Frank van der Linde: The role of the food industry

Development Policy15 Feb 2010Frank van der Linde

In its report, ‘Less pretention, more ambition‘, the WRR summarizes how we in the Netherlands could refocus our attention from traditional development aid to a modern strategy for ‘global development’. Fairfood International shares the WRR’s analysis that the government’s development policies should contribute more directly to making countries increasingly self-reliant, as well as orientating on the big global issues. According to Fairfood, one of these big global issues is how trade can lead to sustainable development and what role companies should play in this.

Global development

The WRR thinks that the focus of development policies should shift from direct poverty alleviation strategies to addressing the structures which stand in the way of sustainable development. Fairfood would applaud any change the Dutch government would make to increase the coherence of its trade and development policies, in accordance with the WRR proposals. Unilateral concessions in trade agreements, stringent global tax regulations, and less strict intellectual property rights are some of the policy areas which the WRR has highlighted in this regard.

Plan B

As long as the conditions for fair international trade have not been created by the government, Fairfood sees no other option but to address companies about their moral responsibilities concerning this issue. This work can be done most effectively from the places where capital and (corporate) influence have been concentrated. Lobbying the corporate decision makers of the world – from Europe to emerging economies like Brazil and South Africa – for responsible corporate processes would benefit developing countries more than traditional means of aid.

Tax avoidance

Dealing with tax avoidance is highlighted in the WRR report as a good example of the type of issue modern development policy should focus on. After all, many multinationals make use of tax havens. Because of this, the developing countries these companies do business in lose out on approximately US$284 billion per year in income. That is twice the amount that is spent on development aid. While waiting for stricter global regulations in this area, Fairfood speaks with companies about the moral dimension of their financial policies.


Eradicating extreme hunger and poverty cannot be achieved by poverty alleviation alone. The WRR has clearly pointed out that the development agenda ought to be much broader than that. Many aspects of doing business, also on an international level, have a close relation with hunger and poverty. Fairfood hopes that the Dutch government will reclaim its traditional role as a pioneer in the area of development policy and will lead the way to a more effective and modern strategy for global development. In the meantime, Fairfood will continue encouraging companies to increase the level of sustainability of their products. Luckily, there is an increasing number of companies that want to become part of the structural solution to the issues of extreme hunger and poverty.