Posted on June 29, 2020 by Sustainable Food News

Sustainable food certifier rolls out new certification program

Rainforest Alliance says new approach to tackling child and forced labor eschews 'simple ban that often drives the problem underground'

Rainforest Alliance, a leading food and agriculture sustainability certifier, has rolled out its new certification program, including a new label and standard.

The global nonprofit, which folded in the UTZ Certified program in 2017, said more than five million hectares of land and more than two million farmers in 2019 were certified according to both the Rainforest Alliance and UTZ standards, which are designed to improve economic, environmental, and social sustainability.

There were 44,000 products with the Rainforest Alliance Certified seal or UTZ label sold in the global marketplace in 2019.

The new certification program consists of a Sustainable Agriculture Standard with requirements for farms and supply chains, along with a new assurance system and tools to measure progress towards sustainability objectives.

Among the enhancements to Rainforest Alliance’s certification process is a new “Assess-and-Address” approach to tackling human rights issues such as child labor, forced labor, discrimination, and workplace violence and harassment.

“Rather than imposing a simple ban that often drives the problem underground, the new approach focuses on assessing the risks and engaging local communities to work together to prevent and address the issues wherever and whenever they may occur,” Rainforest Alliance said.

Rainforest Alliance said it will start rolling out the new certification program globally on Sept. 1. Starting July 2021, all audits will be against the 2020 Sustainable Agriculture Standard.

Last month, Rainforest Alliance debuted its new label for use on product packaging and promotional materials starting Sept 1. The group said the new label “will eventually replace” the current Rainforest Alliance Certified seal and the UTZ label.

“The new certification program incorporates new tools to support farmers and companies to set clear sustainability targets and focus investments to improve positive impacts for people and nature,” said Ruth Rennie, Rainforest Alliance director of standards and assurance. “These tools and innovations will support more resilient agriculture and help make responsible business the new normal. This is increasingly urgent in our age of climate change, biodiversity loss, and global inequality.”

Features of the new certification program include:

  • Climate-smart agriculture: A climate-smart agriculture approach is vital for farmers and businesses around the world who need to adapt to a changing climate in order to secure the future of their crops and livelihoods, products, and supply chains. The 2020 Sustainable Agriculture Standard is inherently oriented towards climate-smart agriculture with a focus on adaptation and resilience.
  • Improved data management: The program embraces the power of data. This means better analysis of risks and measurement of performance, new digital tools for farmers, and clearer performance insights for companies. Geospatial analysis is used to support and monitor performance against key requirements of the standard such as the avoidance of deforestation.
  • Shared responsibility: The program seeks to address systemic imbalances in global supply chains, which put too much burden on producers alone to achieve more sustainable agricultural production. Buyers will have to reward producers for meeting sustainable agriculture standards by paying a mandatory ‘sustainability differential’ which is an additional cash payment over and above the market price for the sale of certified crops. Buyers will also need to provide investments to support producers to achieve their sustainability objectives and be transparent about those.
  • Social and environmental requirements for supply chains: Sustainable sourcing isn’t only about agricultural practices on the farm. In the new certification program, companies in the supply chain identified as having a high risk of negative social and environmental impacts will also need to implement improved practices. These include for instance ensuring decent working conditions and labor protections as well as wastewater management.
  • Deforestation: Deforestation continues to be banned for certified producers, but prohibition will extend to the conversion of all natural ecosystems, including wetlands and peatlands, for more land to be protected and managed more sustainably.
  • Risk-based requirements and assurance: The new certification program is based on more in-depth risk assessment of the social and environmental risks to sustainable agricultural production in different crops and countries. Data from the risk assessment will be used to provide guidance to producers and companies on where to focus their improvements for maximum impact. Similarly, incorporating risk into the assurance process can equip auditors with more effective knowledge when carrying out checks and can help them target the most urgent issues.

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