25 May 2022

Farmers and workers ask to be put at the heart of due diligence legislation

CADIBRINE coffee 20215

While the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was created over 70 years ago, its aspirations continue to be unfulfilled for millions of farmers and workers around the world. To this day, human rights abuses and environmental violations remain prevalent in agricultural supply chains and global trade.

Despite strong voluntary initiatives, such as Fairtrade, legislation is vital to ensure to ensure that human and environmental rights are being respected at each step of a products journey – from the initial farm field to the final store shelf.

Farmer organizations and agricultural workers hold the least power in global supply chains and often get the smallest share of a products’ value. In an open letter, Fairtrade farmers and workers call for impactful and strong due diligence legislation in order to change this, asking the European Union to include their voices and needs in the upcoming negotiations.

“Dialogue with the people negatively impacted by business practices is a fundamental principle in human rights and environmental due diligence. We, as rights holders, want our voices heard” reads an extract.

The letter comes in reaction to the European Commission’s recently presented proposal for a broad due diligence law. More than 270 Fairtrade certified organizations from Latin America, and Africa have signed the letter that is sent to European officials this 24 May. Over 40 European businesses support their message.

The letter writers recognize the current proposal as a good start, but question whether the suggested legislation is bold enough to result in positive change for farmers and workers.

Their central asks are that the future EU human rights and environmental due diligence (HREDD) legislation:

  • Extends the due diligence obligation over entire supply chains and applies to all companies;
  • Promotes collaboration and cost sharing and deters “cut and run”;
  • Requires companies to review and, where necessary, adjust their purchasing and trading practices;
  • Specifically mentions both living income and living wages as human rights;
  • Requires meaningful stakeholder engagement with farmers and workers at every step of the process;

In their letter, the farmers and workers flag that the proposal relies too heavily on contractual assurances (e.g. codes of conduct), making it easier for big companies to shift their responsibility to others in the supply chain rather than taking ownership of the impact of their own purchasing practices.

They also emphasize that living income is a human right and a precondition for the fulfillment of other human rights. Any upcoming legislation must bring current incomes closer to sustainable livelihoods. Farmer groups and plantations can only address human rights issues and environmental challenges if companies share the cost of compliance.

In addition, farmers and workers highlight that meaningful dialogue and collaboration between European companies and their suppliers is crucial. This brings companies understanding of the many ways that business impacts people and the environment, and allows effective collaboration in responding to adverse impacts.

Fairtrade certified farmers and workers have opened the dialogue. We call on European lawmakers to respond, so that the future EU HREDD legislation can make a real difference for those who are most affected by human rights violations and environmental issues.