The fast-changing landscape of sustainability initiatives in supply chains matters to everyone: consumers, buyers, traders, producers, and policymakers.Helping SMEs through the maze of sustainability standards is critical to increasing their competitiveness, particularly for agro-based exports. Rather than seeing these standards as impenetrable barriers to trade, the discourse needs to focus on ensuring compliance and turning standards into opportunities for developing country SMEs.The panel discussed the growing role of sustainability standards and effective ways of promoting SME compliance through capacity building and knowledge sharing.
During the Q&A session, participants commented on the need for a level playing field where African stakeholders such as SMEs, governments and NGOs also have a role in standards development. Access to finance is crucial to improve the ability of SMEs to comply with standards. Participants also mentioned the need to break down the myths or misperceptions about standards. For example, standards in written form may seem intimidating, but when discussed and illustrated through practical examples they can become more accessible. The need for harmonisation was raised by a number of participants as a must to deal with the plethora of standards that exist. Mr. Dody Edward, Head of Trade Development at Indonesia’s Ministry of Trade, described Indonesia’s programme on increasing SME compliance. He also emphasized the close relationship between sustainability and social standards.