On June 2&3 2021, an Expert Workshop was hosted by the European Commission’s Directorate-General for International Partnerships (DG INTPA) and the International Trade Centre (ITC) to discuss and co-create accompanying support measures to forthcoming EU legislation on mandatory due diligence and supply chain sustainability
40 participants from ITC, the EU and other partner organisations joined in this call to action. Participants brainstormed tools to facilitate its implementation and ensure it benefits producers on the ground.
In their opening statements, EU INTPA Director-General Koen Doens and ITC Executive Director Pamela Coke-Hamilton praised the workshop as an example of the good and longstanding collaboration between the two institutions. The partnership is shifting from the traditional donor-implementer relationship into a strategic alliance characterised by co-creation of solutions that leverage strengths and expertise offered by each partner.
Despite the virtual format, the workshop allowed for action-focused interactions and fostered strategic connections between participants. These will pave the way for concrete changes led by actors who have a prominent voice in the supply chain sustainability space.
To open up the dialogue to the private sector, a 'Fireside Chat' event took place on the side-lines of this workshop. It was led by a distinguished panel of private sector representatives including a farmer cooperative, two mid-sized enterprises, a large-scale retailer, a business coalition and a multi-stakeholder initiative. They shared opportunities and challenges they encountered on their way to supply chain sustainability.
The chat was a strong success with over 200 participants from 76 different countries attending. The feedback from panelists was overwhelming and encouraging. All agreed that this discussion was a unique momentum with an unprecedented level of mature debate and commitment to achieving real change. All agreed that this discussion was a unique momentum with an unprecedented level of mature debate and commitment to achieving real change.
Watch the recording of the 'Fireside Chat' here
The take-away: Regulations and monitoring do not suffice
A legal framework on mandatory due diligence is a welcome step in the right direction, but it is not enough. Accompanying measures, partnerships and collective action will be key to achieving its intended objectives. A bottom-up approach and building dynamics of trust and long-term corporate commitment to sustainability will make the framework successful.
Marike de Peña, Chair of the Fairtrade International Board and Director of Banelino, a farmer cooperative in the Dominican Republic, voiced a message shared by all present at the ‘Fireside Chat’.
"Top down is not the right approach. We need to learn from the bottom what comes first and what comes next. It is not easy and cannot be only fixed by audits or standards, it needs partnerships and real commitment to change".
Stefan Crets from CSR Europe also highlighted the importance of intention:
"The starting point is not morality. It should be: “how does it change the life of the producers? How does their situation improve?” That should be our starting point. The law as such is not enough."
The way forward: Trust, co-creation and shared accountability
Collaboration among workshop participants will continue to co-create tools that facilitate the equal distribution of the cost and value of due diligence across the value chain and ensure the proposed EU legislative framework will enable sustainable livelihoods and decent working conditions for producers.
Hernan Manson, Head of Inclusive Agribusiness at the International Trade Centre, summarized the discussion in a nutshell:
"Trust is the key element, not only in monitoring but also in the pathway to remediation. Monitoring is necessary, but it is important not to get stuck in bureaucracy. Remedying systemic issues through action will be the true catalyst for change."
Next steps: A community of practice
Workshop participants expressed interest in continuing to collaborate as an informal ‘community of practice’ on accompanying measures to EU supply chain legislation.
Participants will also actively be involved in the preparation of a practical guidance document to provide EU INTPA and their implementing partners with concrete ideas, tools and examples of how to best use EU development cooperation instruments to support the implementation of forthcoming EU legislation on due diligence and supply chain sustainability.
This document will not only make the workshop results accessible to a wide range of colleagues, it also responds to a need expressed by colleagues in the field for thematic guidance on the programing of accompanying support in our partner countries and regions.