Whether you are a company committed to sourcing from certified sources or an end user who chooses certified, labeled products you want to be able to trust the claim being made on or about the product. That’s why chain of custody is an essential component of any sustainability standard system. It is the process of tracking product from a certified farm, in this case, through the various stages of trading, manufacturer and warehousing, to assure the end consumer that certified product has not been mixed with non-certified product and that the claim about the certified status of a product is credible.
Back in 2012 the Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN) and Rainforest Alliance introduced its first Chain-of-Custody (CoC) Policy and Standard. Based on feedback from users and evolving best practice in chain of custody the organizations extensively reviewed the SAN/Rainforest Alliance CoC policy and standard announcing a new approach based on risk assessments in July 2015. This new approach came into effect on 1 October 2015. So what’s new, and what do companies need to do now?
What’s new in CoC 2015?
- Central to the new risk-based policy is the CoC Risk Assessment (CRA) – this tool determines the appropriate frequency and intensity of CoC activities for each operator in the Rainforest Alliance program.
- Companies that achieve high levels of compliance with Rainforest Alliance traceability, licensing and trademark guidelines will be rewarded with a chain of custody audit schedule that reflects their low level of risk. Certification to other credible systems – for example other sustainability sourcing standards or food safety standards – is also recognized.
- Subcontractors that take physical and/or legal possession of products from Rainforest Alliance Certified™ farms will be required to go through the CRA and comply with any CoC required activities.
- Farms and groups with a valid farm or group certificate will no longer be required to conduct a separate CoC it will be integrated with their farm certification audits.
What businesses need to apply?
Any business that takes physical and/or legal possession of a product from Rainforest Alliance Certified™ farms and makes a promotional, on-package or sales claim regarding the certified status of these products. This includes brokers, warehouses, and manufacturers. If you own or touch certified product that is not in its finished, ready for sale to end user state, you will need to complete the CRA. This includes contractors handling product originating from Rainforest Alliance Certified farms where a claim regarding the certified status of these products will be made.
What businesses don’t need to apply?
If you purchase a finished, labelled product ready for sale to the end user you don’t need to complete a CRA or apply for a Chain-of-Custody audit. This includes retailers, and wholesalers who aren’t making any change to the physical product. Businesses providing transportation services are also exempt, as are farms and groups who will have their CoC requirements assessed as part of their farm certification audits.
If your company intends to ONLY make a corporate claim about purchasing product from Rainforest Alliance Certified farms in a CSR or sustainability report, you would also be exempt.
What should I do next?
If you have already have SAN/Rainforest Alliance CoC certification, are registered on the Rainforest Alliance Marketplace, or have been granted a small volume exemption under the original SAN/Rainforest Alliance CoC Policy and Standard you should be preparing to complete a CRA. If in doubt, you can get more information on the Rainforest Alliance website, including this handy FAQ, or contact your certification body or the Rainforest Alliance.
The Rainforest Alliance Certified™ seal is an increasingly recognized trust mark around the world. A risk-based chain-of-custody system that is both flexible and fair is good for all those who are committed to sourcing sustainably produced goods, and those that look for the frog when they shop.