Markets working to support sustainable development

In the News: 20th March 2015

20 Mar 2015

Here you will find a round-up of all the latest news and events in mechanisms from around the world. 

Agriculture

  • The Guardian recently profiled a number of alternative materials for fashion, manufactured from banana stems, pineapple leaves and coconut husks. A research institute in the Philippines detailed how previously discarded banana stems from the country's plantations, could be used to generate over 300,000 tonnes of fibre. Furthermore, Offset Warehouse, an eco-textile company, is working with organisations in Nepal to ensure ethical pay and conditions operate in the country's banana fabric production, particularly for artisanal workers.
  • Following a meeting in New York, the UN Global Compact and the International Trade Centre have revealed joint plans to boost the competitiveness of small-and medium-sized agribusinesses particularly in efforts aimed at improving global food security and environmental and social sustainability in food production. Building upon the UN Global Compact's development of the 'Food and Agricultural Business' principles, the ITC would work to build capacity among small farmers and SMEs to meet the standards relating to: food security and nutrition; environmental responsibility; the rights of farmers; workers and consumers; land and resource rights; and the dissemination of new technologies and capacities amongst smallholders.
  • The role of companies introducing GMO crops into Africa has come under scrutiny this week. GMO crops, while they may be high yielding have been linked to nutritional problems, the loss of pollinators due to decreased plant diversity, a greater reliance on pesticides, combined with increased vulnerability to drought. These companies have been accused of taking advantage of minimal regulation in African countries, pushing genetic varieties into countries with minimal consultation particularly with small landholders, who can't afford the GMO seeds or associated fertilizers and pesticides. Rather than allowing a number of companies to monopolise food production, based on a few GMO crops, there have been calls for governments to better support small-scale food producers, based upon local markets of seed varieties.

Banana Plantation in the Philippines. Source: Wikipedia

 

Fairtrade

  • Fairtrade International recently opened a consultation process for its Fairtrade Textile Standard, which is under development. Despite many companies in the garment industry changing their practices, particularly following the Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh, there has not been sufficient industry-wide change to the conditions of textile workers. The current draft of the standard focuses on requirements relating to unionization and freedom of association, environmental regulation and workers' health and safety. The consultation runs until May 8, and will inform the final development of the standard.
  • The Independent this week profiled Fairtrade, and questioned why sales of Fairtrade products have slipped in the last year by 4 percent. Part of the explanation given is because of the recent shift by consumers from supermarkets which stock more Fairtrade products like Sainsbury's and the Co-Op to budget retailers such as Lidl and Aldi which stock far less Fairtrade goods. Other reasons cited include the decreasing consumption of sugar with an associated decrease in sales of one of Fairtrade’s highest-performing products. Despite the dip in overall Fairtrade sales, there are still signs that Fairtrade is key to many markets; and is moving into new products, with Mars recently announcing a commitment to sourcing all cocoa for Mars bars in the UK and Ireland from Fairtrade sources. 
  • The Fairtrade Foundation has released a report detailing how involving women as partners in agricultural organisations supports the  development and productivity of the business, but also benefits women. To this end, Fairtrade is arguing that businesses should not just invest in traditional methods to increase female participation like childcare or training, but that by opening up producer organisations and cooperatives to female representation in governance roles can pay both social and financial dividends. A number of organisations in the Global South have been cited as best practice for gender-equality in their governance, including Kuapa Kokoo, a Ghanaian cocoa cooperative which has a female President and women making up almost half of its National executive. 

Cocoa Plantation, Cameroon. Source: Wikipedia

Fisheries

  • Reg Watson, Professor of Fisheries at the University of Tasmania writes in the Ecologist of the need to end high seas fishing. Such activity is often conducted by large multinational fishers, outside the waters of poorer nations, leaving less for local, smaller companies. Furthermore, Watson argues that banning such large fleets in the high seas would reduce fuel burn dramatically.
  • The UN Industrial Development Organisation and the Norwegian Government have teamed up to launch a €4.8 million plan for a sustainable marine fisheries project in Sudan's Red Sea State. The funds will go to providing greater information on the coastal fish stocks, and preparation of up-to-date databases on fish landings in the area.

Climate change and energy

  • The Executive Director of the Green Climate Fund Hela Cheikhrouhou has confirmed that Australia won't be able to direct how its contribution will be spent. The Australian government argued that when it made its belated contribution that it wanted the money spent on so-called "practical projects", in their local region in the Asia Pacific. Cheikhrouhou has clarified that decisions will be made by the fund's board, based upon a series of clear guidelines and priorities, not based on the whims of individual donor countries. Australia has a representative on the board from their Department of Foreign Affairs.
  • Meanwhile, authorities within the Green Climate Fund have released proposals to develop a crowdfunding platform to increase its capacity to assist small-scale 'low-emission and climate resilient projects'.
  • The 'Lighting Africa' project has been expanded into Nigeria, following funding from the World Bank's International Finance Corporation. An initiative of the Global Lighting and Energy Access Partnership, the program forms part of the World Bank Group's efforts towards the goal of Sustainable Energy for all by 2030; and attempts to leverage private sector funding for affordable solar lighting to communities that are off-grid, particularly those in rural areas of Sub-Saharan Africa.