Solidaridad Europe was founded in 1969, and has since evolved into a leader of global sustainability initiatives. In Europe, Solidaridad’s activities focus on involving businesses, governments and donors to improve impact.
The role of good European governance in shaping conditions for sustainable economic growth is more important than ever. The Paris climate agreement (2015) and the support from the Dutch, Irish and Norwegian Ministries of Foreign Affairs for our work are clear signs of what is possible with governmental support. We believe the global economy is in need of sustainable leadership, both in the private and public sector.
Companies are increasingly pledging to buy from sustainable suppliers and invest in good production practice. Nonetheless, some businesses do better than others at honouring these corporate social responsibility commitments. We aim to be a constructive yet critical partner. This can prompt a range of actions, which sometimes includes criticising companies to prompt them to continue to act on their good intentions.
Europe is in turmoil. The EU’s relationship with member and non-member countries including Greece, Great Britain, Turkey, Russia and Ukraine is under severe pressure. The European economy is struggling; growth is weak and (youth) unemployment high.
While Europe is dealing with its problems, populist and nationalist political movements are rising in many countries. Foreign aid budgets are under pressure and further spending cuts are foreseen since accommodation of refugees and military interventions are done at the cost of aid budgets.
From 2016 to 2020, the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Solidaridad will join forces to work on sustainable sector transformation in selected agricultural, mining and industrial sectors and on the creation of sustainable management in landscapes of global importance.
For a transition to socially and environmentally sustainable sectors, collaboration at landscape level and an enabling policy environment are key ingredients to support ongoing efforts for good practices in farming, mining and industry.
The Norwegian government pledged grants for two new programmes. One of them aims to create further collaboration between governments, farmers and coffee companies in South America to shift coffee production and sourcing towards zero deforestation. In this programme, companies invest in, farmers adopt and governments design policies for climate-smart agriculture.
The Dutch Postcode Lottery continues to be a major promoter of sustainability with their annual contribution and support for our special programmes.
Growing climate-smart coffee
Solidaridad started a large-scale programme on climate-smart coffee production in Latin America in 2013. The programme, supported by Norad, includes 7,000 small-scale coffee farmers. Results show that it is possible to increase productivity and become more resilient to climate change, while also decreasing the deforestation rate.
Supporting women in cocoa
While women play a big role in the production of cocoa and the consumption of chocolate, they have little influence in the sector. Solidaridad wants to change this and launched the Women In Cocoa & Chocolate (WINCC) network in 2016.
- Fruit & Vegetables
Producing sustainable oranges
Solidaridad and FrieslandCampina Riedel launched a programme in Brazil to promote sustainability throughout the orange sector in 2014. Besides field activities, one of the main priorities was to engage all relevant sector players. The first concrete step towards a sector-wide coalition were taken to scale-up support to small and medium-sized orange producers in Brazil.
Going for good gold
Solidaridad launched a five-year programme in 2016, together with Simavi and Healthy Entrepreneurs, entitled Going for Gold (GfG). The programme seeks to empower women living in and around artisanal and small-scale gold mines in Ghana and Tanzania.
Investing in seafood intelligence
Solidaridad’s aquaculture team in Europe has heavily invested in growing the Seafood Trade Intelligence Portal (STIP). This start-up information service is helping Solidaridad to improve transparency in the rapidly growing and highly diverse seafood industry. It helps to identify areas of potential business investment in order to build a more sustainable industry.
Stopping kidney disease
Solidaridad started the National Postcode Lottery sponsored programme on sugarcane to stop Chronic Kidney Disease (CKDnT) amongst sugarcane workers in Central America in 2013. Solidaridad’s field test showed that improved work practices for cane cutters can stop kidney decline, while increasing labour productivity.
- Palm oil
Working with policy makers
The programme Advocacy for Sustainable and Inclusive Palm Oil Sourcing uses lobby and advocacy to involve businesses and governments in Europe. Solidaridad's objective is to contribute to an enabling policy environment for trade and processing of palm oil produced by smallholders. To achieve that, Solidaridad experts work with policy makers and companies to mainstream best practices into broadly accepted policies.
Sourcing better cotton
While the growth in production of more sustainable cotton is eminent, the uptake by retailers and brands is lagging behind. Solidaridad raises awareness in the cotton and textile sectors to ensure sourcing is aligned with production.
Agreeing on a path forward
The Dutch Agreement on a Sustainable Garment and Textile Sector was signed in 2016 by Solidaridad and a broad coalition of brands, retailers, representative organizations, trade unions and the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The parties have agreed to work together on a more sustainable production of garments and textiles in developing countries.
Improving the dairy industry
Solidaridad believes that dairy production in developing countries needs fundable farm models with a higher milk production per cow and guaranteed milk quality using available technology and producing for the upcoming local dairy markets. In the coming years, Solidaridad will put time and effort in proving this business case in concrete projects in Bangladesh, Myanmar, Tanzania and Ethiopia.
Teaching better practices
From 2014 to early 2016, Solidaridad implemented the UniSol project, together with UNICOOP (the national cooperative union of Paraguay), the UK retailer Marks & Spencer and the Sustainable Trade Initiative (IDH). The project aimed to improve the production practices of 2,400 smallholder soy farmers.
In 2016, the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs gave its partnership with Solidaridad a fresh boost following the evaluation of the successful Farmer Support Programme. Minister for Foreign Trade and Development, Lilianne Ploumen, signed agreements with Solidaridad allocating a total of €80 million by 2020. The strategic partnership is compliant with the ministry’s “aid for trade” policy. Solidaridad has been a pioneer in reforming economies and development policy in this way for several decades.
Europe is dealing with tough issues like the debt crisis, refugees, terrorism and weak economic growth. Public support for international collaboration and foreign aid is under pressure. In the corporate world, the Volkswagen scandal damaged public trust in how industry adheres to the law. Solidaridad’s answer to these growing populist and nationalist sentiments was clearly described in Solidaridad's new multi-annual strategy. To solve the big global issues of the next generation, we need more international collaboration, institutional reforms and good governance.
Solidaridad Netherlands continued to work towards long-term, sector-wide impacts across a range of commodities in far-reaching partnerships with, among other companies, H&M and Unilever. While the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Dutch Postcode Lottery remained primary donors, Solidaridad did broaden its donor base.
Solidaridad launches new approaches for sustainability in 2016
During a turbulent year with many changes in the geopolitical sphere, Solidaridad and its partners united to improve the livelihoods of close to 700,000 producers working on around one million hectare
Delegation to the Netherlands signals China’s plans to adopt responsible sourcing
Solidaridad organized a Chinese soy delegation to the Netherlands in April to learn best practices in responsible procurement and consumption in Europe.
Blog: Ethical branding - overpromise and underdeliver?
In this month's blog, Solidaridad Executive Director Nico Roozen takes a look at the history and pitfalls of sustainability labels which he has been directly involved in over the past 30 years.
Blog: Sustainable development demands gender inclusivity
Solidaridad has established a gender task force to ensure that inclusivity remains an effective component of its global sustainability programmes.
More companies to be assessed in second sustainable cotton ranking
Pesticide Action Network (PAN) UK, Solidaridad and WWF have released the list of companies that will be assessed in the new round of their Sustainable Cotton Ranking to be published in October 2017.
Solidaridad invites fashion companies to pick sustainable cotton
The Agreement on Sustainable Garment & Textile signed this year inspired many companies in the Dutch textiles industry to commit to taking steps towards becoming a more sustainable sector.