Fairtrade Foundation assesses female participation in international supply chains
As the world prepares to celebrate International Women's Day this Sunday (8 March), Equal Harvest, a new study published by the Fairtrade Foundation, states that enabling more women to join the organisations that grow produce such as bananas, cotton and tea, could benefit businesses and support global development, as well as bringing gains for women.
Although women make up almost half the agricultural workforce in developing countries, they account for just 22 percent of the farmers registered as members of the 1,210 small producer organisations that are certified by Fairtrade.
Legal, social and cultural norms often act as barriers to women’s participation, for example, membership of co-operatives can be dependent on owning land or crops, some agricultural work may be deemed inappropriate for women, and women may be expected to undertake most of the domestic work in the home, giving them less time to participate in producer groups.
Although the Fairtrade Premium is often invested in projects that benefit women, such as access to childcare or training to help them diversify their income, Fairtrade says that increasing the participation of women farmers could boost productivity, improve development outcomes for communities and provide opportunities to launch new products such as the 'Grown By Women' range marketed by Equal Exchange.
A female banana producer in the Dominican Republic said that enabling women to become members of producer organisations is important because "it gives women the right to vote, to participate in decision making, to receive benefits and to live with dignity." A male cotton producer in India said that women should be supported to take up leadership positions because "women are more disciplined and organised and will run these institutions better, whereas men fight amongst themselves and let egos come in the way."
Producer organisations that have taken active steps to increase the participation of women include Kuapa Kokoo, the Ghanaian cocoa co-operative that owns 45 percent of Divine Chocolate which has formed district level gender committees. Almost half of its National Executive Council members, including the current President, are women.
In Morocco, 60 women farmers challenged a long-standing local tradition that a woman’s husband or father was the sole breadwinner, when they established Tighanimine, the first argan oil cooperative. Another small producer group, in India, has used funds from the government to set up an all-women producer organisation in Odisha.
Fairtrade is calling for businesses, governments, NGOs and other agencies to support and incentivise producer organisations to address gender equality. Barbara Crowther, Director of Policy & Public Affairs at the Fairtrade Foundation, said: "Ensuring that women farmers have the same opportunities to participate as their male counterparts will not only increase their income and their influence, but it could also boost the bottom line for businesses and improve development outcomes for communities in some of the world’s poorest countries.”
As a first step, Fairtrade recommends that businesses invest in gender analysis of their supply chains, before developing a gender equality policy and action plan. Businesses are also encouraged to offer financial or technical support to the producer organisations in their supply chain, so that they can implement their own gender equality action plan, which might include a gender committee or women’s directorate.
Recommendations for governments in producer countries include targeting women with programmes such as agronomy training, and ensuring that loans and other support reach people who do not own land. Other governments, donors, agencies and NGOs are encouraged to develop or fund coordinated programmes that address the barriers facing women farmers, and build the ‘business case’ for gender equality.
As part of its own efforts, Fairtrade International recently appointed a gender specialist, Dr Tsitsi Choruma. She said: “While there are already some great examples of Fairtrade producer organisations working to remove the barriers to women’s participation, there is still much more work to be done.
“Achieving gender equality for women farmers will require a concerted and collaborative effort from everyone in the supply chain, so I look forward to working closely with producers and with other partners as we seek to ensure that women get their fair share of the benefits of Fairtrade.”
Fairtrade Africa and the Fairtrade Foundation recently launched a three-year Women In Coffee project with a grant from the Big Lottery Fund, which will transfer coffee bush ownership to women coffee farmers in Kenya, provide them with training on good agricultural practices, and brand their produce as ‘women’s coffee’ for the domestic market. This is expected to give women greater independence, increase yields, improve development outcomes and expand the market for Fairtrade coffee in east Africa.
The Fairtrade Foundation is an independent certification body which licenses the use of the FAIRTRADE Mark on products which meet international Fairtrade standards. This independent consumer label appears on products to show that disadvantaged producers are getting a better deal from trade. Today, more than 1.5 million farmers and workers across more than 74 developing countries benefit from the international Fairtrade system.
Over 5,000 products have been licensed to carry the FAIRTRADE Mark in the UK including coffee, tea, herbal teas, chocolate, cocoa, sugar, bananas and much more besides.
‘Equal Harvest’ will be available at http://www.fairtrade.org.uk/en/what-is-fairtrade/policy-briefings-and-reports for interested parties.
NTT DATA Services, Remodelling Supply Chains for Resilience
Joey Dean, the man with the coolest name ever and Managing Director in the healthcare consulting practice for NTT DATA and is focused on delivering workplace transformation and enabling the future workforce for healthcare providers. Dean also leads client innovation programs to enhance service delivery and business outcomes for clients.
The pandemic has shifted priorities and created opportunities to do things differently, and companies are now looking to build more resilient supply chains, none needed more urgently than those within the healthcare system. Dean shares with us how he feels they can get there.
A Multi-Vendor Sourcing Approach
“Healthcare systems cannot afford delays in the supply chain when there are lives at stake. Healthcare procurement teams are looking at multi-vendor sourcing strategies, stockpiling more inventory, and ways to use data and AI to have a predictive view into the future and drive greater efficiency.
“The priority should be to shore up procurement channels and re-evaluate inventory management norms, i.e. stockpiling for assurance. Health systems should take the opportunity to renegotiate with their current vendors and broaden the supplier channel. Through those efforts, work with suppliers that have greater geographic diversity and transparency around manufacturing data, process, and continuity plans,” says Dean.
But here ensues the never-ending battle of domestic vs global supply chains. As I see it, domestic sourcing limits the high-risk exposure related to offshore sourcing— Canada’s issue with importing the vaccine is a good example of that. So, of course, I had to ask, for lifesaving products, is building domestic capabilities an option that is being considered?
“Domestic supply chains are sparse or have a high dependence on overseas centres for parts and raw materials. There are measures being discussed from a legislative perspective to drive more domestic sourcing, and there will need to be a concerted effort by Western countries through a mix of investments and financial incentives,” Dean explains.
Wielding Big Tech for Better Outcomes
So, that’s a long way off. In the meantime, leveraging technology is another way to mitigate the risks that lie within global supply chains while decreasing costs and improving quality. Dean expands on the potential of blockchain and AI in the industry.
“Blockchain is particularly interesting in creating more transparency and visibility across all supply chain activities. Organisations can create a decentralised record of all transactions to track assets from production to delivery or use by end-user. This increased supply chain transparency provides more visibility to both buyers and suppliers to resolve disputes and build more trusting relationships. Another benefit is that the validation of data is more efficient to prioritise time on the delivery of goods and services to reduce cost and improve quality.
“Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning (AI/ML) is another area where there’s incredible value in processing massive amounts of data to aggregate and normalise the data to produce proactive recommendations on actions to improve the speed and cost-efficiency of the supply chain.”
Evolving Procurement Models
From asking more of suppliers to beefing up stocks, Dean believes procurement models should be remodelled to favour resilience, mitigate risk and ensure the needs of the customer are kept in view.
“The bottom line is that healthcare systems are expecting more from their suppliers. While transactional approaches focused solely on price and transactions have been the norm, collaborative relationships, where the buyer and supplier establish mutual objectives and outcomes, drives a trusting and transparent relationship. Healthcare systems are also looking to multi-vendor strategies to mitigate risk, so it is imperative for suppliers to stand out and embrace evolving procurement models.
“Healthcare systems are looking at partners that can establish domestic centres for supplies to mitigate the risks of having ‘all of their eggs’ in overseas locations. Suppliers should look to perform a strategic evaluation review that includes a distribution network analysis and distribution footprint review to understand cost, service, flexibility, and risks. Included in that strategy should be a “voice of the customer” assessment to understand current pain points and needs of customers.”
“Healthcare supply chain leaders are re-evaluating the Just In Time (JIT) model with supplies delivered on a regular basis. The approach does not require an investment in infrastructure but leaves organisations open to risk of disruption. Having domestic centres and warehousing from suppliers gives healthcare systems the ability to have inventory on hand without having to invest in their own infrastructure. Also, in the spirit of transparency, having predictive views into inventory levels can help enable better decision making from both sides.”
But, again, I had to ask, what about the risks and associated costs that come with higher inventory levels, such as expired product if there isn’t fast enough turnover, tying up cash flow, warehousing and inventory management costs?
“In the current supply chain environment, it is advisable for buyers to carry an in-house inventory on a just-in-time basis, while suppliers take a just-in-case approach, preserving capacity for surges, retaining safety stock, and building rapid replenishment channels for restock. But the risk of expired product is very real. This could be curbed with better data intelligence and improved technology that could forecast surges and predictively automate future supply needs. In this way, ordering would be more data-driven and rationalised to align with anticipated surges. Further adoption of data and intelligence and will be crucial for modernised buying in the new normal.
These are tough tasks, so I asked Dean to speak to some of the challenges. Luckily, he’s a patient guy with a lot to say.
On managing stakeholders and ensuring alignment on priorities and objectives, Dean says, “In order for managing stakeholders to stay aligned on priorities, they’ll need more transparency and collaborative win-win business relationships in which both healthcare systems and medical device manufacturers are equally committed to each other’s success. On the healthcare side, they need to understand where parts and products are manufactured to perform more predictive data and analytics for forecasting and planning efforts. And the manufacturers should offer more data transparency which will result in better planning and forecasting to navigate the ebbs and flows and enable better decision-making by healthcare systems.
Due to the sensitive nature of the information being requested, the effort to increase visibility is typically met with a lot of reluctance and push back. Dean essentially puts the onus back on suppliers to get with the times. “Traditionally, the relationships between buyers and suppliers are transactional, based only on the transaction between the two parties: what is the supplier providing, at what cost, and for what length of time. The relationship begins and ends there. The tide is shifting, and buyers expect more from their suppliers, especially given what the pandemic exposed around the fragility of the supply chain. The suppliers that get ahead of this will not only reap the benefits of improved relationships, but they will be able to take action on insights derived from greater visibility to manage risks more effectively.”
He offers a final tip. “A first step in enabling a supply chain data exchange is to make sure partners and buyers are aware of the conditions throughout the supply chain based on real-time data to enable predictive views into delays and disruptions. With well understand data sets, both parties can respond more effectively and work together when disruptions occur.”
As for where supply chain is heading, Dean says, “Moving forward, we’ll continue to see a shift toward Robotic Process Automation (RPA), Artificial Intelligence (AI), and advanced analytics to optimise the supply chain. The pandemic, as it has done in many other industries, will accelerate the move to digital, with the benefits of improving efficiency, visibility, and error rate. AI can consume enormous amounts of data to drive real-time pattern detection and mitigate risk from global disruptive events.”