We have a diverse range of on-going and recently completed projects. Selected current projects and initiatives are detailed in this section, with a summary of earlier completed projects provided below.
The Big Seaweed Search, Mexico: A Citizen Science Approach to Resolve Local Environmental and Societal Challenges in a Time of Global Climate Crisis
Natural History Museum (NHM); National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM)
The climate crisis impacts are global, but it is at the local level where its environmental and societal effects are most keenly felt. The Mexican Caribbean coast is severely impacted by inundations of a large brown seaweed, Sargassum, with devastating consequences for coastal ecosystems and livelihoods dependent on tourism and/or fishing. Adapting the “Big Seaweed Search” (BSS), a project which invites people to research the impact of climate change on UK seaweeds, we aim to see if it is possible to transform and empower people’s lives to build resilience to such environmental and societal challenges. By incorporating social science and learning interactions, we expect BSS in Mexico to discover new concepts in the subject of learning research, and to understand which factors can enhance a sense of agency for local communities towards the ecosystems in which they reside.
Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services Transformative Change Assessment (2022-24)
Lead author (Chapter 4). [Valerie Nelson]
Mid-Term Review of Sustainable Rubber Project
(2021-2) Evaluation for Welt Hungehilfe (WHH), BMZ funded ‘Developmen tof a Multi-Actor Partnreship in Southeast Asia to promote Sustainable Agricultural Value Chains in the Rubber Sector.’ The project covers Cambodia, Myanmar and Thailand. A theory-based evaluation involving participatory workshops, secondary evidence review, analysis of project documentation, field studies, extensive stakeholder interviews. [Valerie Nelson, Richard Lamboll, Hannah Betts, Chanrith Ngin, Kunakorn Boonsai, Bawi Tha Thawng, and U Htet Kyu].
Building the evidence base on trade agreements (2022)
Defra. The study is part of consultancy assignment for the International Biodiversity and Climate Directorate’s (IBC) ‘Reducing Demand on Nature’ team of DEFRA. The study aim is to ‘build the evidence base on the role of trade levers in delivering positive environmental outcomes.’, and consist of two broad workstreams and the associated objectives. Workstream 1. To assess the relative effectiveness and impact of existing commodity certification schemes for seven high deforestation risk commodities in delivering positive environmental outcomes. These commodities include: (1) palm oil, (2) soya, (3) cocoa, (4) coffee, (5) beef, (6) rubber, and (7) paper and pulp. Workstream 2. To assess the potential environmental impact of high and low ambition options for environment and forestry related text in Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) and assesses the importance of including strong environmental considerations in FTAs and what this achieves. [Truly Santika, Duncan Brack, Michael Flint, Valerie Nelson, Adrienne Martin].
LandCollaborative Learning Cycle on Private Sector Engagement for Responsible Agricultural Investment
(2021-22): Facilitation of a Learning Cycle for 27 participants from 13 national multi-stakeholder land governance platforms in Africa and Asia exploring engaging the private sector for responsible agricultural investment. Commissioned by the LandCollaborative, which itself comprises the International Land Coalition (ILC), Mekong Regional Land Governance (MRLG) programme, and Welt Hungehilfe Land for Life programme. The Learning Cycle was based on a social learning approach and comprised interactive learning sessions plus creative learning activites on specific issues involving mini-learning cycles. In addition to the learning obtained by participants, the project is co-generating a Guidance Note and set of associated tools, infonotes, and case studies. [Julian Quan, Valerie Nelson, Richard Lamboll, Lora Forsythe, Kaysara Khatun, John Morton]
Combined Mid-Term Review: Evaluation of RVO Programme against child labour and Programme for Responsible Business Conduct
(Dutch Government, 2021). Theory based evaluation of two Dutch Government programmes. Methods include a major portfolio analysis and synthesis to assess progress, plus 20 project meso-scale assessments of types of cases including semi-structured interviews with project implementers and diverse stakeholders, especially global companies and their subsidiaries/suppliers and NGOs and analysis of project monitoring data, plus five in-depth country case studies (e.g. cocoa projects in Ghana, garments in India, involving FGDs, value chain interviews etc). Summary of the evidence using evaluative scales on key evaluation questions and sharing in a final report including visual representation of progress against the theory of change. Workshop with Dutch Government staff to interrogate the recommendations further to support their uptake. Recommendations include, amongst other things, a shift to a sector transformation approach, development of clearer indicators of the quality of due diligence processes and provided guidance on internal programme capacity strengthening. The management response indicates that the recommendations are actionable and strategic, and the governmental response is already underway.
Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) Business and Biodiversity
Methodological assessment Scoping study nominated expert/contributor (2021). [Valerie Nelson]
Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) Values Assessment
2020. Contributor - Private sector and alternative economy visions and values [Valerie Nelson]
Economics of Biodiversity: NERC (2022)
In recent years, a sudden explosion of tools and approaches has emerged to help businesses measure their performance on biodiversity issues. However, these have developed independently and through a different mix of concerns, with no agreement or efforts to standardise these approaches. This has the potential to weaken their interest by companies, confused by a proliferation of initiatives. More importantly, these tools are being developed separately from government discussions on setting international targets for biodiversity, and it is not clear how they can be used to contribute to achieving these targets. This project addresses these issues by reviewing and comparing existing tools, how they are constructed, how they measure biodiversity performance, how and where they are being used by different businesses and how they contribute to achieving international targets for biodiversity. Through a literature review and interviews of tool developers, the project aims to shed light into how these tools can contribute to biodiversity conservation and where there is need for further research, and then communicate this into key UK and global policy discussions and frameworks. Key products of this project will include: (i) An academic publication comparing the components and characteristics of the tools and how they relate to global frameworks; (ii) A policy brief recommending policymakers ways to ensure these tools can help in meeting biodiversity targets; and (iii) A short report and video showing in a map how these tools are being used over key “biodiversity hotspots” in this world. These products will contribute to current efforts and discussions on how to improve tools and the way they are developed and implemented to achieve real change in biodiversity performance in the private sector. [Pamela Katic, Jeremy Haggar, Truly Santika].
RECENTLY COMPLETED PROJECTS
Assessing the Impact of Human Rights Due Diligence on Workers and Smallholders
Fair Trade Advocacy Office; Bread for the World
Global value chains are riddled with human rights abuses, negatively affecting workers and smallholders, especially women, youth, and migrant workers. This report explores the potential effectiveness and impact of Human Rights Due Diligence frameworks and instruments, focusing on the agriculture and garment sectors. The study unpacks a theory of change for how HRDD frameworks are anticipated to have an impact, assembles and analyses available empirical evidence to assess effectiveness and impact and identify evidence gaps, and explores the specific risks of unintended, negative impacts for workers and smallholders associated with HRDD implementation. It also provides a legal analysis of living wages and living income within HRDD. The study includes a specific focus on living wages and incomes, because these are fundamental to the fulfilment of other human rights and are not currently part of the mainstream HRDD conversation. The study draws upon a literature review, conceptual work on the theory of change developed during this research, interviews with a number of key informants and stakeholders, small case studies on Bangalore, India garment and Kenyan horticulture, plus further stakeholder consultations. While the limited experience and evidence around HRDD design, implementation and impact has proved to be a limitation, this study is an important first step in identifying the available evidence and the likely risks. Recommendations focus on improving the design and implementation of HRDD, and the additional measures needed and are applicable at global, regional or national levels. The report serves as a basis for further discussion and research on how to ensure HRDD frameworks have a positive impact on small farmers and workers.
Reducing Ocean Plastics - Formative Research leading to Intervention Planning in India
University of Greenwich (2019)
The vast amounts of plastic waste reaching the oceans has been causing significant economic and environmental damage. NRI scientists and a team from Catalyst Group, India, are developing site specific research and interventions on reducing ocean plastic in a multi-disciplinary collaboration with a range of institutions in the country. NRI Associate Professor Ravinder Kumar is leading this work. The need to address the issue of ‘ocean-bound’ plastic or plastic already in the ocean also emerged as a priority and the Natural Resources Institute of the University of Greenwich, UK provided technical and financial support for a formative research to underpin intervention planning. This study focused upon advancing current understanding of land based and other sources of plastics entering Indian oceans; government and private sector responses, including existing policies and programmes to address plastic waste in India; and identifying potential solutions that can address the problem on the scale required, plus ideas for interventions in specific hotspots.
Evaluation of ‘Research into Business’ funding window
Africa Enterprise Challenge Fund
NRI is conducting the evaluation of the RIB funding window, which is part of a larger challenge fund. AECF is a US$ 356 million private sector challenge fund that has provided catalytic funding to enterprises in 26 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. It was launched in 2008 as an initiative of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) and has been supported by donor governments of Australia, Canada, Denmark, Netherlands, Sweden and the United Kingdom. The Fund supports innovative, commercial businesses in the agribusiness, renewable energy and adaptation to climate change technology sectors with the aim of reducing rural poverty, promoting resilient rural communities and creating jobs through private sector development. AECF through the ‘Research into Business’ window has sought to provide catalytic financing to the private sector to enable companies to commercialize early stage innovations that have been developed by research institutions. The purpose of the evaluation is to assess whether AECF-RIB intervention logic has held true by reviewing both the investment selection process, including the marketing approach to research stations and the private sector and the performance of individual investments. The results of the evaluation will be used to improve the project selection processes of AECF, maximize the impact that can be generated from the specific projects already funded, develop fund raising options, determine whether there is scope to replicate the RIB concept more widely in the future and if so how a future RIB approach should be conceived and, finally, to provide conclusions and lessons learned for this specific investment to the contributing donors and the wider ecosystem.
Value Chains for Development (VCA4D) (EC)
2016-2022, European Commission, Directorate-General for International Cooperation and Development (DEVCO)
To date, twelve NRI staff have participated in the Value Chain Analysis for Development (VCA4D) initiative which is part of the European Union’s Inclusive and Sustainable Value Chains and Food Fortification Programme. It is being implemented by a consortium of Agrinatura partners, with NRI taking the lead management role through Andy Frost. The studies will examine around sixty specific agricultural value chains to assess whether they can generate economic growth, deliver positive social and poverty impacts and be environmentally sustainable. The detailed methodology integrates economic, social and environmental analyses as well as an overarching functional analysis of the value chain.
NRI colleagues have contributed to completed value chain studies on aquaculture in Cambodia, green beans in Kenya, egg in Zambia, livestock in Zimbabwe, beef in Swaziland, oil palm and cashew in Sierra Leone. NRI colleagues are involved in other studies which are underway, including vanilla in Papua New Guinea, oil palm in Indonesia, and processed fruits in Dominican Republic.
- Sustainable Aquaculture Value Chain, Cambodia: This study analysed aquaculture value chains and identified potential actions for their sustainable development. Adrienne Martin undertook the social analysis, while the functional, economic and environmental analyses were carried out by partners from the Royal Tropical Institute (KIT) and Wageningen University Marine Research, together with a Cambodian consultant with detailed knowledge of the sector.
- Green Bean Value Chain, Kenya: As part of a four-person team, Ulrich Kleih, with support from Baqir Lalani, completed an economic analysis of Kenyan green bean value chains, as part of the value chain analysis to establish the potential of exported green beans to generate economic development, benefit the poor and be environmentally sustainable.
- Egg Value Chain, Zambia: Gideon Onumah was the team leader and economist for the Zambian egg value chain and Alistair Sutherland (NRI associate) conducted the social analysis. The study concluded that this chain is making a very significant contribution to Zambia’s economy and it also offers an important market for major feed grains (maize and soya) and is ensuring improved household nutrition security by making available the cheapest but also very rich animal protein source to relatively poor households in urban areas.
- Beef Value Chain, Zimbabwe: Ben Bennett was the team leader and economist for the beef value chain in Zimbabwe, a country that is a very important producer of beef cattle, but which faces severe challenges from climate fluctuations, which will likely increase the incidence of dry periods. The study concluded with a SWOT analysis. and the policy brief is available at:
Policy briefs on these four completed studies are available at: https://europa.eu/capacity4dev/value-chain-analysis-for-development-vca4d-/documents
- Livestock Value Chain, Beef, Swaziland (now Eswatini): John Morton completed the social analysis of the livestock value chain in Swaziland. The report on this study is just awaiting final approval before being published.
- Oil Palm Value Chain, Sierra Leone: Ravinder Kumar recently completed the social analysis of the oil palm value chain in Sierra Leone as part of a wider study to establish the economic potential, social and environmental sustainability and inclusivity of the oil palm value chain. The study will contribute to investments and programme initiatives of the European delegation and other development partners in the country. The report is currently being finalised.
- Cashew Value Chain, Sierra Leone: The social analysis has been undertaken by Ravinder Kumar as part of the wider study, covering an integrated economic, environmental and functional value chain analysis. The overall study will contribute to EC investments and programme initiatives. The report currently awaits final approval from the European Delegation.
- Vanilla Value Chain, Papua New Guinea: Claire Coote is the team leader and is, currently undertkaing the economic analysis of the vanilla value chain in Papua New Guinea along with another NRI colleague, Richard Lamboll who is conducting the social analysisTeam Leader and Economist. This study is expected to conclude shortly.
- Fresh Fruit Value Chain, Dominican Republic: Pamela Katic is the economist and team leader for the processed fruit value chain study in the Dominican Republic. This study is still on-going with a specific focus on pineapple and mango.
- Palm Oil Value Chain, Indonesia: The Palm Oil study in Indonesia is currently on-going and will continue until mid 2019. In this complex study, Conor Walsh is providing the Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) expert role with Cathy McKenzie (NRI Associate) undertaking the social analysis.
- Sorghum, Ghana: Gideon Onumah is currently the economist and Team Leader for this study.
- Groundnuts, Ghana. Ulli Kleih is the economist and team leader for this study. Ravinder Kumar is a social expert.
Partnerships for Forests Evaluative Learning
Evaluation Management led by LTS, for the UK Department for International Development and Department for Business (now Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office), Energy and Industrial Strategy (2016-2020)
The Partnerships for Forests is a 5-year programme (UK Department for International Development and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) operating in Central, East and West Africa, South East Asia and Latin America. NRI led the design of the evaluative learning approach in 2017 and is participating in the evaluative learning implementation, led by LTS (2018-2020) and in collaboration with AidEnvironment. The P4F programme catalyses investments in which the private sector, public sector and communities can achieve shared value from sustainable forests and sustainable land use through the provision of grant finance and technical assistance. Demand side measures are also supported to enhance demand for sustainable commodities and activities to create the right enabling conditions for sustainable investment. For more details on the programme see https://partnershipsforforests.com/. See our publications page for our new publications, including thematic studies on High Value, Low Intensity Value Chains, Produce-Protect Mechanisms in Forest Landscapes, and Forest Landscape Restoration and a synthesis study of lessons. Evaluative learning case studies are also underway focusing on palm oil in West Africa, cocoa in West Africa and rubber and Ecosystem Restoration Concessions in Indonesia.
Co-track chair International Sustainable Development Research Society
(ISDRS) track on sustainable value chains. (2016-2019)
For the past three years, Professor Nelson has been acting as co-track chair (organizer of research stream at annual conference, supporting review and selection of papers and co-facilitating sessions) for the sustainable value chains track at the annual ISDRS conference. Fellow track chairs are Professor W.J.V. Vermeulen, Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development, Utrecht University, Netherlands Stellenbosch University, South Africa / International Sustainable Development Research Society and Professor Ximena Rueda, School of Management, Sustainability Head, Universidad de los Andes, Bogotá, Colombia.
Assessing the social, economic and environmental impacts of the Better Cotton Initiative in Andhra Pradesh, India
ISEAL (2013 – 2017)
In collaboration with partners, and funded by ISEAL, the global membership association for credible sustainability standards, NRI is conducting a study to assess the early impacts of certification under the Better Cotton Initiative focusing on a project in Adoni Mandal, Kurnool district, India. The study forms part of a wider ISEAL project on ‘Demonstrating and Improving Poverty Impacts’ which is generating evidence about the impact of sustainability standards and stimulating learning between ISEAL, its members, and its research partners about standards’ impact evaluation. The study employs theory-based evaluation and uses a randomised control trial design. The findings are informing BCI as it reviews it strategy and strengthens is monitoring, evaluation and learning capacity, as well as providing insights for the community of practice working on sustainable trade, as to the effectiveness and impact of sustainability standards and certification. NRI partners include: The Gujarat Institute of Development Research (GIDR), Ahmedabad, India – GIDR 2. Centre for Economic and Social Studies (CESS), Hyderabad, India 3. Pragmatix Research and Advisor Services, Delhi, India.
Responsible, accountable and transparent enterprise programme: Monitoring, evaluation and learning
UK Department for International Development (now Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office) (2015 to 2019)
The RATE programme, funded by FCDO, supports diverse responsible business initiatives which work with private companies to encourage improvements in workers’ economic and social conditions and reduction in environmental impacts. RATE Partners include: B Lab, British Academy Research Programme on Modern Slavery and Human Rights, The UK’s Ethical Trading Initiative, Fairtrade, Global Reporting Initiative, Humanity United, ISEAL, ShareAction, Shift, UN Global Compact, UK National Contact Point and World Benchmarking Alliance. NRI has been supporting independent evaluative learning of the RATE programme since 2015 to generate learning for FCDO and other organisations supporting business environmental and social risk management and transparency and accountability. It is contributing to the evidence base on the effectiveness of the RATE partners’ responsible business initiatives and on whether such mechanisms and practices by the private sector can deliver positive results for workers, poor women and men in communities and local and global environments. It will add weight to the argument on why private sector companies should engage in more responsible practices. The NRI team have also strengthened the capacity of the RATE organisational partners through the organisation of four annual learning events focusing on monitoring and evaluation, and recently completed an intensive capacity strengthening initiative to support RATE partners to create theories of change and improve their data collection, analysis and communication of and learning from key lessons. The Mid-Term Evaluation (MTE) for the RATE programme has been completed and can found here.
The study contributes a conceptualization of how responsible business initiatives seek to effect change (i.e. the generic theory of change) and how different types of initiatives work (different pathways to impact). The evidence is reviewed for sustainability standards, for which there is some evidence available, but gaps are found in the corporate reporting evidence. Similarly, other types of initiatives, such as those that mobilize investors, change the nature of corporate organisational forms through legislative change, create public benchmarks, multi-stakeholder initiatives which engage companies in learning processes, all lack evidence that they are creating a difference. The MTE finds that while the programme is relevant and on track to achieve its outputs, there is limited evidence on outcomes and impacts and two main risks: firstly, that the programme will not improve its evidence base and secondly that it will not significantly impact upon poor people affected by business.
ILO Score Programme Mid-Term Evaluation
Evaluation of the ILO Sustaining Competitive and Responsible Enterprises (SCORE) programme (2019)
The ILO’s Sustaining Competitive and Responsible Enterprises (SCORE) programme (2009 – 2021) is a global programme for which the development objectives have expanded over time. Phase 1 focused upon improving productivity and working conditions in Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs) which also helps SMEs to participate in global value chains, through SCORE training (practical classroom training combined with in-factory consulting). Phase II sought to support national institutions to provide SCORE training to SMEs to improve working conditions, productivity and competitiveness, independently of the ILO and donor funding. Phase III focuses upon enabling SMEs in national and global supply chains to have improved productivity and working conditions and providing decent work by embedding SCORE training in the programmes and budgets of implementation partners and participating lead buyers. An evaluation team from the Natural Resources Institute STRB programme are conducting the Mid-Term Evaluation, with a particular focus on the sustainability strategy for the programme post-donor funding.
Trade and global value chain initiative (TGVCI): Monitoring and evaluation
NRI provided the independent Monitoring and Evaluation of the FCDO catalytic fund called 'The Trade and Global Value Chains Initiative (TGVCI). The fund was established to improve the lives and working conditions of workers in value chains, leading to poverty reduction and development outcomes, but also to ensure that better skilled, younger workers enter the sector and work more productively, thus ensuring the long-term profitability of supply chains for companies. The TGVCI was implemented in three countries, within a specific sector per country: Bangladesh (Ready-Made Garments), Kenya (horticulture) and South Africa (horticulture).
The Mid-Term Evaluation (2016), found that technical, life and leadership skills interventions can lead to aspects of social upgrading, such as improving worker confidence, self-esteem and understanding of work responsibilities and tasks. Health interventions are likely to also contribute to improved working conditions and quality of employment. Investments in management skills on human and resources and productivity may also enable social upgrading (e.g. improved worker satisfaction), but impact evidence is not yet available. However, it is not proven that workers have better access to new work or to promotion as a result of their technical and life skills training. Action on worker rights and entitlements is covered in round 2 projects, but it was largely absent from round 1 projects designs. The projects are relevant to the key social upgrading challenges in global value chains, but other key social upgrading issues of development importance are not being addressed, such as worker housing, low pay and environmental sustainability, yet these are important for sustained and sustainable value chains. The final evaluation is completed and pending publication.
Assessing cocoa productivity, cocoa incomes and labour relations in Ghana
Rainforest Alliance (2017)
NRI completed a study in 2017 on the productivity, incomes and labour relations in cocoa in Ghana. The study, commissioned by the Rainforest Alliance, sought to support their learning on key outcomes. The focus of the study was on smallholder farming households in Juabeso-Bia landscape. Innovative methods included ethnographic observations, combined with household surveys and focus group discussions.
Cocoa and supply chain sustainability initiatives
University of Greenwich, (2016)
Cocoa faces extensive sustainability challenges. Largely sourced from West Africa, the challenges include, amongst others, major deforestation impacts, child labour issues, low productivity, market concentration, smallholder farmer incomes way below living incomes. University of Greenwich seed funding supported research on private sector cocoa sustainability initiatives and rural governance, including interviews with cocoa private sector actors. The research unpacks and challenges the assumptions commonly associated with farm certification, as well as emerging issues in sector transition and landscape approaches and profiles elements of equitable rural transformation drawing upon a resilience framework. The publication is available here.
Assessing the impact of Fairtrade in coffee: Tanzania, Mexico, Peru and Indonesia
Fairtrade International (2013-14)
The study comprises an in-depth analysis from four countries of the impact of Fairtrade for producers and their organizations. It represents a contribution to the evidence base on the impact of Fairtrade and seeks to inform Fairtrade on how to improve its impact in the future. The report can be found here. Key recommendations included: Strengthening producer organisation; Scaling up producer support and collaboration; More action to support gender equality, youth and workers, and Enhanced support to producer networks to increase worker voice. The findings were discussed with producers in several countries in workshops organized by Fairtrade and the findings and recommendations integrated into the Fairtrade Coffee Strategy for 2016-2020. Specifically, Fairtrade’s work going forward would give higher emphasis on the importance of well-targeted support and collaboration for coffee producers, led by stronger producer networks. The new strategy would scale up support to producers on good agricultural practices responding to climate change and coffee disease challenges, organisational capacity and governance strengthening and a deeper focus on living wages for farmers and workers, as well as more attention to gender equality and work with young people via dedicated programmes. See the summary and response from Fairtrade here.
Indigenous natural products and producer and processor organisations: Namibia
Millennium Challenge Account (2010-14)
This project worked with 5,000 Indigenous Natural Product (INP) harvesters in Namibia to develop sustainable value chains for a range of novel plant products including: Marula, Ximenia Sp., Harpagophytum Sp., Commiphora, Sp. Mopane Sp. and Sarcocaulon Sp. Value chains were expanded, and in-country processing developed. Income from sales was N$3.8m over 4 years, or $774.57 per gatherer. Nearly 10,000 harvesters were trained and registered, with over 50% female participants. The approach developed in Namibia involved community led sustainable harvesting based on secure supply, unique INP properties and strong and sustained evolution of gatherer to final user links. Major international perfume, cosmetics and herbal remedy firms now see Namibia as the best partner for INPs globally, meeting and exceeding their sustainability and community sourcing ambitions. Project research reports and outputs can be found here.
Assessing the poverty impact of voluntary sustainability standards
UK Department for International Development, (2009 – 2013)
Beginning with in-depth consultations with Fairtrade, Rainforest Alliance, and ISEAL in 2009, the research team was the first to develop theories of change for sustainability standards. This played a key role in stimulating ISEAL and its many sustainability standard members to develop their own theories of change. The study covered cocoa (Ecuador, Ghana) and tea (India, Kenya). This and other NRI studies, encouraged ISEAL and members to significantly increase their investment in monitoring, evaluation and learning through this process of engagement and the publication of findings, supporting learning on how to improve strategy. The research also informed FCDO in terms of its future policy on supporting sustainability standards and challenged FCDO and the wider community of practice to consider the additional and complementary measures required to achieve poverty and environmental impact in a more transformative manner. Multiple findings were covered in a recent systematic review of agricultural sustainability certification and helped to build up the evidence base on certification, highlighting its potential, but also its limitations. The final technical report can be found here and a policy brief here.
Fairtrade impact in Peruvian cocoa
Fairtrade Labelling Organisation (FLO) (2012)
This study assessed the impact of Fairtrade on several cocoa producer organisations in Peru. The study, using theory-based evaluation, generated findings on impacts, which informed FLO strategy on cocoa.
Fairtrade sugar in Belize
Fairtrade Foundation, (2008-11)
In the two northern Belize Districts of Corozal and Orange Walk, sugar is the main agricultural commodity and rural occupation. Over 6000 families produce cane, and more depend on it for their livelihoods. The Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association (BSCFA), to which most cane farmers belong, was Fairtrade-certified in February 2008 and is run by farmers elected by its members. NRI was contracted to conduct a participatory longitudinal impact study to explore the context for Fairtrade certification, support the producer association to establish a monitoring system, assess how Fairtrade certification is assisting BSCFA in achieving its objectives, the impacts of Fairtrade on the organisation and members, and potential avenues for enhancing impact.
Findings highlighted poor yields and low quality, related to a lack of investment and technical assistance, tensions between cane producers and the cane sugar factory, the withdrawal of EU subsidies, and the teething troubles associated with Fairtrade certification requirements. During the period of the study the BSCFA were de-certified for non-compliance, and then re-certified after structural reorganisation. Cane quality was improved, and a new Memorandum of Understanding agreed between producers and the cane factory. The use of the Fairtrade Premium (US$3.6million in 2008) changed during the study from mainly subsidising farmer’s production costs to a more balanced mix of production, environmental and social programmes. The study demonstrated to the Fairtrade Foundation the importance of a holistic, balanced overview of the sugar industry and not only producers’ perspectives and revealed the difficulties in rapid changes in governance processes (from autocratic to democratic), especially where there is a large injection of cash via the Fairtrade Premium. The study followed the post-certification maturation and professionalisation of the BSCFA and recommended further capacity building and support for democratic governance and organisational strengthening on financial, technical and social aspects to better enable the Association is to meet its objectives. Lastly, the study showed that with persistence and good will on all sides major positive changes can be achieved over time.
Fairtrade tea, sugar and ground nuts in Malawi
Fairtrade Foundation (2009-12)
Longitudinal, participatory studies on the impact of Fairtrade for tea, sugar and groundnut producers and workers, including at a national level, in Malawi. The first phase studied the impact of Fairtrade on three tea producer organisations, one sugar producer organisation and one groundnut producer organisation. A second phase (2012), a collaborative study between the Fairtrade Foundation, Fairtrade Africa, the Malawi Fairtrade Network and the Natural Resources Institute, re-visited the same producer organisations. The study found tangible, significant and sometimes considerable economic, social, technical and organisational development benefits to smallholder families and estate workers arising from Fairtrade certification. Participation, democracy and empowerment have been enhanced. However, there was significant variation in the size of the Fairtrade Premium, with sugar producers benefitting considerably, compared with groundnut producers. Tea and sugar producer and worker organisations have invested their Premium funds in an impressive range of social and production projects, while the groundnut smallholders have had less Premium income and fewer programmes. Technical support to groundnut smallholders has been considerable, with the potential to assist a significant breakthrough into the export market. The national policy environment is also broadly conducive for the expansion of Fairtrade, and a Malawi Fairtrade Network is emerging. Strong continued organisational and technical support to the producer and worker organisations is required. Continuing challenges were identified, such as the costs of certification and auditing, modest educational levels of producer organisation committee members, debts, declining soil fertility and the low proportion of produce sold as Fairtrade. Tea continues to depend on the patronage and support of large tea estates, and smallholders have an unequal voice in setting prices due to their relative lack of technical and business knowledge. A possibility is for them to set up their own processing facilities in the future. The districts where tea is produced are environmentally fragile and a greater proportion of Premium income could be assigned to environmental conservation, especially considering the potential negative impacts of climate change. The study highlighted the need for the Fairtrade Foundation to review the Premium paid to groundnut farmers and the minimum price paid for groundnuts. Overall, Fairtrade is solidly established in Malawi, and the potential exists for the expansion of products and volumes through improved marketing and extension services. The Synthesis report of the study is here and the final report is here.
Strategic review to inform future Irish Aid support to fair and ethical agricultural trade
Irish Aid (2013)
This policy study was undertaken to guide this donor’s future support for fair and ethical trade in agriculture, and key policy priorities informed by evidence.
Market and incentive-based mechanisms for integrated landscape initiatives
EcoAgriculture Partners (2013)
This study provided a detailed analysis of the evidence to distil practical insights into the potential of incentive-based mechanisms for landscape approaches. The study highlights the key features of different mechanisms, the importance of combining incentives to achieve adequate magnitude to change the behaviour of landscape actors, but also noted the lack of available evidence to date on effectiveness and impact.
Supporting ecosystem services within Fairtrade value chainsSupporting ecosystem services within Fairtrade value chains
University of Greenwich, Twin, Fairtrade Foundation collaboration, funded by Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) 2013
This study focused on ecosystem service projects funded by companies specialising in Fairtrade coffee and cocoa, and examined why Fairtrade companies support ecosystem services, how they engage their suppliers to implement projects and what impact interventions have on the communities they support. Companies are becoming increasingly aware of the threat to security of supply from climate change and environmental degradation and are integrating these concerns as part of their business plan. Certification of products or voluntary carbon accreditation is seen as added marketing benefits, rather than being the main drivers for investment. Observations on best practice highlighted the need for medium to long-term commitments to restore ecological processes; greater impacts can be achieved through alliances among companies, producer organisations and development organisations; potential trade-offs between ecosystem services should be considered and interventions should seek to engage with local policies.
Review of sustainability standards in agriculture
Commissioned by RESOLVE (2012)
This study, commissioned by US-based consultancy RESOLVE, and conducted in collaboration with the University of Leeds, provided contributing research for a major international assessment of sustainability standards in agriculture. The University of Greenwich and Leeds research outlines the rise of private standards in agriculture and explores their social, economic and environmental impacts. It also assesses market supply and demand for certified products and summarizes state-of-the-art impact methods, activities of standard bodies and assesses the state of the evidence, drawing on FCDO funded research on standards’ impact and landscape level analysis of the ecological impacts of different agricultural practices. The relative efficacy of different standard systems was reviewed, as well as consumer and public knowledge on sustainability standards. In conclusion, the study identifies enabling and constraining factors and sets out a future research agenda. The findings are summarized in a working paper: 'A Review of the Literature and Knowledge of Standards and Certification Systems in Agricultural Production and Farming Systems' was welcomed by Sir Jonathon Porritt, environmentalist, co-founder of Forum for the Future and former director of Friends of the Earth praised the ‘important insights’ of the report. The findings were used by the 12 member Steering Committee, comprising international business representatives, civil society leaders and academics, who conducted a detailed review of sustainability standards in agriculture, funded by Mars, covering diverse sectors. The publication: ‘Toward Sustainability: The Roles and Limitations of Certification’ covered multiple sectors’ can be found here.
Comic Relief Trade Programme EvaluationTrade Programme Evaluation
Commissioned by Comic Relief (2012)
This study evaluated the trade programme supported by Comic Relief, in which diverse partners had received grant funding across Sub-Saharan Africa to facilitate smallholder and community-based value chain development in export commodities such as coffee, but also natural, high value products such as baobab, honey and high value timber. Two country case studies were undertaken (Kenya and Uganda). The findings found positive outcomes and impacts, as well as areas needing strengthening and provided recommendations for Comic Relief on their future trade strategy.
The Strategic Use of Case Studies by Standard SystemsThe Strategic Use of Case Studies by Standard Systems
This study provided guidance for standard systems on how to use case studies as part of their Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning Systems. Linked to the use of theory of change and theory-based evaluation, the study findings were developed and piloted tested in collaboration with the Union of Ethical Biotrade and GoodWeave and involved consultations with ISEAL members. The guidance complemented a parallel consultancy study on the use of statistical methods, with both significantly contributing to the overall development of ISEAL’s approach to MEL and its recommendations and guidance for members.
Governance Implications of Private Standards Initiatives in Agri-Food Chains
Economic and Social Research Council and the UK Department for International Development (2008-2010, with the University of Leeds
Suppliers in agri-food chains are required to comply with an ever-growing set of standards to secure market access. This project researched private standards initiatives (PSIs) and the actors involved in developing and monitoring these standards particularly those in developing countries. Focusing on fresh vegetables and cut flowers from Kenya, the project explores what private standards and initiatives mean for 'governance' or the exercise of power. It explores the power relations amongst different groups and organisations participating in or excluded from PSIs with a view to identifying which are most powerful and how roles are changing. The research highlighted the powerful role of retailers and exporters in PSIs, but also the influence of new actors such as donors in shaping the initiatives. Challenges were revealed relating to private standards and smallholder and worker exclusion and the contingency of their participation in multi-stakeholder processes. In-depth fieldwork in Kenya elucidated the limited ability of PSIs to achieve transformative change in the context of retailer power. Some improvements in how labour rights and good agricultural practices standards are implemented were found, plus modifications to standards and associated audits in efforts to better reflect local conditions. However, the highly political nature of private standards and related institutions and the power inequalities involved means that the agenda is continuously refocused upon compliance rather than continuous improvement and institutionalisation of improvements on farms and across sectors. The research findings have contributed to the growth of a new stream of academic research focusing upon supply chain ‘sustainability governance’.
Climate change, Agricultural Adaptation and FairtradeClimate change, Agricultural Adaptation and Fairtrade
Fairtrade Foundation (2010)
This study entitled ‘Climate Change, Agricultural Adaptation and Fairtrade; Identifying the Challenges and Opportunities’ found that climate change is projected, with high degrees of certainty, to have mainly negative impacts upon agricultural production, food security and economic development, especially in developing countries. It thus poses significant challenges for the Fairtrade movement. The report sets out what we know at present about those challenges and ways to face them and makes recommendations for actions to build the resilience of farmers against climate change that can be followed within the avenues of impact of the Fairtrade movement. The study has already been used extensively by different organisations within the Fairtrade movement to shape their responses to climate change, including the Fairtrade Labelling Organisation in Bonn, and the ISEAL Alliance, which is the global association for social and environmental standards, which has drawn heavily on this study in developing its imminent guidelines for standard systems on adaptation.
Developing a climate change adaptation standard
AdMit Consortium – UK NGO consortium (Comic Relief funding) (2008-2010)
Diverse UK environment and development NGOS collaborated to develop a climate change adaptation standard. The standard was taken up by Fairtrade, in collaboration with the Gold Standard, as part of their Fairtrade Climate Standard. See here for more information.
Assessing the impact of Fairtrade in cotton
Fairtrade Foundation (2009-10)
This qualitative study assessed the impact of Fairtrade in cotton in four country case studies: Cameroon, Mali, Senegal and India. The study informed Fairtrade Foundation cotton strategy and, also promoted further learning and evaluation within Fairtrade. The summary report is here.
Meta-review on Fairtrade impact evidence
Fairtrade Foundation (2009)
This small-scale study commissioned by the Fairtrade Foundation, involved a qualitative review of the available literature to assess the impact of Fairtrade. The study has been highly cited and influential, because it was one of the first to look at the question of Fairtrade impacts in an integrated fashion – i.e. looking at social, economic and environmental impacts, and considering how far Fairtrade can contribute to poverty eradication. Drawing together the findings from 80 studies, and looking critically at the evidence base, the study identified clear gaps in the evidence based, including geographical and commodity bias toward Latin America and the Caribbean and mainly on coffee and few studies in hired labour situations. Research agenda priorities were outlined: Fairtrade impact in hired labour contexts; Fairtrade contribution to tackling poverty; Risks to Fairtrade and rural livelihoods from climate change, local environmental degradation and increasing resource competition; Fairtrade Premium agenda setting and worker/producer involvement; Fairtrade impact, gender, social difference and women’s empowerment; Impact evidence from mainstream Fairtrade supply chains compared with alternative trade value chains. Overall, although the evidence base is far from complete, the information to date shows the importance of Fairtrade in providing organised small farmers with the greater stability and security needed to make longer-term investments, in building their capacity and throwing them a lifeline in times of real hardship. Similarly, many Fairtrade co-operatives are becoming stronger, often showing greater ability to survive in difficult times and becoming more able to provide important services to their members. Fairtrade often provides a favourable economic opportunity for smallholder farming families that can join farmer organisations and can provide products to market specification. A high proportion of the studies reviewed found higher returns and stable incomes as clear benefits are enjoyed by many Fairtrade producers, although Fairtrade is not always able to guarantee improved net household income. Fairtrade pathways to impact are diverse, including changing farmer access to credit, benefits for self-esteem, wider community and organisational capacity building. The question of whether Fairtrade producers are better off than their counterparts is very complex and cannot be confined to questions of price and income differentials. A holistic analysis should consider a broad range of indicators, including empowerment indicators. Assessments should be based upon the views of the participants to assess whether Fairtrade enables them to make a step change in their livelihood security and welfare.
Engaging with the corporate sector for pastoral development in Ethiopia
Wellcome Trust (2007)
The project was designed to address an important knowledge gap on the perceptions of the corporate sector on pastoral development, and how “corporate social responsibility”, increasingly debated within development, may take on different meanings in the context of pastoral development. We chose to talk to indigenous but formal companies in the meat/livestock export sector, and the veterinary pharmaceutical import sector, using It used analysis of secondary data and semi-structured interviews with company representatives and other stakeholders, leading to stakeholder workshops for each of the two value chains. Despite a widespread perception that export of animals on the hoof was a “less modern” commodity chain than chilled meat export, and less favoured by government, live animal exporters had a more positive attitude to pastoralism and had participated in NGO-led drought responses. Chilled meat exporters had engaged in training and awareness-raising of pastoralists in meat purchasing and abattoir procedures, but without engaging in genuine dialogue on pastoralist sale objectives. The veterinary pharmaceutical import sector was at the time very poorly regulated, and discussions of “corporate social responsibility” proved premature.
Corporate codes of practice in Kenyan cut flowers and South African wine: Assessing poverty impactCorporate codes of practice in Kenyan cut flowers and South African wine: Assessing poverty impact
UK Department for International Development (2002-6)
This 3-year study assessed the impact of social and environmental codes of practice, covering two key export industries in Sub-Saharan Africa, namely South African wine and Kenyan cut flower industry. The study assessed the difference made by corporate codes to workers, covering material, social and empowerment indicators, filling a research evidence gap. Initially, participatory exercises were undertaken to explore the views of workers on priority indicators of impact. Changes in the lives of disaggregated groups of workers were then tracked and measured over a three-year period, using mixed methods, as well as qualitative assessment of the wider impacts for worker households, local communities and other key value chain actors. For example, extensive interviews were conducted with suppliers and key informants along the supply chain and in-country industry stakeholders. The study included an analysis of the perspectives of developing country supplier managers, including their feedback on buyer practices and the challenges these pose for their own room for manoeuvre. It also explored the potential of upcoming multi-stakeholder initiatives. In conclusion, the study found context specificity in outcomes and impacts. More progress was found with respect to permanent workers on material indicators. There were fewer positive effects or no impacts for temporary and seasonal workers in terms of social wellbeing and empowerment indicators. The research examined the (limited) extent to which codes can make a positive contribution to workers in these and other agri-industries, given the limitations of their power as a driver for change in highly inequitable value chains. Possible alternative strategies for empowering workers and smallholders were identified and recommended.
Feasibility study for Fairtrade tourism label
Fairtrade labelling organisation (2006)
This study involved an analysis of the potential of a new tourism label as part of the Fairtrade system. It provided advice and inputs for the Fairtrade Labelling Organisation strategy in considering whether to continue or not with such a tourism focus and associated label.
Ethical trade and forest dependent livelihoods
UK Department for International Development, Forestry Research Programme (2002- 2003)
This three-year research project explored whether and in what ways ethical trade can benefit forest-dependent people. This project from 1998 to 2001 focused on three main areas: i) Whether ethical trade benefits forest-dependent people? Ii) What policy, market and other background issues affect ethical trade? Iii) How can organisations develop ethical trade for the benefit of forest-dependent people? Empirical studies included economic and social analyses of fair trade compared with conventional trade in Peruvian brazil nuts and Ecuadorian cocoa. A series of policy briefs were also provided on forest certification from the perspective of the World Trade Organisation, SPS measures and trade in forest products, labour standards and social codes of conduct in the forest industry, and recent developments in the certification of forest products. The research explored the impact of ethical trade and distilled practical guidance for non-governmental organisations and value chain actors engaging in ethical trade in forestry contexts.
Ethical Jewellery StudyEthical Jewellery Study
CRED and Department for International (2003)
This review and analysis of the literature explored the main social, environmental and ethical issues throughout jewellery supply chains in order to assist industry bodies in identifying how to integrate ethical considerations into their activities. It considered small scale gemstone mining, large scale silver mining, processing and jewellery manufacture, and retail and distribution, considering the environmental and social conditions and negative and positive impacts. Strategic options for development and application of ethical business practices in the jewellery industry are; to develop internal management systems within a vertically integrated company; to develop partnerships with suppliers based on good working conditions, fair trading relations and a long-term mutual commitment; or to develop and implement a code of practice for use by suppliers.
Ethical Trade and Sustainable Rural Livelihoods
UK Department for International Development (1998-9)
This study was commissioned by the UK Department for International Development. A series of empirical case studies were conducted to understand the developmental potential of ethical trade in forest certification, fair trade and organic agriculture: Fair trade, organic cotton in Uganda; Fair trade in minimally processed fruit and vegetables, Uganda; Fairtrade in bananas, Ghana: Certified forest products, Mexico; Organic farming – fruit and vegetables, Uganda. The study characterized the nature of the different interventions, which had been the subject of limited study to date. The researchers found that there are higher thresholds for entry compared with conventional value chains, with the latter already being demanding for small producers, with the risk that existing forms of social differentiation can be reinforced. Other challenges were identified, such as the reliance of the schemes on development grants technical assistance and soft loans, instances of divergences between producer priorities and ethical standard criteria, practical barriers in the value chain and difficulties in balancing supply and demand for certified products, a lack of transparency on premiums from some buyers, lack of awareness at individual member level of cooperative participation. Potential unintended impacts were also identified, including for household food security, and vulnerabilities where buyers pull out of markets suddenly. Diverse livelihood outcomes were assessed using the Sustainable Livelihoods Framework. In conclusion, the study found that ethical trade is not a solution to sustainability challenges – with inherent weaknesses as well as strengths, but it can have a positive contribution for certain groups, especially if there are improved efficiencies, targeting of socially differentiated actors, developing country stakeholder engagement in the development of ethical trade initiatives, and sustainable marketing systems.