Launch OECD-FAO Guidance for Responsible Agricultural Supply Chains

At a high-level event at the OECD headquarters last Friday, the OECD and FAO launched the OECD-FAO Guidance for Responsible Agricultural Supply Chains. This Guidance was developed to help enterprises observe standards of responsible business conduct in order to ensure that their operations do not lead to adverse impacts and contribute to sustainable development.                                                                                                              

Douglas Frantz, Deputy Secretary-General of the OECD, and Jamie Morrison, Strategic Programme Leader of the FAO both gave an introduction on the importance of responsible agricultural supply chains. They showed that there is a broad consensus on the necessity of preparing a sustainable response to the multiple challenges that are facing us: feeding an ever growing world population; meeting our commitments of the Paris Climate Agreement; and controlling the increasing globalization, complexity and length of the agricultural chains. The Guidance is meant to help governments, business and civil society to build responsible supply chains and solve current issues of forced labor, land grabbing and environmental problems.

After this introduction, five panelists representing governments, business and civil society discussed the potential impacts of enterprises operating in agricultural supply chains on human, labor and tenure rights and proposed good practices to address those impacts. France and the Netherlands are known to be advocates of the OECD work on responsible business conduct. Their governments were represented in the panel.

Marten van den Berg, Director-General for Foreign Economic Relations at the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, stated that the Netherlands, being the second exporter of agrifood products in the world, is conscientious of its responsibility. Therefore, a priority of the Dutch EU Presidency is to enhance the coherence of trade and development policies and their contribution to sustainable development. Van den Berg sees the Guidance for Responsible Agricultural Supply Chains as one of the ways to achieve that. The Guidance provides governments with a tool to better understand the existing standards in the agricultural supply chain. Furthermore, it starts the discussion between the partners in the chain and stimulates them to apply the standards. In this way, the Guidance can strengthen multi-stakeholder sector cooperation that will lead to leverage and a level playing field for business in global value chains that respect the principles of corporate social responsibility.

Ambassador Pierre Duquesne of the French delegation to the OECD emphasized the strong French-Dutch cooperation on international responsible business conduct. Duquesne considers the Guidance to be a useful tool to further fuel France’s activities on international responsible business conduct on the topics of land grabbing, environmental law and the agro-industrial supply chain.

The two representatives of multinational enterprises stated that they will use the Guidance to create more clarity and conformity on the numerous standards all players in the supply chain have to meet. Jerôme Bédier, Deputy Chief Executive Officer of Carrefour, also mentioned that the Guidance will be a useful instrument to engage the growing number of local suppliers to sustainable production processes. Bauke Rouwers, President of Unilever France, said Unilever aims to be 100% responsible agricultural supply chain by 2020. The Guidance could help achieve this goal in, for instance, the palm oil supply chain.

Pascal Canfin, CEO of WWF France, pointed out that the realization of responsible global supply chains needs a global approach in which all stakeholders cooperate to achieve a common goal. The building of responsible supply chains will be a complex and long term project. In this project, WWF aims to help businesses with the traceability and certification of their sustainable products.

During the discussion, the panelists agreed on the importance of enhancing responsible business conduct on the agenda of the G7 and G20. Furthermore, both governments and business emphasized that a coherent, worldwide approach on responsible business conduct is needed in order to make worldwide progress. This Guidance is considered to be an important step in shaping this global approach.

At a high-level event at the OECD headquarters last Friday, the OECD and FAO launched the OECD-FAO Guidance for Responsible Agricultural Supply Chains. This Guidance was developed to help enterprises observe standards of responsible business conduct in order to ensure that their operations do not lead to adverse impacts and contribute to sustainable development.                                                                                                               

Douglas Frantz, Deputy Secretary-General of the OECD, and Jamie Morrison, Strategic Programme Leader of the FAO both gave an introduction on the importance of responsible agricultural supply chains. They showed that there is a broad consensus on the necessity of preparing a sustainable response to the multiple challenges that are facing us: feeding an ever growing world population; meeting our commitments of the Paris Climate Agreement; and controlling the increasing globalization, complexity and length of the agricultural chains. The Guidance is meant to help governments, business and civil society to build responsible supply chains and solve current issues of forced labor, land grabbing and environmental problems.

After this introduction, five panelists representing governments, business and civil society discussed the potential impacts of enterprises operating in agricultural supply chains on human, labor and tenure rights and proposed good practices to address those impacts. France and the Netherlands are known to be advocates of the OECD work on responsible business conduct. Their governments were represented in the panel.

Marten van den Berg, Director-General for Foreign Economic Relations at the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, stated that the Netherlands, being the second exporter of agrifood products in the world, is conscientious of its responsibility. Therefore, a priority of the Dutch EU Presidency is to enhance the coherence of trade and development policies and their contribution to sustainable development. Van den Berg sees the Guidance for Responsible Agricultural Supply Chains as one of the ways to achieve that. The Guidance provides governments with a tool to better understand the existing standards in the agricultural supply chain. Furthermore, it starts the discussion between the partners in the chain and stimulates them to apply the standards. In this way, the Guidance can strengthen multi-stakeholder sector cooperation that will lead to leverage and a level playing field for business in global value chains that respect the principles of corporate social responsibility.

Ambassador Pierre Duquesne of the French delegation to the OECD emphasized the strong French-Dutch cooperation on international responsible business conduct. Duquesne considers the Guidance to be a useful tool to further fuel France’s activities on international responsible business conduct on the topics of land grabbing, environmental law and the agro-industrial supply chain.

The two representatives of multinational enterprises stated that they will use the Guidance to create more clarity and conformity on the numerous standards all players in the supply chain have to meet. Jerôme Bédier, Deputy Chief Executive Officer of Carrefour, also mentioned that the Guidance will be a useful instrument to engage the growing number of local suppliers to sustainable production processes. Bauke Rouwers, President of Unilever France, said Unilever aims to be 100% responsible agricultural supply chain by 2020. The Guidance could help achieve this goal in, for instance, the palm oil supply chain.

Pascal Canfin, CEO of WWF France, pointed out that the realization of responsible global supply chains needs a global approach in which all stakeholders cooperate to achieve a common goal. The building of responsible supply chains will be a complex and long term project. In this project, WWF aims to help businesses with the traceability and certification of their sustainable products.

During the discussion, the panelists agreed on the importance of enhancing responsible business conduct on the agenda of the G7 and G20. Furthermore, both governments and business emphasized that a coherent, worldwide approach on responsible business conduct is needed in order to make worldwide progress. This Guidance is considered to be an important step in shaping this global approach.