Knowledge for a sustainable world

Authors: Jeremy Haggar

The role of Fairtrade in improving the well-being of small-scale producers is widely recognised, however there has not yet been a systematic study of how and why Fairtrade companies are investing in environmental sustainability of their producers to ensure the provision of ecosystem services.

Ecosystem services are defined as those which support life, regulate the environment, provide products or meet cultural or aesthetic needs.

Jeremy Haggar, Head of NRI's Agriculture, Health and Environment Department, has written a report, "Supporting ecosystem services in Fairtrade value chains", which examines ecosystem service projects funded by companies that specialise in the well-established Fairtrade product groups of coffee and cocoa.

The report, written in collaboration with TWIN, looks at why Fairtrade companies support ecosystem services, how the companies engage their suppliers to implement the projects and what impact the interventions have on the communities they support.

Jeremy reviews some best-practice approaches and recommends that initiatives should:
• be closely aligned with the environmental needs and aims of producer organisations
• seek to engage with local policies
• seek scientific advice to assess whether the desired ecological impacts are being delivered.

A key finding of the report is that for Fairtrade companies, support for the environment has moved from being part of their social responsibility to being a core part of their business planning to tackle the threat to security of supply due to climate change and environmental degradation.