BFP: What do you do?
PE: I am a Senior Advisor Partnerships at the Sustainable Trade Initiative (IDH) in The Netherlands. The Dutch government has granted from it’s development budget IDH with € 105 million for the period 2011-2015 to forge public private partnerships that transform international markets towards sustainability. Focusing on key commodities in the agro and food sector, IDH convenes and invests through their current portfolio of 16 commodity programs in over 50 countries, hereby involving over 200 businesses, 35 civil society actors and government agencies. My role is to engage partners and mobilize resources to support our initiative in the up scaling of international commodity supply chains.
At IDH we build coalitions with local governments, the private sector and the civil society community, with the public goods on poverty alleviation, food security, private sector development and the strengthening of local capacity building institutions in developing countries.
Our focus is on transforming the most common commodity supply chains, such as cotton, cocoa, coffee, timber, tea etc, that have huge impact on environment, production and trade worldwide. IDH partners with multinationals like Adidas, Ahold, Barry-Callebaut, Nestle, Unilever, Mars, to that are committed to sustainable sourcing and see sustainability as their core strategy. Ultimately looking at how we can transform a whole commodity sector.
Some of these large corporate organizations have set ambitious targets regarding sustainable cocoa, coffee, palm oil etc. and cannot meet these targets alone. IDH is a public-private partnership facility, develops and disseminates innovative strategies of smart transformative supply chain models which we match fund on a 1:1 ratio with private investments in our sector programs. We look at how to include small holders in developing countries into a global supply chain and thereby helping to address the Millennium Development Goals 1, 7 and 8. Core of our work is to ensure local private sector development, thus boosting economic activity in the beginning of the supply chains, and ensuring ecological sustainability, partly through creating higher productivity on less land.
BFP: What is the best part about your job?
PE: The best part of my job is that I am pioneering in what I do. My role consists of pioneering, engaging and forging partnerships with other stakeholders to join our approach, hereby leveraging more investments into sustainable supply chain transformation. Create impact with less is key now a days, and therefore donor alignment is a topic widely discussed in Europe and also the US. We’re engaging different stakeholders as partners to our value proposition.
I enjoy investigating new markets and identify opportunities for cooperation, hereby creating impact to developing countries. Understanding as to speak the language of the diverse stakeholder field is important as challenging in my job. In general, the pioneering aspect is the best part of the job.
BFP: What have been your greatest challenges?
PE: The greatest challenge, not only at IDH, but also in my previous roles at the Inter-American Development Bank and the Dutch NGO ICCO, is how to convince other stakeholders when you don’t have a long track record. In our field of work it can be difficult to show results. Results are often fragmented or not always feasible. The challenge is how to convince others of the added value so that they are willing to join you. Getting people to see a process, model, or strategy as success or having the potential to be a success, hereby enabling systemic impact through multi stakeholder engagement. This convincing part can be very difficult, but one has to believe to sell the proposition.
You have different points of view and objectives, looking at the private sector, NGOs, governments and other organizations have their experience, established results and impact. The challenge is working out how to align these interests and priorities all together and co-develop a strategy to tackle the challenges in the supply chains.
BFP: How have you overcome these challenges? What advice, would you give to others?
PE: Being honest and enabling trust by being a neutral facilitator. It’s important that everybody from the different stakeholder backgrounds take ownership in the initiative. Everyone has to have a say and have their input into the program. This helps build trust as all parties have contributed to the process and then all have ownership and feel the commitment to stick to the program and make results happen. Ownership is key.
BFP: If someone wants to do what you do, where should they start?
PE: During my career I have worked in the private sector, for an NGO, and at a multilateral bank. This has all been valuable experience as I have learnt to understand how each of these sectors thinks and talks. I can relate to them and understand their point of view and this helps me to convince them to join us. It’s important to gain experience in different sectors.
My role at IDH is actually the sum of all the experience and knowledge I’ve gained so far, where I interact with all these different stakeholders on a global scale. It’s a challenging role, but perfect for me.
BFP: Finally: what do you hope to get out of being part of the BFP community?
PE: I hope to learn from others, particularly about new ways of thinking, new approaches on poverty alleviation and how business can be included in solutions to socio economic challenges worldwide. It’s a good place for discussions that can trigger you to think differently and look at new models in this area.
Business Fights Poverty helps me to make links with other organisations, that could be a simple discussion or depending on our views, link further with each other around how can we achieve more impact on poverty alleviation.
I also enjoy reading the articles published and looking into the discussions that are happening on the forum, it teaches me a lot about what’s going on and with whom I can connect and interact with.
Thank you to Pedro Eikelenboom for taking the time to do this interview.