- On October 25, 2015
- change, child labor, justice, slavery, supply chain management
The Conference for a fair supply chain was held on 23.10.2015 and 24.10.2015 in Milano. The organizers have named the project Supply Chainge – original word play which hints that some change in supply chain would lead to fair distribution of benefits through the whole chain. The topic is very live in Bulgaria where international supermarkets for many years press the Bulgarian producers to the wall by misapplying their monopolist positions. Alas, this practice is visible in the whole world. The most affected are the farmers and plantation workers.
What is the situation now?
- The statistics showed in the conference points that for some goods up to 70% from the profit in the chain farmer–consumer goes in the pockets of the big supermarkets. The market globalization led to eliminating the small traders, respectively to destruction of competition model. Here start the hands wringing of producers. And this is seen in a world where resources are decreasing and the food producers should be respected.
- Slavery exists. The non-government organizations revealed facts which they have discovered during their researches in the countries-producers of banana, orange, coffee, cocoa and sugar. These facts are that nowadays slaves exist not in chains but bonded to land. Plantation workers have debts even before they reach the fields because of the transportation costs. People at the fields may buy food from the only shop around where the prices are very high. While wages are low and paid from time to time. This is how workers fall in this vicious cycle of dependence, they pray to pay their debts and go away from this hell.
- Children exploitation continues. In the poorer countries the children start to work on the fields since they are 5 years old. We don’t think of this fact when we buy goods from supermarket shelves, may be because we don’t know or because of unconcern. It is worse that traders know it and accept it as normal. From one side are the kids, our future, from other side are the traders’ appetites for quick and big profits. Should the children feed us, it is actually we who should ensure home, food, better life for them, right?
- Strong dependence of African countries on raw materials. One of the participants in the conference presented heartbreaking facts – from one side he explained the difficulties and exploitation in Africa, on other side he begged the raw materials trading to continue because otherwise the African people are sentenced to bigger misery. His appeal was just the wages to be higher so that people can feed their families and not force their little kids to work.
These and many more problems are in the range of non-government battles to minimize poverty and hunger worldwide. Supply Chainge is an EU program, in which the Bulgarian organization Agrolink also participates. They try to announce more data about the issues in the global supply chain. The conferences are one of the ways to have all partners together, roadmap the steps and report the results. Of course the difficulties are a lot – starting from the fear of exploited kids and workers, though the politics of big players for resource distribution, up to the actions or non-actions of the governments.
Is it possible anyhow the unsparing exploitation of people, land and all resources to be stopped? Is it possible to have more harmonized world, happier people and better future via supply chain? Or the rapacity is so deep in humans’ nature that this sounds like utopia?
The answer comes with examples from practice. Yes, it is possible! And the changes come from the big companies which influence on the raw material markets, which may reach the lowest prices but also understand that squeezing is not a winning strategy in long term. These are the companies which do not only care how to expand their markets, how to attract more customers but they also care how to keep the resources. Some of these companies are Mondelez, Nestle and Lidl. They select their raw materials not only on quality criteria but they also care how these materials have been obtained. They have achieved this by applying agreements with their suppliers for non-usage of child and slavery labor. Nevertheless that each of these companies had applied the principles of fair trade in different time periods, the important thing is result. And the result is more than good. These firms check their suppliers and the suppliers of their suppliers to be sure that the signed agreements are kept indeed. And if some breaches are observed, the supplier who has outstepped the contract bares the consequences. Mondelez and Nestle together have about 25% from the world cocoa consumption. They recognize their power to push for lower prices and to ensure decent life for their suppliers. And they choose the balance which not only makes them market leaders but also contributors to humans’ destiny. Via the good examples, step by step, every company (small, middle, big) may give its part for better future. Not only the companies can do it. We, the consumers may require information about goods origin, production and if any exploitation had been used. Via our conscious civil position, we all may change the nowadays. With reasonable usage of resources and balance between production and consumption we could achieve faster better life everywhere.
During the conference workshop, the participants marked the main steps and actions in several directions so that global supply chain becomes fairer:
- Overcoming the political weakness.
The main cases here are related to destruction of monopoles, eliminating the corruption and lobbying, complying with the fair trade rules. The non-government organizations communicate directly with the state structures to achieve some progress even somewhere on local basis.
- Protection of human rights.
Apart from gender discrimination, the aim of this step is to terminate the slavery and child labor worldwide. There are many documents that regulate the human rights. But the facts show that in many places the rules stay just on paper. The battle here is to make all employers to stick to the regulations. One decision is the laws to be written in a way that employers do not have interest to break them.
- Guarantee a decent living.
The majority of the humanity prefers to feed their families by working honorably. If the labor conditions allow people to earn enough money for their labor, life would become significantly better.
- Transparency in supply chain.
The transparency in global supply chain would give the possibility everyone to see and evaluate if the benefits are spread fair. This would help deviations to be regulated and the farmers would earn more money for their labor.
- Stop wasting the resources in the whole supply chain.
This step is compulsory still now because the over-usage of materials now will lead us to lack of resources in near future. And then no supply chain would be able to deliver food and other resources to many people.
- Educating the consumers.
In the century of internet, giving publicity to any topic is easier than before. But people are overloaded by information and often skip significant topics like exploitation of people, land and resources. Nevertheless, internet is the fastest way to educate consumers who are a powerful tool for a change. People are inclined not only to ne merciful but also to act for a good cause. And what is a better cause than to save the land and to give a decent living to everyone.
Supply chain is a dynamic system which unites many links. Thus it is an excellent opportunity to generate positive changes and to cumulate their effects. This is the target of Supply Chainge – applying in practice the principles for fair trade. Bright examples exist already, it is enough just to follow them and the success is guaranteed.