Forum for the Future is developing an initiative linking multiple inquiries into the shape of future-fit value chains.

We see the supply chain crisis as an opportunity to reinvent value chains to address critical social issues and long-standing inequities, build resilience and adaptive capacity whilst also facilitating critical CO2 reductions. As the context of global value chains continues to change, rather than a “return to normal” we should be prepared for an inflection of pressure points and continuing disruption. With these trends in view we need to look seriously at alternatives - models which will better prepare all value chain actors, whether smallholder farmers, animal feed processors, or food brands and fashion retailers, for the turbulent decades ahead. 

The Challenge

Global agricultural value chains are already struggling under disrupted logistics, failing harvests, and volatile markets. The effects of COVID-19 have revealed how complex systems we’ve taken for granted can create huge pressures on global food supplies, contribute to spiralling costs, lead to resource nationalism and even conflict. Current trends show even greater changes may be on the horizon that will continue to strain the contexts in which these value chains work. Unless we re-think and re-design them, they are likely to buckle and may break.

More change - and challenge - is coming

Changing weather patterns are increasingly impacting agricultural production, at the same time as the imperative for reaching net zero emissions necessitates radical mitigation across supply chains. Climate disruption is already impacting the cost and security of logistics such as transport; other trends like automation and increased scrutiny in regulation will force value chains to adapt or suffer. Exposed to the inevitable shocks, the “just in time” delivery model - increasingly becoming “just in case” – is already looking unsustainable.

Change is already overdue

We need to solve value chain issues not just to ensure reliable supply, but for social and environmental good. Long-standing structural inequalities and power dynamics must also be addressed if we are to create an industry that is equitable and fair, and resilient to a significantly altered climactic and social context.

Our solution: Future-fit Value Chains

Containers piling up at backed-up ports; canceled contracts for supply partners; a changing regulatory regime -  the crises impacting supply chains challenge the status quo, but are also an opportunity to reinvent value chains to address critical social issues and long-standing inequities, build resilience and adaptive capacity whilst also facilitating critical emission reductions and restoring nature.

Bringing together diverse perspectives from the marginalised to the mainstream, we are developing an initiative that will explore what the future context for agricultural value chains may look like, and alternative models that can enable them to survive and thrive while embedding just and regenerative principles.

This inquiry will act as an umbrella collating the learnings from a series of modules and projects across different sectors, geographies and commodities. Each module will incorporate research into trends impacting the specific commodity supply chain. We will then identify models and run prototyping workshops with supply chain actors to test those models with each group. Models include:

  • Value chain models - innovating new structures and relationships across the supply chain;
  • Business models - exploring different approaches to assigning value across the supply chain
  • Procurement models and practices - alternative goals, strategies and ways of operating across a procurement function

This research-and-action based approach aims to better understand the essential aspects of supply chains of the future that can be developed, what is specifically local, and which models that emerge from the prototyping have most potential to be adapted and scaled.

Contact us for further details at [email protected]

Benefits of joining

The global inquiry will be informed by a variety of regional modules (either individual company strategies, or collaborative modules in a specific commodity and region) that will create prototypes for their value chains. 

Working together with a truly diverse community of supply chain actors, you’ll:

  • Understand the emerging future: Explore and make sense of the emerging future context, test assumptions and identify potential risks, opportunities and blind spots in your strategy.
  • Synthesise different perspectives: Diagnose challenges with all types of stakeholders from across the whole value chain, including those whose voices are too often marginalised or excluded.
  • Co-develop responses: Collaborate on solutions to current and future value chain challenges, and on what future value chains might need to look like.
  • Identify viable pathways: Towards building resilient and adaptive value chains that contribute toward a just and regenerative future.

Who's involved?

Forum is currently in discussions with several partners to develop modules in East Africa, Latin America and the United States. Focus areas currently include soy and cocoa, and we are open to exploring other commodities. Selected commodities will be key to the regions’ economies and livelihoods, have significant environmental and/or social impacts to mitigate, and be facing considerable challenges due to climate change and accompanying factors.

Join us

Are you interested in partnering with us on re-imagining the future of value chains or would you simply like to find out more?

Contact Neil Walker at [email protected]

Further resources 

If you would like to know more, please check out: