Download the Case for Action

Download the Case Study

The Challenge

Land-based commodities such as cotton, coffee, cocoa, palm oil or tea touch the lives of billions of consumers every day, and provide livelihoods for millions of people across their value chains. Most of us assume that these commodities will always be cheaply and readily available, but the way that they are currently traded fails to provide many farmers with the financial or physical resilience to meet the mounting challenges presented by climate shocks and resource depletion. The window of time is shrinking to help farmers secure the decent livelihoods and resilient communities they need to continue producing the commodities we rely on.

Many of the fundamental problems in today’s value chains can only be truly addressed through a move toward truly sustainable – and by that we mean more equitable, and “regenerative”, rather than just “less extractive” – ways of doing business. This includes models which repair and protect the ecosystems that agriculture depends on and which strengthen agricultural communities so that farming remains attractive to younger generations. 

We need to fundamentally transform value chains and change the goal of the commodity production system:

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Resources for cross-commodity learning and action

With our partners, we are working on the premise that mainstream models of trading can be transformed by piloting and scaling alternative, more equitable, business models and market mechanisms which meet the challenges of both the present and future. Given the scale of the transformation required, and the urgency of making progress to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, it is critical for those working in this field to collaborate and share lessons in order to accelerate change and avoid repeating the same mistakes.

To this purpose, and with funding from UK Aid, Forum for the Future is creating a set of resources to promote cross commodity learning and action which can significantly contribute to new business models in tea, coffee, cotton and beyond becoming mainstream.  

Case for Action

The case for action for piloting and scaling alternative business models provides a summary of the main failures of the current business models, the problems they create across agricultural commodities, the need for system level change, and highlights additional enabling factors for driving transformational change.

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Case study series

A case study series on sustainable value chains, which Forum for the Future is curating in partnership with other organisations, is intended as a useful resource for those planning, or already undertaking, work to test different business models. The lessons learnt have the potential to inform other projects addressing similar challenges, and ultimately accelerate the change that is needed.

Case study 1: Smoothing price volatility in the Kenyan tea market with Tea Swaps

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We’d love to hear from you

Please contact contact Forum for the Future’s Sustainable Value Chains and Livelihoods Challenge Lab, if::

  • You have an interesting positive example of alternative business models to share, which can showcase and share insights.
  • You or your organisation are interested in designing or collaborating on an initiative to test or scale up alternative models.
  • You need support in reviewing the business model that underpins how your organisation currently operates.
  • You would like to discuss the points raised in this case for action or any of the case studies in more detail.

Contact Associate Director Charlene Collison


Who’s involved

The Case for Action document and the Tea Swaps case study were published by Forum for the Future with funding from UK Aid