Fairtrade releases human rights and environmental due diligence guidance for farming communities, including cocoa workers

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The Fairtrade movement has taken an important step to help smallholder farmer organizations, including those in cocoa markets, introduce a new Human Rights and Environmental Due Diligence (HREDD) awareness guide, reports Neill Barston.

The issue will notably be on the agenda at the World Confectionery Conference in Brussels on September 9, with Fairtrade International joining our ranks as the keynote speaker at the event – ​​registrations still open for the industry showcase. .

Entitled Implementing Human Rights and Environmental Due Diligence: Why and How to Align Your Policies and Processes with HREDD, offers what is believed to be a world first that aims to empower farmers and workers in global supply chains and arm them with the knowledge – how to influence companies on HRD practices and impact the implementation of HRD legislation.

Indeed, as previously reported, the European Commission is currently considering introducing key legislation in this major policy area, with a broad consensus of key confectionery and cocoa companies keen to support the legislation, ending a center-centric approach for decades on voluntary sector measures.

“HREDD can greatly improve the livelihoods and other human rights of farmers and workers operating in global supply chains,” explained Meri Hyrske-Fischer, Human Rights Expert at Fairtrade’s HREDD Center of Excellence in Helsinki, Finland. “However, HREDD will not make much of a difference if the farmers and agricultural workers it is supposed to help are left powerless and excluded from decision-making processes.”

“With this guide, and the related trainings and workshops we will be running with agricultural cooperatives in Africa, Asia and Latin America, Fairtrade is now providing farmers with much-needed support to make HREDD work for them. “, she added.

According to Fairtrade, HREDD regulations are steadily gaining traction around the world as lawmakers look for ways to compel companies to proactively end human rights abuses and environmental harm within their businesses. supply chains.

They represent a systematic process for managing adverse impacts on human rights and the environment. It is a company or organization committed to respecting human rights and the environment; identify key human rights and environmental issues related to its operations and value chains; take steps to address and remedy such issues; track their progress; and communicate about their work to key stakeholders.

However, value is often unevenly distributed in many global supply chains, leaving farmers’ organizations without the resources to prevent and address human rights abuses in their part of the supply chain.

“In fact, the international HREDD guidelines recognize that retailers, brands and commercial companies must participate in the resolution of violations to which they contribute in their supply chains,” noted Maija Lumme, Head of Trade Partnerships at Fairtrade’s HREDD Center of Excellence.

“Furthermore, it is essential that companies and other actors seeking to implement HRRD in their supply chains consult with and support the people whose working and living conditions they seek to improve. To increase women’s incomes, for example, it makes sense to ask what women farmers and workers see as their greatest obstacles and possible solutions. This cannot be emphasized enough.

Although HRDHR may be a foreign concept to the more than 1,500 farmer organizations in high-risk areas around the world that Fairtrade works with, compliance with Fairtrade Standards means that these organizations have nevertheless implemented due diligence activities. on human rights and the environment for some time. long duration. In other words, the work of the DREDD is well advanced.

‘Many farmers’ organizations may not have heard of HREDD in itselfbut the specific activities of HREDD have long been familiar to Fairtrade producer organizations that comply with the requirements of the Fairtrade Standards,” explained Ms. Lilian Maina, Head of Social Compliance and Risk at Fairtrade Africa.

“Risk assessment, training of staff and farmers on environmental and social issues such as child labor, development and implementation of policies on gender, child labor or forced labor, this is all part of HRDD, and many farmer organizations will be happy to find that they are already working hard on HREDD,” said Ms. Maina. “The Fairtrade HREDD guide will now help them to make the connection between what farmer organizations have done and which is now increasingly expected.

In addition, the Fairtrade HREDD guide, the first of its kind for farmer organizations, will help farmers and agricultural workers build on their existing HREDD work and continue their human rights and environmental due diligence journey. and the development of a comprehensive HREDD process.

“At Fairtrade, we know that agricultural cooperatives need to strengthen their HRDD work. We also know that all stakeholders, from retailers to brands to traders, need to support farmers with the resources needed to make HREDD a reality,” continued Ms. Hyrske-Fischer.

“That’s why we believe this guide is the most direct route to achieving the greatest impact: through pragmatic advice, training and advice that agricultural cooperatives can use immediately to strengthen their own work and also to influence global HREDD standards and practices.”

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