16 May 2023

Fairtrade releases HREDD guides for traders and plantations

Flamingo Roses flowers and flower farms

The two new publications offer tailored guidance on human rights and environmental due diligence (HREDD) to large farms with a hired workforce and traders who buy directly from farmer cooperatives and plantations. They follow the release of the first-ever HREDD guide for farmer cooperatives and will soon be complemented by another guide for Fairtrade licensees, so that all actors in global value chains can find orientation and practical advice for collaborating on their HREDD journeys.

Who needs an HREDD guide and why?

Let’s be honest – navigating HREDD isn’t easy. Complex value chains bear complex problems, and a sound balance between profitability and renewing one's business practices is difficult to strike.

However, there is increasing pressure from legislators and consumers to conduct HREDD and report on it, also for smaller businesses. In other words: apart from being the right thing to do, there’s also no way around HREDD. So, how can companies and organisations who don’t have large sustainability units of their own find ways to start their HREDD journeys?

Meri Hyrske-Fischer, Human Rights Advisor at Fairtrade’s HREDD Centre of Excellence, explained: “HREDD is an ongoing process that you can strengthen over time. Sometimes getting started is easier than you think – your company might already be performing some HREDD steps that haven’t been noticed as such but are a great basis to build on. Fairtrade is committed to support companies at all stages of the HREDD process.”

What’s in the new guides

The new guidebooks provide hands-on guidance and share best practices. They include action plan templates and policy models, as well as advice for engaging in meaningful dialogue with stakeholders.

In particular, the guides highlight the benefits of collaboration across value chains. Smaller businesses who have identified their most salient human rights and environmental risks and have made plans to tackle them, are encouraged to be transparent about their challenges and seek support from their buyers – which have the responsibility to contribute. This way companies can share resources in implementing the prevention and mitigation plans.

One size doesn’t fit all

While the overarching principles of HREDD apply to all companies, expectations do differ depending on the company size and its the role in the value chain. That’s why Fairtrade has developed different guides for different types of companies.

“With our trader guide we aim to provide concrete guidance for meaningful engagement with suppliers, while the plantation guide pays a lot of attention to dialogue with workers. We hope the guides encourage traders and plantations to be transparent about problems and collaborate in tackling risks,” said Meri Hyrske-Fischer.

Fairtrade experts from Asia, Africa, Latin America and Europe participated in the development process and brought useful insights to the guides. We also conducted direct interviews with hired labour and trader organisations to tailor the guides to their needs.

Sonia Dominica, Senior Manager Social Compliance and Risk at the Fairtrade Network of Asia & Pacific Producers (NAPP) pointed out: “The HREDD lingo is new to many plantations and small traders, but the actual due diligence measures are not. If we want to see all supply chain actors conduct HREDD, we must listen to plantations and traders and hear what it is that keeps them from running better risk assessment, grievance mechanisms and remediation processes."

Next steps in supporting due diligence

An additional guide for micro and small-scale companies will be published in co-operation with B Lab this summer, making the Fairtrade guidebook portfolio complete. Around the same time, we will propose new services to support businesses of all sizes in identifying and addressing human rights and environmental harms.

The roll-out of each guide is complemented by workshops and webinars for the target audiences. In addition, Fairtrade’s Producer Networks in Africa, Latin America and Asia will continue to organise HREDD workshops for farmer cooperatives and plantations. We are also assessing how much time, resources and support are needed for producers to establish and sustainably maintain HREDD processes in different contexts, what type of guidance and tools would be most helpful, and which challenges might stand in the way of successful implementation.

Getting further together

“Fairtrade’s 30+ years of promoting sustainability in trade have shown us again and again that collaboration is crucial. HREDD work is no different,” said Fairtrade’s Business and Human Rights Director Tytti Nahi. She continued: “The responsibility to address harms is shared between all parties in a value chain. Our guides highlight that the costs of due diligence must be shared too, not cascaded on farmers at the beginning of global supply chains.”

This means that all companies must play their part, for example through fair purchasing practices and prices that enable living incomes, in order to reduce adverse impacts on people, climate, and the environment across the entire supply chain.

Download the guides:

HREDD guide for plantations and other organisations with hired labour

HREDD guide for small and medium-sized first-buyers