How do companies partner?

From an interview with Bernard Giraud, President of the Livelihood Fund for the Family Farm; by Hal Hamilton and Frank Hicks


Why should companies work together?

Certification has been important. It has helped many corporations to take commitments and engage in a process. But it is certainly not enough to help farmers make a real and positive change. Corporations should go beyond imposing standards to suppliers and farmers. They should help co-create and co-finance solutions, and adapt their time horizon to the longer-term perspective of restoring soils, water resources, biodiversity while improving productivity at farm level and enhancing the resilience of their supply chain.


How is the Livelihoods Fund and example of company collaboration?

This is the reason why an investment vehicle such as the Livelihoods Funds has been created by large companies including Danone and Mars. One example is the Fund’s work on sustainable palm oil in SE Asia.  Getting supply chain partners to commit to improved practices is a challenge, but to deal effectively with larger landscape issues including deforestation, palm oil companies must have alliances with other actors, particularly companies that pose a greater threat regarding deforestation, including those in the rubber and pulp & paper sectors.  The challenge is that palm oil companies tend not to have the interest or the skills to engage with a broad range of actors, and yet if they don’t, their efforts to promote sourcing palm oil from zero deforestation landscapes will not be effective. The process becomes quite heavy, requiring significant time investments that are hard to justify within companies.


Which organizations are facilitating these types of partnerships?

There is a need for organizations that have expertise in forming alliances and the other skills required to effectively engage at the landscape level.  Right now, there is a lot of talk about what needs to be done versus concrete examples of how alternatives can be implemented in a practical manner.


The major issue is that many development institutions and NGOs don’t understand the private sector’s priorities and needs and often expect companies to join existing or proposed initiatives, via public-private partnerships, based on priorities that they have identified without corporate input.  That tends not to happen, or only to happen in a minor way. The reverse is needed, the public/NGO sectors can follow the private sector’s lead and support initiatives where the companies are already convinced there is a priority business case for them.



The Livelihoods Fund for the Family Farm is an innovative funding mechanism funded by Danone, Mars, Firmenich and Veolia to invest in long-term solutions to smallholder livelihoods and sustainable agricultural landscapes.

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