REMARKS BY THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR AT THE TRADE FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT FORUM
GENEVA, 1 OCTOBER 2015
by ARANCHA GONZALEZ, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
Thank you for joining us today at ITC’s second annual Trade for Sustainable Development Forum.
It is fitting that we are here today at the WTO to talk about sustainable supply chains as they are central to the theme of this year’s WTO Public Forum-“trade works”.
It is becoming clear that if supply chains are not sustainable then the trade impact will not be sustainable and will not deliver the growth and employment benefits that it should. All actors- from upstream farmers to the ultimate consumers: you and me - can benefit enormously if sustainability issues are placed at the heart of the trade discourse.
This is why six years ago ITC launched the Trade for Sustainable Development Programme, to promote sustainable supply chains as a means to help developing countries and their small and medium enterprises (SMEs) add value to their products and services.
With the experience gained, last year, at the first Trade for Sustainable Development Forum we launched the “T4SD Principles”, a set of core values – transparency, sustainability, harmonization and alignment with the recently adopted United Nations Sustainable Development Goals - that are intended to support more equitable and impactful trade.
A year on, I can proudly state that 50 companies and organizations have endorsed the T4SD Principles, including all the private companies with me on this panel today. I commend you for this.
To be sure, while commitments of our partners are important and welcomed, we need also to invest financial and technical resources to make sustainable supply chains a reality. A year ago, I asked the question: “What can we do given this highly complex and fast-changing landscape? How can we preserve the dynamic nature of this field but at the same time make sure that these sustainability initiatives live up to their promise?”
Well, a year on, I have some very inspiring news to report. Just three days ago – on Monday in New York – we presented a new and exciting initiative that ITC is launching with the UN Global Compact and GS1 (Global Standard 1): the “Blue Number” initiative, a new global registry for sustainable farmers.
Here is the concept: farmers are provided a geolocation number - the blue number. The blue number is part of a profile that contains the farmer’s name, gender, product, and email address or mobile number. Once the farmer is in the registry, he or she can connect on a sustainability marketplace with other trading partners and share with them their sustainability achievements. Think of it as an online networking platform – a Facebook or LinkedIn for farmers.
Having a Blue Number gives farmers a voice and access to sustainability resources.
It increases their visibility and allows them to better connect with global buyers.
Food security can be improved by identifying marginalised famers with Blue Numbers who would benefit from capacity building or connections to local agricultural markets.
This tool gives the farmers ownership over what information they share and allows them to have a degree of control over their destiny. It will also provide us with incredible sources of data- big data- that can inform policies ranging from women’s economic empowerment to land registry issues and from food security to quality standards.
And this initiative will also help buyers with improved traceability of their value chains, as well as with data to make informed purchasing decisions such as identify women-owned farms with whom to trade.
Today, over sixty thousand farmers have already accepted the invitation to receive a Blue Number. Major global brands and thousands of farmers will gain access to sustainability information that will allow their business networks to be better connected with each other and with their sustainability goals. Policymakers can use this data to better drive sustainable production in line with the Sustainable Development Goals. The registry is already on line and the marketplace site will be fully functional by the first quarter of 2016.
The initiative is exciting as it leverages existing technology platforms such as those built by GS1 and ITC’s Standards Map website that now contain over 180 standards and codes of contact.
The premise of the Blue Number initiative also goes to the heart of what the T4SD Principles stand for: sustainable agriculture, fostering transparency in value chains by giving farmers a voice and providing concrete tools to drive mutual recognition and reduced costs.
With this initiative we have a practical tool to support the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 2 (SDG2) which speaks about ending hunger, ensuring food security, nutrition and promoting sustainable agriculture as well as SDG12 on promoting sustainable patterns of production and consumption.
While the second annual T4SD Forum will not be exclusively dedicated to the blue number initiative, today at the WTO and tomorrow’s sessions at the WMO will touch upon issues related to this project such as traceability, challenges and success stories from partners in the field grappling daily with improving supplier performance and market access, and the perspectives of governments who are incorporating sustainable supply chains into public policies.
So, allow me now to turn your attention to our moderator, Lanre Akinola, and the distinguished panel that will kick-off the second annual T4SD Forum.
As was the case last year, I believe that the T4SD Forum will not only provoke rigorous debate and ideas but also propose innovative steps that we can take together with all our partners to support more sustainable trade and production. ITC is your partner in this endeavor and we commit to bring our tools, networks, and expertise to help you ensure that trade words for you in a sustainable way.
As a last word before I conclude, I would like to remind you that the T4SD Forum continues tomorrow at 9am across the road at the WMO. We look forward to seeing you there as well.