Fairtrade bananas workers

Source: Chris Terry

Workers from COOBAFRAIO, Magdalena, Colombia

Farmers and workers in low-income countries continue to face the severe impacts of climate change.

Frequent drought, floods, and extreme weather events have destroyed crops and reduced yields of staples like bananas, cocoa, and coffee. These events have led to intense challenges for farmers and unprecedented stresses on the food supply chain – the vulnerabilities of which are becoming more and more apparent to us all.

The situation has become urgent but efforts to tackle these ongoing challenges remain painfully slow. Farmers continue to suffer from low incomes, almost negligible negotiating power, frequent changes to sourcing agreements for small proportions of their product, and the relentless pressure to prioritise quick, short-term gains over long-term sustainability. These pressing issues have now reached a critical point that cannot be ignored.

To find a viable solution, the need for shared responsibility across our food supply chains is now essential. To protect the future of our food supply, businesses must work together to rethink how they source supermarket staples ethically.

That’s the aim of our Shared Impact initiative, which is a key focus for Fairtrade as we celebrate our 30th anniversary this week. The publication of Competition & Markets Authority guidance in November, which allowed a collective agreement such as Shared Impact, was a significant milestone in this journey. This collective approach promises to be transformational for businesses, consumers, and producers alike.

The initiative brings together UK businesses to establish collective agreements for sourcing goods on Fairtrade terms, from specific pools of producers who are currently only able to sell a relatively small proportion of their total crop production on those terms. This means for all the investments they make, they only receive the Fairtrade price protection and additional premium on a fraction of their overall production.

With an agreement on a Fairtrade minimum price and premium across multiple buyers, farmers and workers can rely on long-term, stable incomes.

This collaborative framework encourages stronger relationships with producers. It also allows grocery retailers to target salient risks in their supply chain, drive forward a more resilient food sector, work together to advance shared goals, and fund real, lasting change in partnership with farmers and workers. The biggest risks in supply chains require large-scale investment – and that in turn requires collective action.

This means Shared Impact isn’t just about addressing income disparities. It’s about tackling wider issues in society, such as gender inequality, child labour, and envionmental challenges such as deforestation – the focus of imminent legislation in the UK. By supporting farmers to receive a higher price over time, and granting them a greater and fairer say in decision-making, we can build greater equity within our supply chains and tackle these issues together.

This initiative will revolutionise our food supply networks, making Fairtrade price protection the rule rather than the exception in a highly volatile global market. Through co-ordinated sourcing efforts, retailers can create economies of scale by increasing volumes of goods bought on Fairtrade terms, benefiting both producers and the wider market.

As consumer demand for fair and ethical sourcing practices continues to grow, many businesses are embracing initiatives to drive greater sustainability in their supply chains.

Shared Impact presents an opportunity to incorporate minimum pricing and transform and reshape our markets, sector by sector. Together, we can start the journey to a more resilient and sustainable future for our global food system. With incoming legislation and growing customer expectations on the importance of ethical sourcing, the time to act is now.