Events and insight for sustainability

How business can make smallholder supply chains resilient

Tuesday 13th March
Wednesday 14th March

Timeslots are provisional and exact timings may change


Should business even care about the SDGs when developing smallholder policy?

The sustainable development goals (SDGs) are a universal set of goals, targets and indicators that UN member states will be expected to use to frame their development over the next 15 years. Many of the goals laid out in the SDGs apply directly to the work companies are already doing in smallholder supply chains. So if company policy is already in place, why bother with the SDGs?

This session will consider the business case for engaging with the SDGs when developing, implementing and communicating on smallholder development in agricultural supply chains.


Sarah Shaefer, global policy director, Unilever

Moderator: Toby Webb, founder, Innovation Forum



How do you connect the all-encompassing SDGs to your smallholder supply chains?

The SDGs are ambitious, all-encompassing global targets. Sustainability departments are often tasked with turning high-level policy into action on-the-ground. But with the scale of the SDGs this task can seem all the more daunting.

In this plenary discussion, we will address the practical steps that business can take to align company strategy with the SDGs. In particular, we’ll ask which SDGs are most relevant to smallholder supply chains, and why. And assess how can these be incorporated into procurement decision making and sustainability policy so that business can focus efforts in the areas that they can deliver most value.


David Croft, global sustainable development director, Diageo

Francesca New, global sustainability manager, Mars

Christina Archer, strategic advisor, Sustainable Food Lab

 Moderator: Ian Welsh, publishing director, Innovation Forum


Coffee / networking break


Can the SDGs really drive internal alignment between buyers and sustainability?

The age-old battle of uniting procurement and sustainability teams has been discussed at length. But part of the draw of engaging in the SDGs is the potential to engage buyers in a common set of objectives, based around one common language. Is this enough to incentivise buyers and to align priorities? Or does it simply present an additional check box barrier to buyers getting the best price?

In this session we will discuss:

  • How can the SDG framework be incorporated into procurement decisions?
  • Is this enough to really engage buyers in the sustainability of smallholder supply chains?
  • What are the common challenges and pitfalls when implementing new policy and guidelines into different departments?


Urvi Kelkar, global sustainability manager, AB InBev

Mark Calverley, regional sourcing director, AB InBev

Charlenne Collison, project lead for cotton 2040, Forum for the Future



Powered by women: How to bridge the gender equality gap within smallholder farming

Within agricultural supply chains, there is a massive gender gap in low-income countries. There is a distinct difference between the resources and rights available to men who work the land and those available to women who do the same.

Women make up 43% of the agricultural labour force and produce 60-80% of the food crops in poorer parts of the world. They cultivate field and tree crops, tend livestock, and grow home gardens, just as men do. Yet women have less access to land, rights and credit to education and technology than men. Inequality of assets, inputs, and support means women produce less on the same amount of land.

Closing this gender gap presents a significant opportunity for business. They can improve the lives of women, their families and communities, and also tackle poverty, hunger and climate change. All the while, improving productivity in their supply chain.

This session will address what business can do to bridge this gap and provide equal treatment of the men and women - at scale - across smallholder supply chains.

Goal 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls


Amanda Smith, global sustainability manager, Diageo

Verity O'Shaughnessy, senior corporate partnerships lead, CARE

Caroline Ashley, head of economic justice, Oxfam

Margreet Groot, lead women's empowerment, Mondelēz International

Moderator: Ian Welsh, publishing director, Innovation Forum






Breakout one: Improving farmer co-operatives for increased transparency, integrity, scale and the SDGs

How can farmer cooperatives which are supplying big brands be improved, in terms of function, governance and scale? How can we achieve better verification and expansion of the co-operative idea, reformed in light of modern challenges, corporate needs and the SDGs?

A Co-Op case study.


Sarah Wakefield, food sustainability manager, The Co-operative Group

Simon Calvert, senior commercial agricultural advisor, Department for International Development

Moderator: Toby Webb, founder, Innovation Forum

Breakout two: Water scarcity and responsible water usage: How to educate and incentivise smallholders

Agricultural production is the most water intensive activity, consuming roughly 70% of the world’s freshwater. One-third of the world’s food is produced in areas of high or extremely high “water stress” or competition.

Businesses have a responsibility to educate and incentivise farmers to use water efficiently on their farms – and it pays to do so. This session will look into the latest best practice in water use efficiency, and how this can be communicated down to a farm level.

Goal 6.4: By 2030, substantially increase water-use efficiency across all sectors and ensure sustainable withdrawals and supply of freshwater to address water scarcity and substantially reduce the number of people suffering from water scarcity 


Michael Alexander, head of water, environment and agriculture sustainability, Diageo

Chris Brown, vice president – corporate responsibility and sustainability, Olam

Amanda Berlan, reader of business and sustainability, De Montfort University


Breakout three: How to collect, store, share and use relevant data

 Access to the right data can lead to significant improvements in supply chains when it comes to resource efficiency, productivity, transparency, and a host of other areas.

How best to use supply chain data in a manner that delivers efficiencies is a key issue for business. But collecting the right data in the first place is often as big a challenge.

This session will study the best tools, data models and sharing platforms available, that enable us to collect and use data in the most effective way.


Catherine David, head of commercial partnerships, Fairtrade Foundation

Amy Barthrope, head of business, Wefarm

Moderator: Ian Welsh, publishing director, Innovation Forum



Coffee / networking break


Breakout one: The importance of market access and long-term stability for smallholders

Growing global demand for food offers opportunities for smallholders to gain more returns from participating in markets. However, smallholder farmers are typically unable to take full advantage of new market developments, since they often lack secure access to land and water, inputs, working capital and asset finance, efficient market connectivity, and real time, impartial market information. They seldom have the means to engage equitably in marketplace bargaining or the capacity to influence the national, regional and global policies affecting them.

Improved access to markets can help smallholders build their assets and incomes, in doing so ensuring stable supply. So how can business help?

We will touch on the following points:

  • How feasible are long term contracts that offer security to smallholders?
  • What are the latest developments that can provide access to accurate, up to date price information for farmers?
  • Is there a role for business in simplifying the institutional operating environment to lessen the administrative burden placed on farmers?

Goal 2.C: Adopt measures to ensure the proper functioning of food commodity markets and their derivatives and facilitate timely access to market information, including on food reserves, in order to help limit extreme food price volatility


Hazel Cully, sustainability manager, Marks and Spencer

Katherine Tubb, operations consultant, WWF – Landscape Finance Lab

Moderator: Toby Webb, founder, Innovation Forum


Breakout two: Reducing food waste at farm level, what solutions are available?

One third of food is wasted. A large part of the loss is created early in the supply chain, between harvesting food from fields and getting it to market. Improper harvesting techniques, poor storage facilities, inefficient infrastructure and many other reasons account for huge losses at the beginning of the supply chain.

The benefits of reducing food waste are obvious. More and better-quality food is delivered to market and the livelihoods of smallholder farmers are improved at the same time.

This session will look at the best farm management practices, technology and other solutions to reduce and eliminate food waste at the farm level.

Goal 12.3: By 2030, halve per capita global food waste at the retail and consumer levels and reduce food losses along production and supply chains, including post-harvest losses


Javiera Charad, global sustainability manager, Nestlé

Sara Farley, co-founder and COO, Global Knowledge Initiative 

Moderator: Nicolas Mounard, cheif executive, Farm Africa 


Building farmer resilience against changing weather patterns and droughts

Climate change has led to unpredictable and undesirable weather patterns, such as droughts, which severely impact smallholders. Miscalculated planting times and failed crops lead to poverty and hunger amongst farmers, as well as destabilising supply chains and jeopardising global food security.

Business needs to play a role in helping farmers become more resilient to climate change, and in doing so safeguarding their own future supply.

This session looks at the ways in which businesses have successfully delivered improved climate resilience to farmers and local communities. In particular, we will address:

  • The latest innovations in farming techniques and inputs that reduce exposure to changing climates
  • How best to educate farmers around the most efficient use of resources and crop diversification
  • The role for business in building capacity in local communities via the installation of renewable energy sources, for example.

Goal 2.4: By 2030, ensure sustainable food production systems and implement resilient agricultural practices that increase productivity and production, that help maintain ecosystems, that strengthen capacity for adaptation to climate change, extreme weather, drought, flooding and other disasters and that progressively improve land and soil quality


Rachel Kent, regional manager, Europe, TFT

Chris Brown, head of environment, Olam

David Lane, director of technology, Biomass Group

Cédric van Cutsem, global operations manager, Mondelēz International




Networking drinks


How can business help provide smallholders with the necessary finance and funding that they need?

While agriculture remains a key economic activity in Africa employing about 55% of the population, a meagre 1% of bank lending goes to the agricultural sector. Only 4.7% of adults in rural areas in developing countries globally have a loan from a formal financial institution and only 5.9% a bank account, according to Findex data.

Smallholders need access to finance to buy necessary equipment, invest in improved seeds and to ease cash flow in between harvest times.

This session will question why it is so hard for smallholders to gain access to finance and funding currently, and how business can make it easier for them from now on.

Goal 2.A: Increase investment, including through enhanced international cooperation, in rural infrastructure, agricultural research and extension services, technology development and plant and livestock gene banks in order to enhance agricultural productive capacity in developing countries, in particular least developed countries 


Susan Tissiman, SDU investment associate, AgDevCo

Carla Romeu Dalmau, senior manager – learning and research impact, IDH Trade

Michaël de Groot, senior investment manager, Rabobank

Anne Maftei, senior analyst, One Acre Fund

Moderator: Ian Welsh, publishing director, Innovation Forum


Coffee / networking break


The role of business in supporting farmers’ development into independent, profitable enterprises

The future of agriculture does not look bright based on how business and smallholders are currently functioning. Younger generations are opting out of farming to seek more lucrative employment elsewhere. Smallholders need to develop into profitable businesses to ensure the security of next generation farmers. 

Business should be looking to develop these smallholders into farming entrepreneurs who own more land, employ staff and run their farms as profitable businesses. Only then will future food security be a given. We should be aiming to lift ordinary smallholder farmers out of their subsistence lifestyle and into the cash economy.

So, how do we do this?

Goal 8.3: Promote development-oriented policies that support productive activities, decent job creation, entrepreneurship, creativity and innovation, and encourage the formalization and growth of micro-, small- and medium-sized enterprises, including through access to financial services


Aaron Tepperman, international NGO engagement manager, Bayer

Alan Johnson, lead – smallholder supply chains, IFC Agribusiness Advisory Services

Gaël Lescornec, partnerships advisor, World Cocoa Foundation

Michael Gidney, CEO, Fairtrade Foundation

Moderator: Toby Webb, founder, Innovation Forum




Breakout one: How can companies ensure decent working conditions for the workers in their supply chains?

Many smallholders are based in countries lacking basic worker protections and agriculture is one of the most dangerous industries, with a high fatality accident rate. Exposure to pesticides and other chemicals also pose health risks, and a lack of social protection schemes exacerbates the situation for agricultural workers, many of whom are women forced to work without pay.

Programmes and policies may help ensure standard working conditions for farmers and labourers, but how can businesses force the implementation of these standards?

This session will discuss how business can monitor, understand and respond to issues around working conditions at the bottom of their supply chains.

Goal 8.8: Protect labour rights and promote safe and secure working environments for all workers, including migrant workers, in particular women migrants, and those in precarious employment 


Jeroen Kroezen, international programme coordinator – fruit and vegetables, Solidaridad

Roy Budjhawan, head of ING impact finance, ING

Sophi Tranchell, CEO, Divine Chocolate

Moderator: Ian Welsh, publishing director, Innovation Forum 


Breakout two: How is business educating smallholder farmers about the consequences of deforestation and stopping traditional techniques such as slash and burn?

Farmers often clear areas of valuable forest to make more room for agricultural production, what is business doing to prevent farmers from contributing to deforestation?

It is bad enough to be clearing forests, but traditional land clearing methods used by smallholders are also very damaging. Practices such as ‘slash and burn’ used to clear forested areas contribute further to climate change and soil degradation.

Businesses must ensure that the farmers in their supply chains are educated and trained not to clear areas of land.

Goal 12.2: By 2030, achieve the sustainable management and efficient use of natural resources 


Mark Wong, senior vice president, Sime Darby

Andrew Wardell, senior research associate, Centre for International Forestry Research


Breakout three: What scientific advances have been made within GM and technology to increase farmer productivity?

What untapped science and technology already exists in agriculture to improve farmer productivity? How far has genetic modification and engineering gone to increase crop yields and what are the potential health and ethical risks of this approach?

Convincing a farmer to use ‘new and improved’ seeds when he has been farming with ‘normal’ seeds for years may take some education and persuasion.

This session will explore the scientific and technical advances being made to increase farmer productivity and crop yields, including GM and high-yield seeds.

Goal 8.2: Achieve higher levels of economic productivity through diversification, technological upgrading and innovation, including through a focus on high-value added and labour-intensive sectors


Tina Lawton, regional director, APAC, Syngenta





How are networks, coalitions and NGOs evolving to tackle the challenges of certification and its discontents

The vast number of smallholders around the world mean that certification has its limits. Several companies are now moving towards their own schemes. Why is this and how are the certification bodies reacting?

Some new approaches are now being considered, such as enabling smallholders to design a certification system that works for them, as the FSC has done. Other approaches that are based around continuous monitoring are also providing an alternative to traditional certification models.

A continuation of the certification debate - no doubt there will be strong opinions on both sides of the table!

Goal 17.16: Enhance the global partnership for sustainable development, complemented by multi-stakeholder partnerships that mobilize and share knowledge, expertise, technology and financial resources, to support the achievement of the sustainable development goals in all countries, in particular developing countries 


Jenny Edwards, programme lead – sustainable agriculture initiative, SAI Platform

Vera Santos, new approaches manager, Forest Stewardship Council

Nicolas Mounard, chief executive, Farm Africa

Moderator: Toby Webb, founder, Innovation Forum 



One common language: Improving communication by aligning your reporting with the SDGs

The SDGs provide a united platform from which businesses can work towards a broad range of sustainability issues, they put everyone on the same page and give us a common language. Having this shared index of targets makes communicating and reporting your smallholder work easier and more efficient, in thoery.

We’ll look into how can business take full advantage of this when it comes to improving and clarifying companies’ smallholder reporting, whilst answering questions such as:

  • Consumer engagement: Do the SDGs have the potential to engage an audience traditionally unaware of the majority of supply chain actions?
  • Investor relations: Does this framework ease investor concerns for better, more relevant information on company performance
  • Corporate benchmarking: Can the SDGs present a process for more accurate corporate benchmarking

Goal 12.6: Encourage companies, especially large and transnational companies, to adopt sustainable practices and to integrate sustainability information into their reporting cycle 


Sarah Shaefer, global policy director, Unilever

Charles O’Malley, senior advisor, UNDP

Moderator: Ian Welsh, publishing director, Innovation Forum


Closing remarks


End of conference

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