Strategy

Solidaridad’s strategy for the period 2021-2025 builds on the 50-year journey this organization has been following towards an economy that works for all. It explains the path towards our ambition to give farmers and other producers a say again in maintaining our planet’s ability to safely support humanity.

Our strategy in a nutshell

Reclaiming sustainability is the start of an exciting journey. We want to bring sustainability back to the hundreds of millions of farmers, small scale miners and workers, who still face poverty, are dealing with growing inequality, and are struggling to absorb the blows of climate change.

We want to bring sustainability back home.

Strategic focus

Glocality

We need a new economy. An economy that works for all, with a better balance between local economic development and globalization. This better balance — which we refer to as glocality — will require increased and renewed ownership of sustainability by farmers and workers.

Many farmers and workers are connected to global value chains. Through buyers and wholesalers, their products make their way to big global markets. This is particularly true for products like coffee, cocoa, tea, sugar, palm oil and soy. 

The main problem within these big global supply chains is inequality: the powerful in the supply chain are getting richer, whereas the producer does not benefit from the increased value in their commodity chain.

A key objective in the pathway of sector transformation is to decrease inequality in the supply chain and to ensure that farmers and workers earn a decent living income.

The COVID-19 pandemic has underlined the importance of a localized robust and resilient food system that functions in all circumstances, and is capable of ensuring access to a sufficient supply of affordable food from nearby farmers for citizens. Soon, over 80 percent of the world’s food will be consumed in cities. Now, many of the food products consumed in these cities are highly processed industry products with lots of fat, sugar and salt, purchased from global sellers. If more people in these cities would be able to consume food that is locally grown and processed, fitting in a sustainable and healthy diet (such as the planetary health diet), it can have significant benefits:

  • Consuming locally produced food will increase the income of nearby farmers  
  • Less food global food transport will reduce carbon emissions
  • Increased intake of fresh products that fit in a healthy diet will reduce obesitas and decrease diet-related diseases. 
  • Healthy diets are typically more sustainable
  • Waste from cities can be re-used on farms, creating a circular food system

This pathway is particularly relevant in commodity sectors like fruits and vegetables and dairy.
Schools are an ideal environment to kickstart these local food systems and promote planetary health diets. Learning to eat healthy at a young age will have long-term effects and students will take their new behaviour home to their local communities.  In many countries, students consume at least one daily main meal at school, making it an interesting market for local food products. Also other public institutions like hospitals and governments can be interesting partners for stimulating demand for local products. At an estimated €50 billion annually, the total social food service market in the lower- and middle income countries is significant. 

This third pathway is committed to improving labour conditions for workers. This pathway is particularly relevant within the more industrial commodity sectors like mining and textiles and larger processing industries.

Our current economic system favours capital way more than it does labour. This is harmful to the wellbeing of communities. The need for decent work as a good practice is an understatement with half of the working world in vulnerable and poverty jobs. On top of that, many workers on farms, in mines, and in industry face the risk of losing their job as a consequence of modernization. With capital intensive technology, usually leading to automation, mechanization, and urbanization comes jobless growth. The fourth industrial revolution is coming in fast, and jobs are at stake. Solidaridad will stimulate producers (farmers, factories, mine owners and companies) to offer decent work, safe working conditions, and true living wages for all workers, while paying special attention to the specific conditions and needs of women and youth.

Reclaim Sustainability

As sustainability goes mainstream, more and more companies are keen to show off their credentials by adopting different types of certification, labels and ethical commitments. Analysing the emerging initiatives, we see an erosion of credibility. That’s why we need to reclaim the concept. Sustainability is about prosperity, inclusivity and production in balance with nature. Triple bottom line, and for Solidaridad: farmers first. 

After 50 years of partnerships with every single actor in supply chains as diverse as textiles, soy, livestock, gold, sugar, and palm oil, we have learned a lot. We’ve learned that voluntary standards aren’t enough. Remember the fairtrade mark? It was a great start, but it didn’t create enough change. 

The majority of smallholder farmers, workers, and miners are still below the living income line. So while fair trade was a success, and we still work to increase consumer demand for sustainably produced products, more is needed to achieve real change. In our 2016-2020 strategy, we already moved beyond certification by working on the development of national sustainability standards and by offering digital farming solutions based on self-assessments, peer reviews, and continual improvements. In the coming years, we want to take it further. 

It’s time for a more fundamental approach to sustainability. We need to give farmers and workers ownership of sustainability again. We will urge companies and governments to walk the talk: it is not enough to express commitment toward sustainability. Things really need to change at the farmers and workers level! We will increase our commitment to monitor worldwide progress of sustainability, for example by publishing periodical reports on the state of smallholder farming in the world. Only sustainability that really changes realities for farmers and workers in a positive way can be considered genuine sustainability. 

The outdated idea of having only one success measure; profit, needs to end. We want to partner with CEOs and investors so they can lead this change, and move from false product claims to genuine sustainability policies, and from elite controlled supply chains to inclusive ownership models.

So, the problem we are facing together is pretty simple really – we need to redistribute wealth.

More of the price we pay for our food and products should go to the farmers and workers who made it, and our supply chains and infrastructure should be enabling and supporting them to farm and produce in sustainable ways.

Sustainability Principles

When even sustainability initiatives designed to improve livelihoods are failing smallholder farmers and workers, we have to conclude that sustainability has lost its true meaning. There is no such thing as sustainability when the people who produce those goods live in poverty and when natural resources are not managed sustainably. We want to bring sustainability back to its owners: the producers. Sustainability needs to work through in their daily realities. It needs to translate into respect for people, planet and a fair share for everyone in the chain.

Therefore, we validate all our interventions against three core principles:

Interventions can only be truly successful if there is a business case for the producer. If there is no win for them, change will not last. This means that sustainability should result in more income for farmers and workers and in better jobs. More of what we spend in the shops should go to the people who produced it.

This do-no-harm principle includes taking the effects of climate change into account, nature conservation, and better care for soil, water, and air. Whatever farming communities produce, and however they produce it, it should not degrade soil, water or air.

Ensure that groups that are often neglected — like women, youth, and indigenous peoples — have equal opportunities to participate and benefit. We need to address the imbalance of power, and ensure that communities have genuine ownership, through established participation, influence, and the ability to affect change.

Implementation

The implementation of our programmes to achieve genuine sustainability take place in in four intervention levels, measured through 14 Key Performance Indicators

  • The producer level: Good practices
  • The business level: Business ecosystems
  • The policy level: Enabling policy environment
  • The market level: Market uptake 

The four levels are integrally interconnected. Their overall goal is to build resilient communities through sustainable supply chains, in prosperity, balance with nature and inclusivity. Our main strategic pathways for change are cutting through all four levels in order to create an economy that works for all.

Four intervention areas

Good Practices

Good practices refers not only to agriculture practices but include, for example, financial literacy, paying fair wages, protection of workers, good management practices and legal compliance. But also the use of digital solutions to enhance intelligence as a prerequisite for market and finance access. Everything we do on the farm or industry site falls under the area of good practices. Through our comprehensive programme of good practices farmers will improve their social, environmental, and economic performance.

Supportive Business Ecosystems

Farmers and workers depend on their surrounding business ecosystem partners, such as service suppliers, input providers and off takers. Farmers can only make a transition towards more professional and profitable business if they can count on a strong and supportive business ecosystem. 

Enabling Policy Environment

Supportive policies can come in many forms. They include both formal and informal, voluntary and mandatory codes, standards, regulations, policies, norms, and practices. While voluntary improvements are great, more mandatory policies and structures are often needed to bring things to real scale. Supportive policies can help to bring the late majority on board, once the few early innovators have shown the benefits of certain sustainable practices. Ideally, there is a smart mix of mandatory, voluntary, national, and international measures that are needed to foster business respect for human rights.

Increased market uptake

In order for sustainable practices to become truly successful, there needs to be a demand for sustainably produced products. That is why we also work on the demand side of the market. Historically, we have worked with private companies in international supply chains and consumers in Europe, and the US. In the next 5 years, we expand our scope to local consumers in the global south, especially in the (mega)cities, and to local private companies and governments in their role of public procurers.

Accelerating through innovations

Innovation is the key to success for any organization and vital for growth, but for Solidaridad it is also the only way to solve some of the imminent and persisting problems we are facing. Innovation is not a goal in itself. It can only be truly successful if it is profitable for its users, easily replicable, not too costly, and improving the efficiency or impact of what we are already doing. It’s also crucial that it creates traction with supply chain partners, citizens, and the donor community.

We focus our efforts in the areas where we feel that our current solutions have not reached sufficient speed at scale, more specifically: global sector transformation, creating decent work, and leveraging the potential of local urban markets. It is in these areas, that we need innovation that accelerates change most.

Organization

The network is supported by a secretariat which is providing global guidance and support on strategy standards, guidelines and policies, and innovation. Our organizational structure, principles and values, HR, Communication and Project Monitoring and Evaluation are also all optimally geared towards the effective implementation of this strategy.

We have a robust framework for integrity in place with a code of conduct, a whistleblowing protocol, reporting procedure, investigation protocol and a victim support and protection policy. To make the integrity framework easily accessible for staff members and beneficiaries, the content will be contextualized in the different continents, countries and cultures we work in.

Also for solid financial management and control we have the necessary systems well in place. We work with one global financial system that is interconnected with our main information system and able to deliver smart management information to all levels in the organization. We have a well functioning risk management system and internal control and review teams. We remain committed to the  principles of fairness and transparency for establishing an organizational culture that thrives on excellence, next to a robust organizational control and integrity strategy. 

Learning is an integral and important part of overall strategy and leadership in Solidaridad. We strive to create a culture of learning that allows staff and the organization as a whole to improve, learn and grow.

All programmes and projects that will be developed as part of this strategy will be developed following a systemized approach of planning, implementation and monitoring, evaluation, and assessment and analysis. In order to monitor and measure the effectiveness of our work, we have set 13 global outcome indicators on which we consistently collect data — when possible through digital tools. In 2022, a mid-term review of this strategy will take place to review the theory of change, assess progress, and collect evidence and learnings on the main assumptions. An end evaluation is planned in 2025 to analyze the impact of Solidaridad’s work in this strategic period and inform the new strategy post 2025. 

Solidaridad aims to reach a revenue of around € 100 million in 2025. In order to make an impact at scale, we need a certain size. The projected income will be generated from official development aid, embassies, multilateral organizations, private sector companies, endowments, other philanthropic organizations, legacies, and private gifts.