6 Jul 2023

Five key takeaways from Fairtrade's Change Day 2023

Change Day h0078

On 21 June, Fairtrade’s Change Day 2023 convened leaders from across the world to discuss the existing – and future – challenges to trading fairly.

From a bolder legislative context on human rights and the environment, to losing the next generation of farmers, the tone of the day was set at once by Lynette Thorstensen, Chair of Fairtrade International’s Board of Directors, quoting Socrates: “The secret of change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new.”

Here are five takeaways from it:

1. Producers are key actors of change. But governments must listen.

Producers play a critical role in shaping a sustainable future. They are the ones who grow, harvest, and process the products that eventually reach consumers' hands.

At Fairtrade, producers are involved in decision-making processes; their expertise is shaping our policies and standards. But they must be included in policy discussions as well, particularly when facing critical challenges such as climate change.

As pointed out by Angela Reithuber, Program Manager – Elevating Agricultural Adaptation, Ban Ki-Moon Centre for Global Citizens, “it is crucial that legislators understand that effective and fair regulations are enacted in consultation with the key actors of change: the producers”.

2. Even with bolder legislation, voluntary standards are still relevant.

What role is left for voluntary certifications when current and upcoming legislation is increasingly acknowledging the need to regulate business practices on human rights and the environment?

A panel featuring businesses, government representatives and Fairtrade sat down to discuss just that.

Over the past 30 years, Fairtrade has been leading the way in setting precedents and advocating for due diligence legislation, which beyond strong voluntary initiatives, is essential to ensure that human and environmental rights are being respected at each step of a product’s journey”, reminded Sandra Uwera – Global CEO, Fairtrade International.

3. The next generation cares – and takes action – on sustainability.

From activists in Germany to farmers in Brasil, our next generation panel brought together young people across the world with a common drive: a fairer future.

The panel crystalised how imperative it is to attract and support young individuals to pursue careers in farming and sustainability.

We need to make sure that the next generation of producers has incentives to choose farming as their first and preferred career path. In the absence of such incentives, there will be no one left to produce our food.”, expressed Fabiano Henrique Diniz, a coffee producer from Brazil and Fairtrade ambassador. However, “not everyone thinks of producing in a sustainable manner, because it involves costs. To do so, we need fair prices”.

4. Switching to sustainable production is imperative. Yet, who bears the cost?

As higher temperatures become more prevalent, switching to resilient and sustainable production is critical. And yet, at a cost that farming communities who struggle to earn a living income, are not able to afford.

We need a strong commitment from businesses, producers, governments and consumers to get there. With the understanding that paying fair prices is non-negotiable. Climate justice and social justice are linked, and if producers are not able to afford a living income, it becomes even more difficult for them to re-shape agricultural practices.

Juan Pablo Solis – Senior Advisor, Climate and Environment, Fairtrade International said “it is essential that we reflect on how we can build secure food systems, beyond our commitments to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and fostering decent livelihoods through our Standards. At Fairtrade, it is a process already on its way.”

5. New services on HREDD for Businesses

Tytti Nahi, Business and Human Rights Director at Fairtrade International, introduced our brand new HREDD services. The new set of advisory services accompanies businesses of all sizes in their HREDD journey.

It offers companies support to identify serious human rights and environmental risks, and advice on effective measures for addressing them. Fairtrade’s unique way of working fosters stakeholder engagement and offers rightsholders genuine opportunities for voicing their views and influencing due diligence activities.

With new challenges come new opportunities, but only if we change and adapt to embrace them. Collectively and individually we all have a role to play to build a fairer future. Change Day was a reminder of this and a trigger for reflection. We look forward to working closer together with all of you to make change happen.