Chains and networks for development: articulating stakeholders in international trade


  • J. Bordewijk


As a major food-processing company, Unilever actively supports programmes aimed at sustainable management of its raw-material base. A large share of these materials, such as tea and palm oil, is sourced from smallholders in developing countries. Through its ‘triple bottom-line approach’, sourcing is linked to sustainable development. The programmes focus on the social progress of local people (people), environmental protection (planet), and economic growth in the countries that supply the materials (profit). For the sourcing of agricultural raw materials, Unilever and other food processors jointly developed a set of sustainable agricultural indicators. The approach in reaching sustainable agricultural practices is through active stakeholder involvement. In this process, Unilever identifies innovators and agricultural organizations throughout the chain that are willing to invest in such initiatives. Knowledge gained from the initiatives is shared with these stakeholders, with the mainstream and with competitors. In discussions on how agro-food chains can work as instruments for development, Unilever feels that too often the focus is on niche markets. The real challenge is for the commodities and mainstream markets, where smallholders themselves have to organize with the support from private-sector programmes.