Looking ahead: 4 pathways leading to next level collaboration for sustainability in 2019

With Christmas and New Year’s behind us, we are reflecting on a great year for sustainability. Throughout 2018 more global commitments were made by both the private and public sectors in many different industries, many of which are dedicated to pressing sustainability challenges and, of course, aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals. Especially zero deforestation commitments, the banning out of single-use plastics and an increased focus on reaching a living income for farmers gained momentum this year.

We have great expectations for the new year. In 2019, we expect that collaboration between private and public stakeholders will increasingly revolve around evidence-based strategies and shared learning agenda at global and local levels. Here we share four of the most striking trends that will contribute to this ‘next level of collaboration’ in the new year(s) to come.

1. Moving to metrics: increased attention to performance-based sustainability initiatives

With the ‘beyond certification’ debate in full swing, reporting on output level is no longer enough. With impact investors increasingly entering the field of sustainable agriculture, now more than ever, performance measurement is considered as the driver for change. It is increasingly used as a tool to guide decision-making and help organizations achieve their goals in sustainability more efficiently and effectively.

An increased amount of sustainability initiatives are redesigning their approaches, going from measuring practices that indirectly contribute to sustainability outcomes, towards incorporating ‘performance-based’ metric sustainability indicators that can be increasingly improved over time. In short, initiatives are meant to enable enterprises to gradually move towards improved social and/or environmental performance. NewForesight has supported the ISEAL alliance by providing advice on member standards incorporating more outcome-level approaches in their systems (more on this here). This year we supported LEAF Marque, a global assurance system for sustainably farmed products to include outcomes in their standard (more on this here). Next to this, we are currently supporting the Syngenta Foundation on their global performance measurement strategy. (more on this here). We expect that in 2019, these performance-based approaches will bring more discipline and learning to individual company initiatives and towards sector-wide collaborations.

2. Increased Public-Private partnership at landscape levels

Certification organisations, grinders/processors, traders, and manufacturers that provide services, increasingly engage with the government and Civil Society Organizations (CSO’s) to ensure holistic, complementary, and aligned interventions within both their value chain and on a landscape level. Companies making zealous commitments to managing land differently in developing countries are challenging the sovereignty of governments. This requires improved communication and clear roles and responsibilities between the public and private sector for meeting environmental, economic and development objectives. An example is the Cocoa & Forests Initiative, established in 2017 in Ghana and Ivory Coast, the initiative involves a majority of public and private stakeholders, and local, national, and internationally scaled actions that are all interconnected to address cocoa related deforestation and degradation holistically.

For global agricultural sectors committing to zero deforestation jurisdictional approaches that integrate landscape planning, deforestation monitoring and improved regulatory enforcement can contribute tremendously towards these commitments. Furthermore, companies are focusing on sourcing areas that can guarantee the products they source are sustainable, reducing overall monitoring and traceability costs. NewForesight has been developing such an approach in multiple jurisdictions, in Indonesia and Malaysia specifically. In the last years, our long-term partner IDH successfully initiated the concept of Verified Sourcing Areas. We believe that in the coming years, these regional collaboration approaches will redefine sustainable trade. We expect this to drive awareness with leading supply chain actors concerning their stake in tackling issues within and beyond their supply chains such as gender inequality.  Want to know more on landscape-level collaboration? Together with IDH, we organized a webinar on these approaches last year. Look back at the recording here.

 3. Leveraging local capacity for continuous improvement beyond program-design

More than ever donor-driven and company-driven initiatives are designed and assessed based on sustainable exit strategies. Companies and donors are steadily cooperating with local governments and other local institutions to ensure the program is firstly co-designed and implemented in a way it can sustain on the longer term.

One great example of this cooperation is the now 8 year long running Sustainable Cocoa Production Program (SCPP). Implemented by Swisscontact and funded by SECO, IDH and a large group of cocoa companies.  In phase two of SCPP the focus specifically lies on prioritizing the Program’s exit strategy. There are three main exit strategies currently being worked on: Cooperatives, regional forums and Koltiva. Whereby Cooperatives will ensure that farmers are continuously capacitated after the Program ends. Forums will bring together stakeholders to promote discussion and planning for the future of the sector. Lastly, Koltiva, the software developers of CocoaTrace, will take control of data collection and certification auditing on behalf of private sector companies. More information on the design and accomplishments of this program you can read here on the website of Swisscontact.

4. Strengthened farmer engagement: Participation and inclusion of upstream voices and visions

The imbalances in power in the value chain between stakeholders in many agricultural value chains signifies that hearing and farmers’ and their organisations’ voices and visions in partnerships could be a crucial lever for change. More and more initiatives are coming up that strengthen farmers’ engagement in societal partnerships, such as the emergence of stronger national and international cocoa farmer’s organisations. An example here is the merger between World Cocoa Farmers Organization (WCFO) and the International Cocoa Farmers Organization (ICCFO).

As a response to the commercialization of services and products towards farmers, there is an increased interest in the needs and behavior of farmers as customers.  A valuable influence here can be found in practices like Human Centered Design, a co-creation tool that enables you to design services and products with higher adoption rates. By defining clear end-users and including user-perspectives prior or during the design process, you ensure the solution meets their needs. A higher adoption rate enables you to grow your impact and benefit from higher returns of investment.


Want to know what these pathways can offer for your organization and your partnerships? Do you want to start the New Year in full action and turn tough sustainability challenges into shared opportunities?

In the first month of 2019, you can apply for a free strategy workshop tailored to your complex sustainability challenge. Learn more about our New Years offer here.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top