Social Sustainability Fund - SSF
Is your company active in the Netherlands, and do you want to address social risks in your international value chain? Do you want to work on a living income or wages for your local producers and suppliers? Or do you want to improve the working conditions or address the risk of child labour in your supply chain? Then, apply for the Social Sustainability Fund (SSF).
Because of upcoming laws, companies must show how they avoid and address negative impacts in their supply chain. As an unintended result, negative impacts can lead to local producers' and suppliers' exclusion from international markets. SSF aims to support companies and their local producers and suppliers to carry out socially responsible business practices. Local producers can be different types of businesses, such as small textile mills, agricultural cooperatives, or smallholder farmers.
SSF supports companies active in the Netherlands that:
- Want to improve social sustainability in their international value chains;
- Work with local supplier(s) to prevent, reduce or stop negative social impacts; and
- Take steps following the OECD Due Diligence Guidelines.
Budget and duration
SSF is a 3-year subsidy programme that runs from 2023 until 2025.
- For the first application round in 2023, a total amount of €4 million is available.
- Netherlands-based entrepreneurs or social organisations (NGOs) can apply for a grant for at most 70% of eligible costs and up to €500,000.
- Applicants must start within 3 months after receiving their subsidy and end their projects within 4 years.
Projects must meet the following conditions.
Lead party (applicant)
- The lead party is:
- a (Dutch) company with a branch or permanent office in the Netherlands; or
- a (Dutch) NGO with a branch or permanent office in the Netherlands.
- The lead party applies for a subsidy for activities aimed at 1 or more of the following topics:
- Combatting child labour;
- Working towards living income or wages;
- Ensuring good working conditions.
- Applicants must carry out their activities in a partnership.
- The lead party applies for a subsidy for activities to improve social sustainability in their value chain(s) in 1 or more countries on the SSF list. See the list of target countries in the section 'Eligible countries' below.
One of the conditions to apply is that your company involves its local producers and suppliers. Your partnership consists of at least the following parties:
- 1 company with a branch or permanent office in the Netherlands (this can be the main applicant);
- 1 local company or corporation;
- 1 NGO (this can be the main applicant);
- 1 local NGO or another NGO with sufficient knowledge of the local context and a local network.
A project partnership is a mix of companies and social organisations (for example, NGOs) in which:
- Each partner is a legal entity;
- The applicant (lead party) has an integrity policy;
- Each partner is essential to reach the subsidy project's goals;
- The companies must be part of the same value chain;
- The company is based in the Netherlands and has significant activities in the Netherlands; and
- The partners must suspect social risks or abuses in their production chain, such as low wages, poor working conditions, or child labour.
You can involve more local or international companies, NGOs or organisations in the formal partnership next to the required parties. All partners must be necessary to achieve the project's goals, and the partnership must remain manageable. You can involve additional partners in the project as (external) third parties.
The subsidy programme aims to support as many different companies as possible and looks for innovative project proposals. A company, NGO or other organisation may be involved in multiple applications or ongoing projects. But in the assessment, we will evaluate if the company, NGO or organisation has enough resources and capacity to carry out multiple projects at the same time.
Corporate Social Responsibility
Your project must follow international guidelines for Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). We take CSR into account when assessing your application. We ask you to:
- Follow the OECD guidelines; and
- Share how you follow the OECD guidelines via your company's CSR policy.
SSF helps to improve social sustainability in your supply chain. Social sustainability means:
- Contributing to inclusive, sustainable and gender-equal production chains;
- Production chains are child-labour-free;
- Workers and small producers have decent working conditions; and
- Producers and suppliers earn a living wage or income.
SSF supports parties that carry out innovative approaches to become more sustainable. The programme funds pilot projects that are new to the companies, sectors, and countries involved.
The aim is for companies to try out their approach during pilot projects and scale up if they prove successful. Also, others can learn from the experiences gained during these projects.
SSF wants to share and develop the lessons learnt through a knowledge and learning programme. This way, more companies and stakeholders in the Netherlands and producing countries can make their value chains more sustainable.
SSF aims to support supply chain partners who want to strive for a sustainable business model and improve social sustainability in their value chain by:
- Investigating risks and abuses;
- Increasing transparency;
- Integrating their sustainability and sourcing goals;
- Improving their due diligence processes;
- Setting up a long-term cooperation and dialogue;
- Developing and carrying out an improvement action plan; and
- Contributing to local capacity building.
Social sustainability themes
To reach social sustainability goals, companies applying for SSF must focus on 1 or more of the following 3 themes:
1. Combatting child labour
The International Labour Organization (ILO) states that 160 million children carry out child labour worldwide. Child labour means that children are too young to work or carry out tasks that are too dangerous, and work interferes with their schooling and development. Children have a right to a good education, to play and to be children.
2. Living wages and incomes
A living wage is a worker's wage for a standard working week. It is enough to provide the worker and their family with a decent living standard.
A living income is the income that a self-employed person, for example, a coffee or cocoa farmer, can earn from carrying out their core activities and provides for a decent living standard.
A living wage is not the same as a minimum wage. A minimum wage is the amount a worker must legally receive.
3. Ensuring good working conditions
Good working conditions are part of responsible business conduct. The basic ILO standards include:
- Decent wage levels;
- No child labour or forced labour;
- No violence in the workplace;
- No discrimination; and
- Trade union freedom.
You should research all 3 social sustainability themes in phase A. If you can sufficiently prove why you could omit other risks in the implementation phase (phase B), you can focus on 1 particular theme.
You can address environmental problems but only if there is a direct link to 1 or more of the 3 main themes. For example, regenerative agriculture: in this case, an environmental solution contributes to higher income or better working conditions.
SSF focuses on high-risk sectors, for example:
- Agriculture (primary production or processing);
- Clothing and textiles;
- Mining (minerals, natural stone), and so on.
You can also apply if you can prove significant social risks in another sector.
Countries eligible for an SSF subsidy are Algeria, Angola, Bangladesh, Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Chad, Colombia, Côte d'Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Jordan, Kenya, Lebanon, Libya, Mali, Moldova, Morocco, Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria, Uganda, Ukraine, Palestinian Territories, Rwanda, Senegal, Somalia, South Africa, Southern Sudan, Sudan, Suriname, Tanzania, Tunisia, Vietnam and Zimbabwe.
SSF project activities and measures must take place in 1 of the eligible project countries. If social problems occur mainly in groups of migrant workers, we do not take their origin into account.
We have based the country list on the Policy Document for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation: Do what we do best (2022) from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The policy states that the Netherlands wants to focus on fewer countries than before, concentrating on a smaller number of markets to achieve more results with the same resources.
How to apply
You must first submit a quick scan to apply for a subsidy from the Social Sustainability Fund (SSF). You can submit a quick scan at any time during the year. But note that you can only apply for a subsidy during an application round. For the current application round, your quick scan was due on 20 November 2023, 23:59 CET.
You need our recommendation on your quick scan before you can apply for a subsidy. Please note that you can only apply for SSF during an application round. The first application round is from 2 October until 18 December 2023, 15:00 CET. The lead applicant applies on behalf of the partnership. You can download all required documents forms on this page during an application round.
To submit a subsidy application, you must take the following steps:
You can submit a quick scan at any time during the year. But note that you can only apply for a subsidy during an application round.
- Complete the mandatory quick scan. The quick scan deadline for the first application round was 20 November 2023, 23:59 CET.
- One of our project advisors will contact you to arrange an online meeting.
We use the quick scan to check if your project proposal idea meets the conditions to start an SSF project. Based on your quick scan, we will give you a non-binding recommendation.
We aim to assess your quick scan within 2 weeks. We use the quick scan to check if you meet the conditions and are an eligible candidate for an SSF project. After completing the advisory process, you can decide whether to submit a formal subsidy application.
Apply for SSF
Once you have received our advice, you can apply for funding within an application round.
- Apply for eHerkenning level 3. It may take a few weeks to process your application.
- Log in with eHerkenning level 3 and apply for an SSF subsidy via our eLoket.
- SSF works on a 'first-come, first-served' basis. This means we assess applications in the order we receive them.
- We only process complete applications in English. We will ask you for more information if your application is incomplete. If we do so, the date of your application will be the date on which we receive this extra information.
Checklist for your application
Make sure you have the following information at hand when submitting your application:
- Your company's Chamber of Commerce registration number, if applicable;
- Your quick scan reference number;
- Your social organisation or company's bank details;
- Partner forms;
- Project name;
- Start and end date of the project;
- Budget and subsidy amount; and
- Completed required documents (see 'required documents' below).
You must submit several documents with your application. Please complete the following documents in English:
- Annex I: Project Proposal
- Annex II: Result Sheet
- Annex III: Budget
- Annex IV: Cooperation Form
- Annex V: Authorisation Intermediary
- Form free: Risk Analysis and Outcome
- Form free: The Companies' CSR Policies
You can download the annexes here:
Following your application
We will assess your application based on the criteria in the Administrative Rules. We will inform you whether we approve your application within 13 weeks. If we approve your application, you can start carrying out your project's phase A. You will receive the subsidy in advance payments.
After you finish your project, we will assess the total realised costs and results. All costs should be eligible, justified and in line with the project's results and efforts.
- Monday, 18 December 202315:00 CETClosing date for submission of applications in the first application roundDeadline
Social sustainability: An example
"Thanks to the El Kassib project, 922 boys and 460 girls from El Zabaleen now attend school."
To prevent child labour, ADMC Group helped parents to earn money in other ways.
Frequently asked questions
Find answers to frequently asked questions below.
The way companies do business can directly or indirectly contribute to social risks in their value chains. To address social risks, the companies involved should improve their due diligence processes. So. they must attend a personalised in-company due diligence workshop for each project. During the workshop, departments will analyse policies and business practices and identify areas for improvement.
We will assess your application based on the assessment criteria in the Administrative Rules. Please note that in legal disputes, the Dutch translation of the Administration Rules is leading. Within 13 weeks, we will inform you whether we have approved your application.
In the risk analysis, you research the social sustainability risk(s) in your value chain(s). Cover the following themes:
- Child labour
- Working conditions
- Living wages/income.
You should base the risk analysis on the following:
- (Existing) available research and publications, and
- Your knowledge and experience of the value chain.
Your risk analysis determines the highest social risks and how you can best tackle them. Also consider:
- How likely it is that the social risks will occur;
- The severity of the risks, and
- How the company can influence the situation.
The risk analysis helps you understand the opportunities for Dutch and local companies and suppliers to address social risks and abuses. The risk analysis also details what resistance you may encounter when you tackle risks and their possible causes.
No, unless there is a clear innovative aspect. We assess all project proposals using the extensive criteria in the Administrative Rules. One of the criteria is that project activities are new for the company, country or sector in which the project will be carried out.
Yes. Please see paragraph 4.5 and chapter 5 of the Administrative Rules. Also, criterium 2.4 states that there should be a logical distribution of subsidy funds among the partners for activities they carry out in the project.
Social Sustainability Fund 2023 - 2025 in Government Gazette, 2 October 2023 (official publication in Dutch)
For more information on social sustainability projects, please see sustainable and responsible international value chains.
Together, we improve human rights, fight child labour and tackle environmental pollution.
- Ministry of Foreign Affairs