Eurocommerce supporting stronger SCI and national supply chain dialogue as alternative to EU legislation. EuroCommerce is actively promoting a set of measures to reinforce the effectiveness, expertise and independence of the Supply Chain Initiative (SCI), an initiative to promote fair trading practices in business-to-business transactions in the food supply chain. As part of this commitment, announced at the EU High Level Forum for a better functioning food supply chain, EuroCommerce and its partners in the SCI are seeking an independent chairperson.
The external, independent chairperson, will oversee the activities of the SCI, including chairing meetings of the SCI Governance Group, addressing complaints, issuing guidance or recommendations on the principles of good practice, and promoting the SCI externally. The independent chairperson will have significant experience and an exceptional track record in adjudication, mediation or arbitration of commercial relations, preferably in the food supply chain.
Christian Verschueren, Director-General of EuroCommerce said: “The independent chairperson is a step change in developing the SCI, and will effectively address some of the concerns we have heard from some stakeholders. As a founding member of the SCI, we are convinced that, in a fast-moving market such as the food supply chain, dialogue and peer pressure are the most effective means of helping companies handle their issues quickly and effectively. Importantly, it does so in a way that facilitates the continuation, rather than rupture of the business relationship.”
EuroCommerce recommended to the High Level Forum in February that EU-level action should seek to establish a non-legislative framework for national initiatives and support the development of national dialogue. It should also ensure that national frameworks remain proportionate and non-discriminatory. We consider that an action should be focused on helping farmers, and avoid adding further rigidity and barriers to open and efficient negotiations between other parts of the supply chain. We also encourage the Commission and Member States to further support the development of self-regulatory means as a useful complement to national legislation.
Verschueren added: “We do not see the case for EU-level harmonisation of laws on trading practices, as there is always a national law applicable to a cross-border transaction and different regulatory or voluntary schemes in Europe seek to address the same outcomes. We also fail to see how prohibiting certain agreements, principally between large retailers and manufacturers, will protect farmers from the impact of volatility and market dynamics.”
The SCI promotes fair business practices as a basis for commercial dealings in the food supply chain. This is based on ten core principles of good practice, a framework for implementing those principles in daily company business, and preventing and addressing disputes in a fair and transparent manner. So far, more than 1,200 companies in the food supply chain, large and small, have registered with the SCI. In doing so, every company has committed to respect the principles of good practice in trading relations and to respond to a number of requirements aimed at integrating the principles into its day-to-day operations.
The SCI was developed in 2013 as a joint initiative by 8 European associations representing the food and drink industry (FoodDrinkEurope), the branded goods manufacturers (AIM), retailers (EuroCommerce, EuroCoop, the European Retail Round Table, and Independent Retail Europe), small and medium-sized enterprises (UEAPME), and agricultural traders (CELCAA). Initially steered at EU level, the initiative has led to the creation of a number of national initiatives, platforms, codes, and regulations that promote and govern trading practices in each EU country.