SECO promotes private sector integration in global value chains and strengthens the relevant dimensions of sustainability in the process.
More and more companies and producers from developing countries are integrating global or regional value chains. These are crucial for agricultural and mineral commodities exports as well as for industrial sectors like textiles, and for information technologies. Likewise, tourism has grown fast in developing countries and has become one of the key drivers of their economies.
Strengthening exporters and their organisations
SECO helps SMEs and other companies to deal with certifications, packaging, design, logistics, customs procedures and in communicating with overseas buyers. It also strengthens local ecosystems of export agencies, sector organisations and other experts.
The Swiss Import Promotion Programme (SIPPO) develops the organisational and personnel capacities of local trade and sector organisations. This means they can equip export-oriented companies with market information, business contacts and networks, and help them tap into export markets. SIPPO is implemented in eleven of SECO’s partner countries. It takes into account local knowledge and involves local stakeholders.
Integration in global value chains leads to higher incomes, better jobs and a diversified economy.
Using sustainability as a competitive advantage
Today, global value chains are perceived as both a cause of and a solution to urgent challenges in the areas of climate, poverty, biodiversity, migration and food security. In order to tackle these challenges, SECO consistently includes sustainability criteria in its value chain projects and programmes.
Private, voluntary sustainability standards, known as “labels”, are key market-based instruments to strengthen the three dimensions of sustainability (society, the economy and the environment) along global value chains. Consumers and professional buyers nowadays want to know the conditions under which a product has been produced. Standards help minimising risks and abuses such as child labour, the improper use of chemical substances or illegal deforestation. They improve employment conditions and promote the efficient use of environmental resources and, eventually, increase the productivity and market access of businesses.
However, in order to achieve a leveraging effect, sustainability must extend beyond individual businesses. This is why SECO supports broad dialogues and platforms to align strategic goals and resources with various stakeholders. These multi-stakeholder efforts are better placed to tackle the often systemic sustainability challenges in producer countries. In pilot projects, SECO applies a territorial “landscape” approach, which defines, promotes and reviews sustainability criteria for whole regions. Such an approach may be complex, but because it includes all the relevant stakeholder groups, it facilitates systemic changes in the selected regions.
The SECO-funded Transparency and Innovation of Sustainability Standards (TISS) Programme promotes the transparency, efficiency and effectiveness of sustainability standards. The programme supports Sustainability Map, a portal managed by the International Trade Centre (ITC), which serves as a neutral global host of transparent information about close to 300 sustainability standards and equivalent tools. SECO also collaborates with ISEAL, the global membership association for sustainability standards. It sets out best practices and improves associated standard organisations like Fairtrade and the Rainforest Alliance.