‘Not just due diligence’: Solidaridad accelerates debate on need for sustainability regulations

20 July 2020

After decades of relying on voluntary sustainability initiatives, supply chains are still troubled by deforestation, unsustainable practices, and poor livelihoods for farmers and workers. Solidaridad now says it is time to get serious about mandatory rules. A new paper published by Solidaridad aims to fuel the debate on introducing regulation at EU level that would require intergovernmental partnerships, measures to support farmers in the Global South, and mandatory due diligence from businesses. These would not replace voluntary initiatives, but would instead complement them with a compulsory approach.

Head of Policy Influencing at Solidaridad Europe, Boukje Theeuwes, says:

“We must move beyond the voluntary approach and look at a smart mix of options that can further address the unequal distribution of power and value for workers and farmers, which are the root causes of many issues in supply chains.”

Soy farmers in Mozambique. © Solidaridad / Michel Boulogne

Changing gear

Critically though, the proposals emphasise the need to avoid unintended consequences for farmers, miners and workers who may already be in vulnerable positions. Poorly thought-out regulation, the paper warns, can risk a de facto ban from the EU market that robs poorer producers of their income, or inadvertently reduces transparency if companies fear reputational damage when publishing their due diligence reports. 

These outcomes must be avoided, warns Solidaridad, but insists that the status quo cannot continue. According to the paper ‘Changing gear; accelerating inclusive and sustainable production through a new European regulatory framework’, inaction is no longer an option; saying “it is time to move the discussion beyond whether a regulatory framework is necessary onto how an effective framework should look.”

A smart-mix of measures

The new regulatory framework proposed by Solidaridad would introduce binding instruments at EU level, with seven distinct aims; including that it fosters ongoing partnerships between governments, aligns with established international standards and guidelines, and proactively supports producers and actors on the ground to help make the transition to sustainable production.

“Only by doing this,” argues Theeuwes, “can we ensure that the products consumed in the EU are those that do not exploit farmers, producers, workers, and their environments. There is no single solution to these complex problems, but we want to see progress in the discussion on how a European Regulatory Framework can promote a smart mix of measures that helps us build a sustainable future.”

The position paper is now being given to policy specialists and stakeholders in EU institutions and around the world, ahead of further discussions with business groups, lawmakers, farmers and workers in the Global South.

You can read and download the position paper here.

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  • Contact Information

    Boukje Theeuwes

    Senior Policy Advisor