- Why is the Rainforest Alliance developing a new standard?
- How does the innovation of the standard relate to other work of the Rainforest Alliance?
- Which will be key changes in the new standard?
- What is the timeline for the new standard?
- How does the content of the standard relate to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)?
- What is the scope of the standard?
- How does the Rainforest Alliance differentiate between small and large farms, and does it work with group certification?
- Is a different mindset required to work with the improvement set-up of this standard?
- What does the setup of the new standard look like?
- Will the standard require improvement after initial certification?
- What will be the requirements for certification?
- Can certificate holders be decertified?
- How will the Rainforest Alliance facilitate and gather data, and how will this data be used to drive transparency?
- How will farm and group management capacities be assessed and why are they needed?
- Why will the Rainforest Alliance now require GPS data?
- Why will the new standard require risk assessments, management plan and inspections?
- Why is yield estimation important?
- Will the Rainforest Alliance standard include intervention on pricing?
- What is the approach to premium and why has this been chosen?
- How has the issue of farm income been addressed?
- How are gender inequality issues managed in the standard?
- How are child labor issues managed in the standard?
- What is meant by discrimination and how is this managed in the standard?
- What is meant by (sexual) harassment and how is this managed in the standard?
- What is meant by forced labor and how is this managed in the new standard?
- What is meant by overtime and how is this managed in the new standard?
- Why does the standard contain requirements for community rights and community support?
- How does the Rainforest Alliance address deforestation in the standard?
- How are the assessment of areas with High Conservation Values (HCV) approached in the standard?
- How does the standard address climate change?
- What is on-farm vegetation and how is this covered in the standard?
- How are genetically modified crops covered in the standard?
- How are pesticides managed in the standard?
- How will assurance work for the new standard?
Why is the Rainforest Alliance developing a new standard?
One of the benefits of the merger between the Rainforest Alliance and UTZ is that the two certification systems can be evolved into one, bringing efficiency and cost reductions for producers and supply chain partners involved, while further strengthening the program. The Rainforest Alliance is taking this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to really innovate the certification standard.
Certification is an important tool to work on the mission of prosperity for people and the protection of nature, while continuously exploring how to further improve impact and the ways to do this. A program named ‘Reimagining Certification’ has been set up to work out innovative systems and realize such impact.
How does the innovation of the standard relate to other work of the Rainforest Alliance?
The farm certification standard is not a stand-alone document. Innovating the entire certification process means that all parts need to be reviewed. The Rainforest Alliance is also reviewing its assurance system and chain of custody standard as part of an extensive joint process.
Certification in itself cannot be the solution for all issues that the Rainforest Alliance is working on. Beyond the certification system the Rainforest Alliance strategy has three other pillars: Landscapes and Communities, Tailored Supply Chain Services and Advocacy. All pillars together are the vehicles to move towards the organization’s mission of a world where people and nature thrive in harmony.
Which will be key changes in the new standard?
The Rainforest Alliance strives to have greater impact on farmer economics and social issues like child labor and forced labor. Addressing gender inequality is also more pronounced in the new standard, recognizing the importance of women and girls for development and economic prosperity.
A pre-condition to sustainable production is ensuring that producers – small or large – are economically viable businesses. Lack of economic viability means farmers will not be able to invest in sustainable practices, mitigate and adapt to climatic changes or take steps to respect child or worker rights. The Rainforest Alliance is exploring pathways to work towards covering the cost of production, living wages and living income. Realizing the importance as well as the complexity of this work, this area of innovation is given explicit attention in the online survey for the new standard.
With regards to child labor and forced labor, evidence is building up that due diligence approaches and remediation have a higher impact than only prohibition. In the new standard the Rainforest Alliance has therefore implemented innovate approaches.
What is the timeline for the new standard?
The first public consultation for the new standard will run from December 1, 2018 to February 28, 2019. The second public consultation is planned for June to July 2019. In between these two consultations, the Rainforest Alliance will work to further develop of the content of the standard and surrounding systems, as well as additional research and field testing. After the second public consultation, the standard will be finalized and approved by the Rainforest Alliance Standards Committee and published at the end of 2019.
Between publication of the standard and actual auditing against this standard, all producers, trainers, and auditors will have at least one year to be trained and guided through a gradual, step-by-step transition process. This means that the standard will not be audited against earlier than January 2021.
How does the content of the standard relate to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)?
The mission and fields of work of the Rainforest Alliance touch upon many of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). With the current innovations it is intended to further strengthen the impact on a number of these. Key goals the standard will focus on include:
- 1 No Poverty
- 3 Good health and well-being
- 5 Gender Equality
- 6 Clean water and sanitation
- 8 Decent work and economic growth
- 10 Reduced inequalities
- 13 Climate Action
- 15 Life on Land
While developing the standard further, also the connections with the SDGs will be worked out to further visualize the ways the Rainforest Alliance intends to contribute.
What is the scope of the standard?
The scope of the standard is to address sustainability issues in agricultural production. The standard focuses on the main categories of crops that are currently within the existing certification programs, which are tree crops (such as coffee, cocoa and tea), fruits (such as bananas, coconuts and pineapples), nuts (such as hazelnuts), and cut flowers. Spices, herbs and vanilla may be included, and the Rainforest Alliance is also exploring possibilities to work with the Union for Ethical Biotrade (UEBT). The geographical scope of the standard is global, with a focus on the main geographical areas where mentioned crops are grown. Furthermore, the scope of the standard is on the whole farm, that is, the requirements of the standard, as a principle, apply to the whole farm, and not just to the certified crop. Crop type specific agronomic practices for non-certified crops may be excluded from the audit scope of the farm. Also, not necessarily all crops or products derived from a certified farm can be sold as certified.
With regards to palm oil, the 2017 Rainforest Alliance Sustainable Agriculture Standard will be used as the basis for our palm oil certification program moving forward, as major improvements are not needed on this standard for this sector right now. Just two years ago the standard underwent a development process, and it has received positive feedback on the implementation and market opportunities. Rainforest Alliance’s organizational resources will be focusing on the three core areas of intervention that are felt to be are most critical now which are smallholders, jurisdictional/landscape approaches and the development of a certification+ approach, as well as maintaining the standard in its current form.
The audit scope of the standard is not only the agricultural production, but also certain on-farm processing activities that involve physical handling and are considered important because of social or environmental risks (including the production of green coffee; the drying, sorting, or bagging of cocoa beans; and the production of made tea). Wherever these processing activities are being done outside the farm, but within the legal and/or factual control of the farm, they will also be included in the audit scope of the standard.
How does the Rainforest Alliance differentiate between small and large farms, and does it work with group certification?
The new Rainforest Alliance standard continues to differentiate between smallholders and medium or large producers. A smallholder is defined as a producer who primarily relies on family or household labor, or reciprocal workforce exchange with other members of the community. Medium and large producers are defined as producers who use hired labor, and therefore do not rely primarily on family labor.
Note: These definitions are independent of farm size, since farm size depends significantly on crop and geography.
The standard treats smallholders and medium and large producers differently so that each producer type can focus on topics that are most relevant for their situation. For example, for medium and large producers, the standard focuses on the core criteria for social issues related to workers and families that live on-farm, as well as on certain environmental topics. For smallholders, the standard focuses more on strengthening sustainability and business performance over time.
Smallholders commonly use group certification; therefore, group management requirements are placed in the standard for smallholders. The smallholders in the group are also referred to as group members. Under certain conditions, medium and large producers can also apply for joint certification. In such cases, several requirements for the management of the joint certificate will also apply. The rules and conditions for this are to be determined.
Is a different mindset required to work with the improvement set-up of this standard?
To drive continuous improvement, the Rainforest Alliance is moving towards a more flexible improvement approach. The core criteria will always need to be met, but certificate holders will benefit from a more flexible improvement approach that is better adapted to context, but always within the Rainforest Alliance-set boundaries. The goal is to increase the relevance of improvements that producers invest in and apply more realistic and feasible time frames based on the context and situation of producers. Where both the current Rainforest Alliance and UTZ standards mostly prescribed the implementation of practices in a ‘one-size-fits-all’-format, the new Rainforest Alliance standard aims to gather better insights in the field with the help of measured indicators. This will allow better adaptation of the improvements to the local context both for the producers themselves and the Rainforest Alliance. The certificate holders will focus on less improvement topics but commit to progress that is relevant and feasible in their situation to achieve better results.
What does the setup of the new standard look like?
The new certification standard is meant to drive continuous improvement for producers. In addition to prescribing practices, the standard focuses on enabling and measuring improvements towards sustainability outcomes. Core criteria and improvement pathways together will drive progress towards sustainability.
In order to achieve certification, producers must meet core criteria requirements, similar to the critical or mandatory criteria of the current Rainforest Alliance and UTZ standards. Most core criteria prescribe good practices with respect to key sustainability risk topics and are formulated as compliance criteria (yes/no). In some cases, the core criterion will contain a set threshold (e.g. minimum wage) that must be measured and reported.
Improvement pathways are designed to further promote and measure progress towards sustainability outcomes. The Rainforest Alliance believes that certification should be accessible for a wide group of farms and producers, but that continuous improvements are a fundamental tenet of sustainability.
The standard will consist of an introduction and four chapters: Management, Farming Practices, Social, and Environment.
Will the standard require improvement after initial certification?
The new standard will require certified farms to further improve the sustainability of their practices over time. Improvement pathways consist of various levels in order to evaluate the progress of each producer’s specific sustainability journey. The improvement levels come primarily in two forms: a stepwise set of activities or additional practices or metric “targets” that will be evaluated by indicator data.
Sustainability improvement topics in the new standard are categorized in three types: mandatory, context specific, or self-selected. Mandatory topics are required for all certificate holders. These topics primarily address the management of the farm since this is considered the first step towards identifying the farm’s or group’s sustainability goals. Context specific topics are required for some certificate holders, which will be determined by a context specific risk assessment. These context assessments may be based on geography, crop, or other risk parameters. Finally, self-selected topics are areas where certificate holders can select improvement topics based on their own risk assessment or sustainability goals.
Each certificate holder is required to commit to at least a minimum number (indication: 12) of improvement topics. Certificate holders will be required to determine the improvements they can make and the time frame they need to reach each level. For high-risk or strategic improvement topics, the Rainforest Alliance can guide or fix the time frame to reach each level.
The Rainforest Alliance expects this more flexible improvement approach to benefit producers and other actors involved in agricultural supply chains—and to ultimately increase our collective impact. Self-determination encourages sustainability improvements that are relevant for the specific context and situation of producers and facilitates focused commitment from certificate holders, buyers, and other supply chain actors to invest in these improvements.
What will be the requirements for certification?
For the first certification audit, all certificate holders must comply with all core criteria applicable to their category (smallholder or medium/large). We will also require a first assessment, which will score certificate holders on the applicable improvement topics. For the subsequent certification audits, certificate holders will be required to fully comply with all core criteria, as well as show improvements on a minimum number (indication: 12) of improvement topics (including mandatory, context-specific, and self-selected topics). Further requirements on time frames to reach a certain improvement level will be determined.
Can certificate holders be decertified?
At the first certification audit, the certificate holders will not be certified if they do not comply with the core criteria. After the first year, certificate holders need to still comply with all core criteria, but also have to show progress on at least twelve improvement topics. The exact rules for decertification in relation to the improvements still need to be defined.
How will the Rainforest Alliance facilitate and gather data, and how will this data be used to drive transparency?
Through the new certification system, the Rainforest Alliance will facilitate data on sustainability practices and outcomes to producers, companies, and other supply chain actors. This indicator data will be used to assess compliance, to support farm and group management self-learning, and potentially to inform other supply chain actors in a secure certificate holder “member profile.” The Rainforest Alliance will provide guidance on how to collect this data and indicators. Depending on the topic, data can be collected through a range of sources (all following a rigid and credible assurance process), such as:
- Internal sources (e.g. the farm’s or group’s internal management system; a trader or buyer monitoring and evaluation system)
- External sources (e.g. the certification assurance process; Certification Bodies or other credible and mutually agreed upon 3rd third parties)
- External Data sources (e.g. satellite imagery)
Data used for compliance and external reporting may also be verified and analyzed through the assurance process.
Data will be used to assess compliance (e.g. wages are above minimum wage) and to support self-learning (e.g. the number of identified and remediated cases of forced labor and child labor; the wage gap between men and women). This data can be used to give certificate holders better insights into the sustainability performance of their farm or group, diagnose sustainability gaps, and make plans for improvements. Data for reporting can be used to communicate compliance, improvements, and overall performance, and therefore incentivize sustainability performance. Finally, based on these various sources of information, farmers, supply chain partners, and the Rainforest Alliance can target additional interventions and advocacy efforts to drive and catalyze changes at the sectoral and landscape level.
For example, the Rainforest Alliance strives to help ensure that workers’ remuneration is sufficient for workers and their families to have a decent standard of living. As a starting point for certification, all workers should receive at least the applicable minimum wage. In addition to that, the standard requires all producers to report on wages, and as an improvement topic, to increase these wages towards a living wage. This indicator for wage and remuneration will give insights in the actual gaps of where we see large differences between actual wages paid and a living wage. Overtime this information can also show the improvements that are being made and drive collaborative action with supply chain actors to set targets and develop action plans. Supply chain actors are expected to be more willing to invest in sustainability improvements, if the results of these investments can be measured and shown.
How will farm and group management capacities be assessed and why are they needed?
Farms need to be managed in an efficient, transparent, inclusive, and economically viable manner with reliable data management, good traceability, and sound financial management. To achieve this the standard has criteria on these capacities. The new criteria focus on assessing management capacities (core) and improving them (improvement). The Rainforest Alliance will offer a capacity management tool, but other tools may also be used. In the improvement part, the score has to increase over time. It is requested to do this annually, to revise capacity based on outcomes of certificate holders. The outcomes of this tool have to be linked to the management plan.
The following management capacities will be assessed:
- Human resource management: The number of staff per producer, and the education level of all staff is required to understand whether the group/farm will be able to meet the requirements, and able to provide the required services to the group members.
- Business and financial management: This is required to understand if the group/farm can continue in the same way or if there are risks of financial issues, like bankruptcy or the inability to pay group members or suppliers (invoices and premiums).
- Governance practices: These will help to understand whether group/farm managements are running the organization efficiently, transparently, and in an inclusive way. For example, group management decision making processes, appointments, and dealing with complaints.
- Member services and business activities: This will give insight into what services the group provides to its members (e.g. training, advice, access to finance, inputs, facilities), as well as the level of participation members have in the planning for and provision of these services. The assessment will also include related business activities, such marketing and quality control, to ensure the members’ interests are considered.
- Community and stakeholder engagement: This will help assess how actively the group/farm engages with its community and other stakeholders (e.g. government, business partners, unions, associations, NGOs) that are relevant to its activities.
The main purpose of the assessment is for the groups/farms to be able to have realistic plans based on human and financial resources. It was decided to focus on the actual implementation of these capacities, since this is a more effective way to inform about decision making of the group, trigger planning and bring awareness about opportunities and limitations. Also, the Rainforest Alliance believes more emphasis is needed on the business management skills. As improvement criterion, the management looks not only at the basic inputs (such as seedlings), but also at additional services (such as forecasting information and external data sources). This can help to have a more advanced management system and create a better position with more independence for the group/farm.
Given that the scoring from the assessment tool will be used as an indicator for compliance, the Rainforest Alliance will develop an own tool to measure this. The data collected could be potentially used to monitor capacities of the groups/farms, provide recommendations and plan training programs.
Why will the Rainforest Alliance now require GPS data?
In the new standard GPS data is added as a new request for each farmer. Starting with data points for smallholders, in the improvement topics polygons (data of the outlines of all actual fields included in certification) will be required over time. It is acknowledged that collecting full polygon data can be a laborious and costly task, therefore the collection can be spread over time.
For the producers, point data can be used in dashboard tooling for more efficient group management, compliance maps and risk maps. Polygons give much more accurate risk maps and facilitate yield estimation.
By requesting certificate holders to comply with the improvement criteria of progressive digitalization of internal inspection, the Rainforest Alliance aims to promote certificate holders to use data in a management (PDCA) cycle to be able to make better informed decisions. Data should increasingly be digital so the certificate holder can more easily analyze it to identify issues and priorities in a management plan.
Improvement criteria require the use of digital data by the group management for improvement plans at farm level and not only at group level. Beyond assessing compliance, the Group Management will have a role in providing services to individual group members with the support and the use of digital data. For producers, polygons can be valuable to facilitate land title recognition and other types of benefits like subsidies. For the Rainforest Alliance the data will help assess risks (for example of deforestation or water scarcity) and support in identifying duplicates in certificates as well as support certification bodies in the preparation of the audit.
Why will the new standard require risk assessments, management plan and inspections?
The new standard will require a risk assessment, a management plan, and internal inspections for all certified farms.
The risk assessment, management plan, and internal inspection are key tools for the certification system to function. These requirements are not meant to police certificate holders or cause them additional and unnecessary work, but rather the Rainforest Alliances want to use these tools to have an open conversation with certificate holders in order to help determine their capacity and resources. Risks should not be punishment areas. The improvement criteria allow these potential gaps to be focus areas for improvement. Furthermore, the digitization and systematization of data will allow for a better understanding of risks per area/region, with the potential to translate these gaps into higher landscape efforts and buyer/supply chain sustainability investments.
Internal inspections will be conducted every year in order to monitor the progress of group members, and based on these results, a course of action, included in the management plan, will address any gaps or areas for improvement. These management plans should be updated at least every two years. Given that the risks of certificate holders are often linked to regional risks, and therefore not expected to improve immediately, risk assessments can be conducted every two years. This time frame aims to reduce the costs of certification for smallholders, allowing them to focus their resources on the actual implementation and improvement of practices. The Rainforest Alliance also aims to provide predefined risk assessments predefined risk assessments through geolocation (key risks per area/region), as well as to support certificate holders conducting their own risk assessments.
Based on the gaps identified in the risk assessment and the analysis of internal inspection data (including financial data when available), group management will not only assess compliance, but also act as a service provider to individual group members in order to help them achieve and improve their sustainability goals. This service delivery should focus on the farmers and their farm resources, including inputs and financial support. In addition, the improvement criteria on this service delivery is meant to professionalize group management and extend the knowledge and data need beyond the mere group context (e.g. tailored-made training, access to credit).
These core criteria apply only to group certificate holders. Trainings for large plantations are more integrated in the social, farming, and environmental chapters of the standard.
Why is yield estimation important?
Certification systems face risks, such as inaccurate yield estimations, fraud of documentation, and lack of record keeping. A combination of a strong assurance model and concrete control points is required. Lack of accuracy is a major issue in yield estimations. In order to work towards more accurate yield estimations, we first need to clarify what a credible yield estimation methodology is. It is important to make this methodology applicable for yield estimations per group member and consider farmers who grow more than one certified product on their farms. Both the improvement criteria and the data collected from internal inspections and other sources will be is crucial to improving the accuracy of yield estimations.
The new standard includes core criteria on yield estimation, which must be calculated annually and with a credible methodology. In the process of supporting producers to increase productivity, making accurate estimations of their production is important. This information can be used in strategic decisions, planning, and marketing, as well as adding to their professional and development of business models and empowerment towards buyers. For groups, the yield estimation can be calculated based on a sample of representative farmers. For large plantations with several plots, the yield can be calculated based on a sample of representative plots. Sampling and credible methodology consider but are not limited to: previous yields, the density and age of the trees, plant variety, pests and diseases, soil quality, geographic location, and climate. The improvement criteria, required over time, include that the methodology is used with all the group members for groups and all the plots for large plantations, and the difference between estimation and actual harvest must progressively decrease towards a 20 percent margin of error.
Record keeping and Traceability
Improvements in yield estimations must involve careful group management and administration, as well as accurate record keeping (e.g. of the methodology, estimated volume amounts per farmer, the flow of volumes to the group). Thus, more accurate yield estimations fall under the larger scope of traceability. Traceability issues can pose serious risks for all stakeholders involved; criteria are provided that will help increase the credibility of the system. Also, the farm must have a system to avoid the mixing of certified products with non-certified products in its facilities, including the harvesting, handling, processing, and packaging, and transportation of products.
Will the Rainforest Alliance standard include intervention on pricing?
We believe that the long-term sustainability of producers is only possible if it can be achieved within the current market system they rely on. In the proposed new standard we have currently taken the position not to directly intervene in pricing.
However, we recognize that the market is not an equal playing field and producers carry a disproportionate amount of risk, which is compounded by being impacted more quickly and more dramatically when the market price drops.
Therefore within the consultation on the standard we are also holding a short consultation on the scope / role of the Rainforest Alliance in addressing price volatility both within and alongside our standard. We hope you will take the time to also respond to these questions.
Please find more information here.
What is the approach to premium and why has this been chosen?
The standard will have a core criterion on premium, which will be aligned with the criteria in the Chain of Custody (ChoC) for the first buyer. The premium is negotiated between the certificate holder and the first buyer. There is full transparency on premium expenditure, with data about this recorded in the traceability system.
The core requirement on premium expenditure is to tackle the main problems of transparency and low or non-existing premium. Expenditure will be recorded in the RA traceability system (premium platform) in order to have full transparency of the:
- Premium along the entire supply chain
- Cash premium flowing from group management to individual group members, in the case of groups.
A mandatory improvement point for the group is on participation of group members in decision making for premium expenditure. A mandatory improvement point for the individual is on investment of the premium to improve workers’ and local community’s living conditions.
Premium is necessary to create an incentive for producers and companies to start investing in sustainable farming. Returns may come after a certain amount of months or years, but activities like training for instance has to take place before a member gets certified. Premium should have the function to at least repay costs for sustainable practices.
Having a fixed amount of premium is hard to determine, with many different countries and context. The Rainforest Alliance can however have a larger impact when monitoring premium distribution along the chain. Therefore, the new standard aims to increase transparency by requesting data reporting on premium expenditure.
How has the issue of farm income been addressed?
We have two criteria focused on farm profitability, which include one criterion on income and cost data, and calculation of net income results based on that; and another one on the use of that data. For farm profitability – only basic data is required to be recorded by a sample and not necessarily reported to us.
On living income – Only four data points are required for other key criteria (farm size, yield, prices/volumes, and premium). Cost of production, income from other sources, and other hard to collect data will not be necessary. We will use secondary data to complete the living income model and analysis. The main objective is to promote a more business-oriented type of farming and increased data collection by producers.
A large percentage of the farmers (esp. in the cocoa and coffee sectors) we work with live below the poverty line. While certification alone cannot eradicate poverty, our new standard can address part these challenges, such as the price and premium farmers receive. We must also work to bring actors together who can collectively tackle this systematic issue.
How are gender inequality issues managed in the standard?
According to the Rainforest Alliance, sustainable agriculture cannot be achieved without addressing gender inequality and that the promotion of gender equality needs to play a central role in the standard. In the current Rainforest Alliance and UTZ standards, various criteria address gender related topics. Some examples include supporting equality and empowerment of women; awareness raising on equal rights for women, and equal pay for equal jobs and measures for sexual harassment.
Based on the learnings and feedback from members, the following conclusion has been made to address gender in a consistent way. In addition to the more practically oriented measures, a framework needs to be in place in the management chapter. This ensures persons are responsible for gender inequality, and that there is commitment from management to raise awareness. Also, gender sensitive monitoring is in place to be able to detect if progress has been made or if gaps must be addressed.
Moreover, the persons who have been appointed for gender inequality should be responsible to address gender-based discrimination. This is a core requirement for large estates as female workers often make up a large and important part of the workforce. For smallholders this it is more complicated to require this as a core criterion because of organizational reasons. It is therefore required as an improvement criterion. The core criteria require as a minimum to have in place a public commitment. This will help in raising awareness and collecting sex disaggregated data to be able to detect gender gaps in areas such as e.g. wages and presence in management functions.
In other chapters of the standard the requirements make sure that sex disaggregated data is collected (on areas like participation in trainings, representation in management roles and wages). It can also ensure and that specific needs for women are taken into account (like maternity rights and facilities such as separate toilets for female and male workers). Sexual harassment is being addressed in chapter three on social aspects of the standard, as it is a social issue that needs a specific approach. It is also related to the management chapter since the outcomes of the risk assessment done by the management, complemented by risk maps of RA, is the basis of the development of measures to address situations of sexual harassment.
How are child labor issues managed in the standard?
The Rainforest Alliance envisions a world in which children and young workers are protected from work that is harmful and/or interferes with schooling. It also requires farmer groups, cooperatives, estates, and companies to support and respect this human right. The current Rainforest Alliance standard focuses on a prohibition of child labor, and sanctioning through audits and de-certification. However, it was found that nonconformities were not always sufficiently identified and that child labor issues were not always acknowledged and addressed by the certificate holders.
Evidence is building up that due diligence approaches and remediation have a higher impact than only prohibition. In the current UTZ standard, this is already implemented with a system requiring groups and farms to assess the risk of child labor. In the case of a risk, certificate holders are required to set up a community-based system to identify and remediate child labor. This Child Labor Monitoring & Remediation System (CLMRS) is based on good practices implemented by some companies, often with the NGO International Cocoa Initiative (ICI).
It is the Rainforest Alliance’s intention to further build on this CLMRS approach, which requires a proactive attitude from the certificate holder and incentivizes groups and farms to address child labor issues instead of hiding them. The assurance and improvement plan will focus on verifying the effectiveness and scale of the system of identification and remediation (assess and address approach), instead of on the prevalence of child labor.
There are several improvements to this CLMRS approach that will be used for the new RA standard, such as:
- The risk assessment is partly based on context-specific data of child labor prevalence that is provided by the Rainforest Alliance. This will help ensure that known risks are accounted for and acknowledged by the certificate holder.
- Active- and evidence-based prevention is encouraged to improve the cost effectiveness of the CLMRS approach.
- Groups are required to actively commit to the eradication of child labor in their group, and to ensure that the principle of “protection against child labor” remains the main goal of the group.
The inclusion of this assess and address approach (or CLMRS) in the standard is in line with due diligence legislation emerging in various buying countries.
What is meant by discrimination and how is this managed in the standard?
With regards to the term “discrimination” the Rainforest Alliance uses the definition as per the ILO Convention 111: “Discrimination implies any distinction, exclusion or preference made on the basis of race, color, sex, religion, political opinion, national extraction or social origin, which has the effect of nullifying or impairing equality of opportunity or treatment in employment or occupation”.
In the context of the certification program, vulnerable groups include women, indigenous people, migrants, temporary workers and youth. In the current Rainforest Alliance and UTZ standards there is a specific criterion on discrimination, which is also included in the new standard. Moreover, an additional criteria “freedom to express one’s cultural identity” has been added. Gender based discrimination is more specifically addressed in the “Gender equality” criteria in the Management Chapter, while discrimination of vulnerable workers (like migrants) is addressed in the criteria of Forced Labor in this same social chapter of the standard.
What is meant by (sexual) harassment and how is this managed in the standard?
Sustainable agriculture cannot be achieved without addressing gender inequality. One of the important issues that relate to gender equality is the right to live and work without the threat of being (sexually) abused or harassed. For sexual harassment, RA uses the interpretation by the ILO: “Sexual harassment is sex-based behavior that is unwelcome and offensive to its recipient”. By abuse, RA means “Behaviors which depart from reasonable conduct and involve the misuse of physical or psychological strength” (Chappell & Di Martino, 2006).
The current approach in the Rainforest Alliance and UTZ standards are based on a zero-tolerance principle. Experiences in the last years have shown that this is not the most effective approach. It is unfortunately not realistic to require that sexual harassment does not exist, especially since this issue is often hidden instead of addressed.
Therefore, the new standard requires a system to be in place that assesses and addresses sexual harassment. In that way, farm or estate management must make sure that:
- A person is made responsible for the issue
- That management and workers know their rights
- And that a system is in place to receive, handle and remediate cases occurring
This way there will be a more structural approach for addressing sexual harassment, which can have increased impact and make the approach more auditable.
Sexual harassment should always be addressed and by all members that have more than 10 workers. Since these are the groups where sexual harassment can potentially be an issue.
What is meant by forced labor and how is this managed in the new standard?
The Rainforest Alliance envisions a world in which all farm workers— especially vulnerable workers (e.g. women, indigenous people, migrants, temporary workers, and youth)—are protected from forced or coercive labor. Farmer groups, cooperatives, estates, and companies support and respect this human right.
Like the issue of child labor, evidence is building up that due diligence approaches and remediation have a higher impact than only prohibition. Therefore, the standard has been designed to stimulate a proactive attitude from the certificate holder and to incentivize groups and farms to address forced labor issues. The assurance and improvement plan will focus on verifying the effectiveness and scale of the system of identification and remediation (assess and address approach), instead of on the prevalence of forced labor.
There are several improvements to this approach that have been made for the new RA standard:
- The risk assessment is partly based on context-specific data of forced labor prevalence that is provided by RA. This will help to ensure that known risks are taken into accounted for and acknowledged by the certificate holders.
- Active- and evidence-based prevention is encouraged to improve the cost effectiveness of the assess and address approach.
- Groups are required to actively commit to the eradication of forced labor in their group, and to ensure that the principle of “protection against forced or coercive labor” remains the main goal of the group.
The inclusion of this assess and address approach in the standard is in line with the United National Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights, as well as due diligence legislation emerging in various buying countries.
What is meant by overtime and how is this managed in the new standard?
In the standard the Rainforest Alliance has tried to find the best balance in regulating overtime, while working in sectors with peak seasons.
The maximum overtime of 12 hours in the current Rainforest Alliance standard creates challenges for certain agricultural sectors during peak season. Some sectors have several peaks of harvest during which trained labor is required with a shortage of workers. While in some sectors notable efforts are made to mechanize processes, other sectors like flowers still strongly depend on human labor. In certain cases, workers might be very willing to work overtime since this can significantly improve their income remarkably and the when hours are paid according to the law.
The Rainforest Alliance investigated existing practices in other standards and the relevant ILO conventions. The ILO Reduction of Hours of Work Recommendation, 1962 (No 116) sets out an overall objective of progressive reduction of hours of work to the standard of 48 hours per week without reducing wages. The establishment of specific limits to the total number of additional hours or overtime is left to the competent authorities by all ILO Conventions. However, overtime limits still have to be reasonable, and the public authority should make a thorough evaluation of the intensity of the respective work and the risks to cause physical or mental fatigue. Some countries allow more than 12 hours of overtime provided that some conditions are met (for example, that the overtime is only temporary, and certain precautions are taken to guarantee safety and health of workers.
The Rainforest Alliance recognizes that the overtime regulation in agriculture might be necessary to accommodate peak seasons. There is no international convention on this, especially not in agriculture. The standard does not prescribe a hard limit of overtime, but instead indicates the national authorities’ judgement to be leading, as exemplified in the country’s national law.
Why does the standard contain requirements for community rights and community support?
Looking at the overall picture, good relations and collaboration between communities and companies are crucial. This is needed to keep rural areas alive, and to enhance system changes beyond the farm level that are required to build sustainable societies.
Companies are connected to communities in different roles. They can provide employment and make use of land and other resources. Companies can benefit from good community relations by having a productive and positive workforce and can add to communities by supporting facilities and development.
On the other hand, when companies end or start activities they can harm communities by limiting their natural resources or the access thereto (such as land or water, or culturally relevant places). In cases of significant changes in activities, like starting agricultural activities on land not previously used, it is imperative for companies to formally consult the community and agree on the best way to minimize negative impacts and / or arrange for compensation. The formal process to arrange such agreement is called Free and Prior Informed Consult (FPIC).
How does the Rainforest Alliance address deforestation in the standard?
Forests and other natural ecosystems are critical to the survival of every living thing on earth. Forests clean the air, absorb greenhouse gas emissions, and stabilize the climate—both globally and locally. Forests also provide habitat for 80 percent of the world’s terrestrial biodiversity and livelihoods for 1.6 billion people.
Conformance with the new standard continues to help producers and companies to demonstrate adherence to “deforestation-free” production and sourcing commitments, and helps consumers identify deforestation-free products in the marketplace.
The new standard will apply a rigorous no conversion approach for forests and natural ecosystems, with a retro-active cut-off date of 2008. This cut-off date provides continuity to existing rigorous Rainforest Alliance and UTZ cut-off dates for primary forest (2008) and high conservation values (2005) respectively.
The Rainforest Alliance plans to expand its assurance capacity for deforestation and other land use conversion. It will do this by requiring certificate holders to collect spatial data and capacitating auditors to verify spatial data and conducting basic assessment using remote tools and field observation, including remote sensing tools and land use classification maps.
While the “no conversion” criteria will now cover all natural forest and other ecosystems, it is not expected to result in the immediate de-certification of any certificate holders that are compliant with our current standards. Options for compensation rules are being explored under specific scenarios. For example, looking at specific cases for those certificate holders in high forest cover landscapes, or regarding cases of limited forest conversion between 2008 and 2014.
How are the assessment of areas with High Conservation Values (HCV) approached in the standard?
The HCV approach is the three-step process to (1) identify, (2) manage and (3) enhance biological, ecological, social or cultural values, which are outstandingly significant or critically important at the national, regional or global level.
Identification of HCVs involves interpreting what the HCV definitions mean in the local or national context. It also means deciding which HCVs are present in the area of interest, or which HCVs in the wider landscape may be negatively impacted by project activities.
As such, the HCV approach is not suited to retro-actively determine whether areas of high conservation value were destroyed. This was something that as is currently suggested in the current Rainforest Alliance standard under critical criterion 2.1. In addition, HCV assessments that follow the formal approach are long and complex, and the process can be too costly for smallholders to undertake.
While making no explicit reference to the HCV approach in our new certification criteria, the new standard requires producers to assess, protect and conserve all natural ecosystems and take a variety of other measures that would be frequently applied to conserve HCVs, including but not limited to hunting, maintenance of native vegetation, and protection of water bodies.
The Rainforest Alliance will continue to promote the use of the HCV or combined HCV-HCS Assessment (High Conservation Value – High Carbon Stock) approach and guidance materials in specific contexts. This will be done as comprehensive processes to identify, manage and monitor forests, natural ecosystems and their conservation values.
How does the standard address climate change?
The new standard continues to recognize the challenges that already exist from climate change and seeks to address these issues by actively promoting climate smart agriculture while improving the resilience of farms and farming communities.
This is accomplished by protecting native ecosystems and on-farm biodiversity, avoiding deforestation, maintaining healthy soils, sustaining water resources, and guiding farmers to select and adopt climate-smart planting materials and farming practices. Additionally, the standard seeks to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions of agriculture associated with the use of energy, fertilizers, pesticides, – while maintaining or enhancing carbon stocks in soils, forests, and other on-farm vegetation. As such, the standard promotes all three pillars of climate smart agriculture:
- Sustainably increasing agricultural productivity and incomes;
- Adapting and building resilience to climate change; and
- Reducing or removing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, where possible.
In addition, the standard focuses on estimating agriculture’s own impact on climate change through supporting the collection of data of the main GHG sources. This is achieved through requiring record-keeping of simple input and waste data, such as fertilizer, pesticide or energy usages that are now part of the overall book keeping requirements. The climate impact could be reported or be translated into approximate GHG benefits that not only quantify and support reporting requirements of private sector partners but also help to develop climate mitigation strategies.
What is on-farm vegetation and how is this covered in the standard?
The new standard seeks to contribute to the protection and conservation of on-farm natural ecosystems and other on-farm native vegetation. Through agroforestry, set aside areas and other improvement pathways, the new standard helps producers maintain and increase the amount and of native vegetation on the farm. Depending on the context, crops grown under a diverse native tree canopy cover, help conserve biodiversity and increase farm resilience. We will develop revised parameters for tree canopy cover and tree species diversity.
In other cropping systems, maintaining and increasing the amount of land set aside as conservation helps to diversify production systems, conserve native habitats and their biodiversity, and supporting critical ecosystem services such as pollination, pest control, and water purification.
To contribute to conservation in the broader landscape, our new standard helps producers maintaining vegetated buffers along aquatic ecosystems, while avoiding negative impacts to surrounding protected areas.
How are genetically modified crops covered in the standard?
The use of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) in agricultural systems is not in alignment with the Rainforest Alliance mission and vision on how to achieve sustainable and resilient farming systems. We believe that in the light of consequences of their use over the last two decades, strict measures need to be taken with regards to the research, commercialization and use, and that use of GM crops should be used as a last resort. To increase the resilience of producers, other alternatives must be first further researched and supported, focused on production systems, using existing local agro-biodiversity, use of on-farm resources, integrated pest management, and comprehensive good agricultural practices.
The new standard has a core criterion that follows the current Rainforest Alliance standard of banning GMO for certified crops. With regards to the rest of the crops grown on the farm, in particular subsistence food crops, the Rainforest Alliance acknowledges the difficulty for producers and auditors to identify the origin and the nature of the planting material, and do not wish to exclude currently certified producers from the certification program. The phasing out of GMO for the whole farm is thus added as an improvement criterion.
The use or not of GM crops has been subject to controversy over the past years. There is no consensus about their usage in agricultural systems among different governments, organizations and other stakeholders. The Rainforest Alliance acknowledges the potential and opportunities brought forth by the development of different types of GMOs (e.g. transgenic, cisgenics), but also recognizes that their development and commercialization have brought forth several complex issues and risks to the sustainability of farming systems.
How are pesticides managed in the standard?
The Rainforest Alliance will continue with the same strategy as in the current Rainforest Alliance and UTZ standards. This is to aim at reducing the risk posed using pesticides, by reducing hazards (i.e. chemical property of the pesticide) and reducing exposure. The hazard is reduced by selecting less toxic products, while exposure is reduced by using fewer pesticides, better application methods and protective equipment. Integrated pest management (IPM) is at the core of this strategy, as well as safe handling of agro-chemicals, to ensure sustainable pest management.
IPM combines different management strategies and practices to grow healthy crops, and minimize the use of pesticides. Monitoring and prevention of pests is the first step, and chemical control can only be used as the last resort. If producers need to rely on pesticides, two pesticide lists are being developed by the Rainforest Alliance:
- A prohibited list with pesticides that cannot be used anywhere on the farm due to their highly hazardous nature, and
- A watch list with pesticides to be used only under certain mitigation conditions (for example because currently no alternatives are available), and with the objective to phase these out.
For the new standard the current Rainforest Alliance and UTZ lists of prohibited pesticides have been combined. Pesticides prohibited by both current Rainforest Alliance and UTZ standards will also be prohibited under the new standard. Pesticides, which are either in the current Rainforest Alliance Prohibited list or the current UTZ prohibited list will be reviewed and chosen to be either prohibited or under the watch list. The development of the final prohibited list and watchlist will be conducted with support of an appointed pesticide committee.
How will assurance work for the new standard?
An important pillar of “reimagining certification” is the collection and verification of credible and useful data and compliance evidence. In order to keep the cost of certification reasonable for certificate holders, assurance is geared towards the risks as well as the topics that matter the most.
The intent is not to lower the involvement of certification bodies but rather to target their efforts more effectively. That means that auditors will spend more time at farms to verify compliance with social criteria, whereas for some of the environmental criteria, technology and satellite images will get a more prominent role. In addition, the Rainforest Alliance is exploring assurance methods that depend less on audits that are carried out once per year, but and more on regular interim verification moments during the agricultural production cycle.