Based on feedback from our colleagues and stakeholders, the Rainforest Alliance and Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN) have revised procedures related to human rights and put into place measures to help ensure we continually improve them.
Here’s what we have done:
- We worked with Social Accountability Accreditation Services (SAAS) to conduct a root cause analysis and identify strengthened training and audit procedures. The results were peer reviewed by an independent Ombudsman.
- Following the analysis, we took steps to improve social auditing procedures in consultation with an international fair labor expert; an international development organization and SAAS. After this consultation, we developed new social auditing protocols. The new protocols emphasize customizing audit plans; requiring the presence of female auditors and social experts as part of the audit teams; intensifying auditor training in techniques related to neutral questioning and active listening; spending at least 50 percent of audit time on group and individual interviews; interviewing a sample of high-risk workers; conducting interviews in confidential settings; and confirming that sufficient management systems and procedures, such as grievance mechanisms, are in place.
- On the basis of the analysis and identified improvements from the consultation work, audits were conducted to further understand conditions on the ground and test auditing methodologies. The audits further helped to shape improvements to audit protocols and corresponding auditor training.
- Certification auditors conducted several unscheduled audits across Eastern Africa in 2014 and 2015 in order to test and confirm the improved protocols, which identified a number of non-compliances in relation to sexual harassment; these were then addressed and remedied.
- SAN conducted training for auditors in Africa and India on newly developed high risk social auditing techniques in August 2014 and April 2015.
- Audits done with the strengthened protocols revealed problems on several certified farms, so the new protocols were applied by SAN accredited certification bodies on audits across tea plantations in Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and Zimbabwe in 2014 and are being adopted in India. Here is more information about the new auditing protocols.
- Worker rights experts and other stakeholders provided valuable input into the next revision of the SAN standard, to be launched in 2016. Meanwhile, we continue to use the newly developed in-depth protocols to guide us in taking effective measures to improve safety and quality of life for workers on certified farms. SAN authorized auditors will base their evaluations – additionally to SAN’s Sustainable Agriculture Standards criteria - on the indicators of critical criterion 5.11 detailed on page 20 of the official Interpretation Guide - Sustainable Agriculture Standard.
- We continue to collaborate with worker-protection experts in order to improve our protocols; continue to investigate allegations of non-conformances with the SAN standard; and continue to conduct additional audits on farms where we believe risk of non-conformance is highest.
SAN has developed and distributed a Best Practice Manual to guide and support tea plantation managers in their efforts to continuously improve workplace conditions in order to eliminate and prevent sexual harassment and discrimination.
The majority of farmers who work with the Rainforest Alliance are smallholders who with great dedication adhere to SAN standards. We thank them for their efforts and will use their steadfast commitments as inspiration to help us improve and advance our vision of a world where people and the environment prosper together.