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Building a Roadmap to Sustainability in Agro-commodity Production

Aidenvironment, NewForesight and IIED have been awarded the contract to compile a roadmap to promote large-scale implementation of socially and environmentally sustainable agro-commodity production that is also inclusive of smallholders. This research was commissioned by the International Finance Corporation (IFC), supported by the Dutch Directorate-General for International Cooperation (DGIS), IDH Sustainable Trade Initiative and the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO).

The first part of this research showed that, despite rapid growth, Voluntary Standard Systems (VSS) have not yet crossed the tipping point to full sustainable market transformation and most VSS do not yet seem able to fully realize their sustainability ambitions. While they do appear to have an important role to play in sustainable market transformation in some sectors, there are concerns about their applicability in markets characterized by a considerable number of individual smallholders. This lack of sector organization in combination with the economic vulnerability of smallholders damages the business case for certification on comprehensive sustainability standards. It is expected that VSS can to some extent increase their market shares by increasing efficiency (e.g. through cost-efficient assurance methods, context-specific or modular standards, and flexibility in the eligibility of group schemes), but it is likely that they will soon face constraints in further scaling up as this requires the higher hanging fruit in their systems.

Convincing more smallholders to adopt sustainable methods and making certification attractive to them will require complementary instruments such as public policy, sector improvement services, and finance. Phase I of this research explored several of these instruments and identified a model to prioritize them according to the specific conditions within a sector. Phase II of this research will further develop this model and identify solutions to specific constraints on full sustainable market transformation, including the scaling up of VSS.

Click here to download the Phase I report or check out our report section.

For more information contact Jan Willem Molenaar.