25 Jan 2023

Identifying risks is the first step to tackling them – Fairtrade launches new map

Peru Banana producers 2021_870
Banana producer packs bananas
Ángela Ponce / Fairtrade / Fairpicture

The tool shines a spotlight on the root causes behind the most salient human rights and environmental risks in commodities and countries where Fairtrade works. It shows how thorough risk assessment and collaboration with farmers and workers are cornerstones of sustainable supply chains.

One in five employees globally lives in poverty, agricultural production is responsible for 70 percent of freshwater withdrawals across the world, child labour is increasing – and the list of issues could go on, making clear that human rights violations and environmental harm are widespread in global supply chains.

Fairtrade’s newly launched risk map identifies and visualises the greatest human rights and environmental risks in the sectors where we are active, based on commodity, geography and organisation-related impacts on people and the environment. It also helps to understand how these risks are inseparably interconnected with their root causes, such as poverty, inequality, and exploitation.

Currently the risk map covers coffee, cocoa, bananas, wine grapes and honey. It will be expanded to more products in the coming months.

Dialogue and participatory processes have played a major part in creating the map. It is the product of our ongoing risk and impact assessment work – a collaborative effort with input from farmer cooperatives, workers and plantation management, Fairtrade staff from six continents, and external experts.

Who the map is for

The map supports all actors in global value chains in their risk assessment, from farmer and worker organisations to retailers and brands. Particularly European companies are under increasing legal obligation to carry out such risk assessments and to prevent, mitigate and remediate the greatest risks in their supply chains.

The tool provides detailed information to support solution-oriented dialogue and collaboration between all actors in a supply chain. It offers businesses valuable insight on where to direct their sustainability efforts and support.

“The risk map can facilitate a transparent dialogue between supply chain actors and help companies in building effective responses to address the greatest risks, avoiding further harm to farming communities and the planet”, said Marike de Peña, President of the Fairtrade Producer Network for Latin America and the Caribbean CLAC.

Partnering for due diligence

Fairtrade has built a deep understanding of the human rights and environmental issues in global supply chains and works to address them. We have chosen to engage in sectors and regions where these risks are prevalent, as this is where our efforts are most needed. Based on our experience, we can support companies in each step of implementing their due diligence responsibilities, and particularly in the identification, prevention and mitigation of harms and risks.

“Fairtrade has been a pioneer in advancing human rights in business for more than 30 years. Due diligence must not be just about internal processes and requirements to business partners, it needs to be about dialogue, collaboration and changing one’s own practices, to improve people’s lives and protect the environment”, said Fairtrade’s Business and Human Rights Director Tytti Nahi.

However, no organisation or certification scheme can guarantee that a supply chain is free of human rights and environmental violations. Many risks are deeply rooted in poverty, inequality and exploitation, and it takes the collective effort of companies, farmers, workers, governments and civil society to effectively tackle them in the long run. This is why the use of certification should never be the only measure a company takes to prevent, mitigate and remediate the greatest risks in their supply chains.

Risks of talking about risks

Being transparent about systemic human and environmental issues can also be risky for farmers and workers in itself. If companies are not ready to shoulder their part of the responsibility, they might opt to cut all ties rather than go through the process of mitigating and remediating risks together with farmers and workers.

Ignoring risks has never made them go away though – which is why Fairtrade encourages all companies to use the new map as an opportunity to start a dialogue with farmers and workers and take concrete steps to make global supply chains more sustainable.