Rethinking and Reframing Sustainable Sourcing – Creating Shared Value

By Alison Ward, Sustainability Consultant

Rethinking and Reframing Sustainable Sourcing:
Creating Shared Value

Tomorrow – Tuesday 5th February (at 7pm UK) and on Thursday 7th February (2pm UK), I will be discussing the concept of shared value as part of a webinar with Dr Helen Crowley, Conservation & Ecosystem Services Specialist, PPR; and Liesl Truscott, Director Farm Engagement Textile Exchange.

To register for the webinar, click here.

We hear a lot about the concept of shared value but what does this mean in practice as we look to build the business case for sustainable supply chains. And what does this mean for supply chain partners?

Is there a new supply chain dynamic emerging?

While price will always be a factor in commodities and supply chain sourcing, availability has the potential to play an even bigger role in changing the dynamics in supply chains.

We are already seeing how political actions and climate change play a role in the determining availability of core commodities.

These changes will create a new dynamic in the relationship between buyer and seller. In the future will farmers and farm workers be able to have more choice over who they sell their produce to and at what price? And will buyers need to become partners of choice?

In South Africa we are already seeing farm workers demanding an increase in share in the profits of the wine they produce.

Business needs to begin to look at new models to plan for a different commodity future.

Shared Value – at the Bottom of the Pyramid

For smallholder farmers who are the ‘powerhouse’ of agriculture, creating shared value needs to address not only value chain requirements but to ensure that programmes are built on joint principles.

As businesses we have a strong desire to invest in philanthropic programmes and while these can have a short term impact, too often I have seen how the relationship gets stuck as donor/ recipient. We need to develop business cases which drive business value and also operate in-line with our own values.

Rather than create blueprints, we need to develop co-created approaches which are truly owned by all in the supply chain. I have seen the power that ownership brings to cocoa communities, with communities becoming advocates for their own futures. Leading to tangible outcomes: good roads, access to electricity, health clinics, teachers in schools ….

As part of this, it is key to understand local empowerment. Having been in many cocoa communities where women don’t have a voice in village meetings, addressing women’s roles and child rights are essential in building successful programmes.

I think I have raised more questions than I have answered – but I look forward to discussing new models for shared value later this week.

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2 Responses

  1. Dear Alison,

    You’re right, availability and more competition from different traditional and modern agrifood buyers are changing conditions and opening new opportunities for small-scale farmers to get a better share in value chains. In modern and formal or in more informal trading relationships, or combining both, farmers around the world are making more informed choices. Those are some of the findings of a three years work and our recently published book on ‘Small producer agency in the globalised market: making choices in a changing world’ which I hope you find interesting and useful, glad to receive your comments.

    Ethel del Pozo-Vergnes

    Researcher – Sustainable Markets Group – IIED – London


  2. Dear Ethel

    Many thanks for sharing the link to your new report, which raises some important questions.

    I agree that we need move from seeing farmers as beneficiaries to  “active economic actors”, and that we need to develop ways of creating value not just with commercial farmers or those who regularly trade but with the other 90% of farmers or casual workers in the agricultural sector (pages 3, 9 and 13 in your report).

    I think finding successful models for intervention is critical – and I will be reading the case studies in your report with interest.

    Thank you  Alison

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