverage company. It is present in 187 countries around the world, and its 291,000 employees are committed to Nestlé’s purpose of enhancing quality of life and contributing to a healthier future. 
 
Nestlé offers a wide portfolio of products and services for people and their pets throughout their lives. Its more than 2,000 brands range from global icons like Nescafé or Nespresso to local favourites like Ninho. 
 
Company performance is driven by its nutrition, health and wellness strategy. Nestlé is based in the Swiss town of Vevey where it was founded more than 150 years ago.
CottonConnect is an enterprise with a social mission to re-imagine the future for supply chains. Since its creation in 2009, CottonConnect has worked with more than 20 global brands and retailers, and over 560,000 farmers in India, Pakistan, China, Egypt and Peru, contributing to a wider benefit for over a million people in cotton farming communities. 
 
CottonConnect works with global brands and retailers to help them source more fairly and sustainably, providing visibility and understanding of the textile producers and raw material farmers. Brands are connected with farmers enrolled in sustainable agriculture training programmes such as REEL Cotton, BCI and organic, and can feed the raw materials produced directly into their products through transparent and traceable supply chains. 
 
CottonConnect’s programmes, including the REEL Cotton programme, Farmer Business School, and Women in Cotton, have achieved proven results in reducing the environmental impact of raw material production, and improving livelihoods of workers and their communities. The Market Linkages programme has driven accountability and connectivity upstream in the supply chain. This holistic approach supports the building of a more resilient future.
GAR is the world’s second largest palm-based agribusinesses. It manages nearly half a million hectares of palm oil plantations, including smallholder farmers, across Indonesia. GAR’s vertically integrated business works from seeds to shelf, with refining capacity meaing it can produce specialty fats, oleochemicals and biodiesel to feed and fuel the world.
 
Sustainability is an essential part of the business principally guided by the GAR social and environmental policy (GSEP). This is shared with employees, smallholders, suppliers, and customers and is the driver behind GAR’s vision of a sustainable palm oil industry.
 
GAR sees farming palm oil as an effective way to create jobs and alleviate poverty, providing opportunities for communities to secure better livelihoods. As one of the largest plantation companies in Indonesia, operating largely in rural and remote areas, GAR not only plays an active role in the well-being of employees, but also in the wider communities where it operates.
GIZ is a German development agency headquartered in Bonn and Eschborn. The organisation mainly implements technical cooperation projects of the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). However, it also works with the private sector and other national and supranational government organisations.
 
The Sustainable Agricultural Supply Chains Initiative (INA) is an association of 70 or so stakeholders from the private sector, civil society and politics. Together they aim to achieve more sustainability in global agricultural supply chains and improve the living conditions of small farmers. The INA takes a cross-resource approach. As part of GIZ’s Sustainable Supply Chains and Standards programme it works closely with colleagues who have many years of expertise in individual raw materials. Also through close exchanges with commodity-specific multi-actor partnerships, INA creates synergies to effectively combat deforestation and low wages and incomes. The focus of INA’s work is on deforestation-free supply chains and living incomes for farmer households.

Highlights include:

  • The key challenges: A complete overview of the challenges facing smallholders farmers and rural communities
  • ‘Landscape’ context: How societal norms affect how best to work with smallholder communities
  • The role of origin and destination country governments: What business can do to engage and enable improved governance and coherent policy frameworks for agriculture
  • The importance of farmer collaboration: How cooperatives and farmer groups can play in important role
  • Long term sustainability: Is smallholder farming viable in the long term, or do we need to explore other structures for rural agricultural communities?
  • Supply chain transformation: How can international company supply chains, and commodity markets be reworked to make them compatible with sustainability ambitions?
  • Technology and innovation: Why technology is underused and the critical need to understand societal context 
  • From farm to port: Challenges and potential solutions for the downstream supply chain
  • Scaling impact: How to move from a project based approach to systemic change to supply chain structures
  • Next steps: Practical guidance and next steps at the local and international level

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What’s different about this research?

Innovation Forum Action Research is:
  • Independent: Innovation Forum is entirely independent with no mandate. We act as an honest broker unafraid to ask the tough questions and facilitate discussion and progress.

  • Practical: With a clear focus on what is practical and realistic for business, this research is designed to drive action and change throughout industries and supply chains.

  • Free to all: The results and outputs will be shared with Innovation Forum’s entire network of key stakeholders across a range of communications channels to ensure maximum impact.
Innovation Forum Action Research is NOT:
  • A PR platform: The research will NOT simply promote the work of our supporting partners. It will assess best practice across the industry, but will also highlight key failures, lessons learned and the major knowledge gaps that must be addressed.
  • All promise, no delivery: We will NOT promise what we can’t deliver. The issues covered are complex. They won’t be solved in any 12 month period. But we will help deliver progress through in-depth, constructive and practical research into specific issues.
  • Just another PDF: This will NOT be just another PDF report that may or may not be read. It will be a continuing annual process of engagement and dialogue. Key findings will be regularly fed into our industry network and wider stakeholder community throughout the year.
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The Innovation Accelerator is an annual process of engagement and dialogue. Having launched the inaugural report in December 2020, we are currently conducting a podcast series and some additional editorial work to further promote the results to our network and to explore some of the findings in more detail. Alongside this we are working with our partners to determine the next steps for both implementation and additional areas for research.

We are seeking additional partners to continue the work of the Innovation Accelerator. To get involved, please contact the Innovation Forum team. 


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For any questions or more information, please contact:

Tanya Richard
Head of Research
Innovation Forum
[email protected]

Additional research areas

Innovation Forum convenes a series of Action Research initiatives across a range of issues and industries. Additional areas include:

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