Standards Overview

Initiatives Covered in the Review

Currently, more than 400 consumer-facing eco-labels are operating across the globe (see Ecolabel Index, 2013). While many of these remain targeted to specific audiences defined along geographical lines, a growing number of global standards initiatives are aimed at altering the way global commodity production and trade are undertaken. Most such initiatives today focus on the agriculture and forestry sectors, which together are estimated to account for more than one-third of all human-sourced greenhouse gases.

This survey covers 16 of the most important standards initiatives currently active in the agriculture, forestry and biofuels sectors with a global reach. These 16 initiatives currently certify or verify production totalling an estimated trade value of US$31.6 billion 1 (2012), accounting for an increasingly important share of the global market in their respective sectors. In 2012, global standard compliant production accounted for:

  • 40 per cent of coffee production
  • 22 per cent of cocoa production
  • 15 per cent of palm oil production
  • 9 per cent of forest area

In every commodity market in which they operate, these standards are growing at rates well beyond the growth rate of production and consumption within the commodity markets themselves, with many initiatives exhibiting compound annual growth rates above 50 per cent over the last five years. The significant market penetration and growth of the initiatives covered in this report highlight the growing importance of understanding the underlying trends related to their design and implementation.

In order to be included in the SSI Review 2014, an initiative had to have global presence and be operational in one or more of the following commodities: bananas, biofuels, cocoa, coffee, cotton, forestry, palm oil, soy, sugar or tea. We are deeply grateful for the support that each of the participating initiatives provided to ensure accurate and up-to-date data. The following is an overview of the initiatives included in this report.


1. [This figure is the estimated trade value, not the retail value.]
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4C

Founded in 2006, the 4C Association is a member-based initiative operating in the coffee sector across 22 countries. As a baseline, product-specific standard, the 4C code implementation process provides a phased-in approach toward full compliance. This phased-in approach makes it possible for producers who are either unfamiliar or not yet able to comply with more stringent certification initiatives to gain market recognition for adopting commitments to more sustainable production. One of the objectives of the 4C Association is to prepare producers for eventual compliance with other consumer-facing initiatives.

The initiative operates business to business, developing standards and verifying compliance with these standards in order to ensure sustainable coffee practices among its members. All 4C units2 are required to submit self-assessments and undergo subsequent verification audits by accredited third-party auditors. The 4C Association applies the identity preservation and segregation models of supply chain traceability at the unit level. The supply chain traceability model of mass balance is also used; however, the licence/certificate must be passed on with the coffee up to final buyer level. The initiative is funded primarily by membership fees.


2. [“4C units” is the name 4C gives to producing entities (V. Perez, 4C Association, personal communication, December 2013)]

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BCI

Founded in 2005, the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) is a member based initiative operating in the cotton sector across eight countries. BCI’s Better Cotton System provides a holistic approach to building and implementing sustainability in cotton production, which is implemented by major manufacturers.

The initiative operates business to business, developing standards and verifying compliance with these standards in order to ensure sustainable cotton production practices among its members. To verify compliance throughout BCI’s one-year licence period, all BCI-compliant enterprises are required to undergo verification audits, with all verification audits performed by third-party auditors. The initiative offers a separate Chain of Custody standard and applies the mass balance model of supply chain traceability to its products. The initiative’s revenue is derived almost evenly from both recurring and non-recurring sources (BCI, 2013a).

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bonsucroz

Founded in 2008, Bonsucro is a multistakeholder initiative operating in the sugar cane sector across seven countries. Bonsucro offers a unique credit-trading scheme to provide efficient certification across a homogenous commodity. Once compliance is approved, the certified products (or credits) can be traded.

The initiative operates business to consumer, developing standards and a marketing label to ensure sustainable sugar cane practices among its members. To verify compliance throughout Bonsucro’s three-year certification validity period, all Bonsucrocompliant enterprises are required to undergo surveillance audits, with all audits performed by third-party auditors. Separate Chain of Custody certification is offered, and the initiative applies both the mass balance and book-and-claim models of supply chain traceability to its products. The initiative is funded primarily by membership fees.

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cottonafricaz

Founded in 2005, the Cotton made in Africa (CmiA) initiative is an initiative operating in the cotton sector across six countries. CmiA is distinguished by its reliance on and use of the Demand Alliance of international textile companies in driving both market and supply chain uptake through the demand of sustainably produced cotton.

The initiative operates business to consumer, developing standards, verifying compliance with these standards, and using a marketing label to ensure sustainable cotton practices among its members. CmiA’s initial approval is based on self-declaration followed by a third-party verification audit every two years to verify compliance. Identity preservation and mass balance models of supply chain traceability are applied to all CmiA cotton products to ensure accountability of compliance claims in the marketplace. The primary source of CmiA’s revenue comes from grants and fees and services.

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ethicalteaz

Founded in 19973, the Ethical Tea Partnership (ETP) is a member based initiative operating across 16 countries within the tea sector. The ETP is a non-commercial alliance of international tea companies working together to improve the sustainability of the tea sector by improving producers’ performance against the ETP Global Standard, which was formally launched in 2009. The Partnership also provides training and capacity building to enable producers to meet these standards.

ETP operates business to business, developing standards to ensure sustainable tea practices among its members. All ETP compliant enterprises are required to submit an initial self assessment. Feedback is provided to the producers in the form of a risk assessment, allowing the producer to identify areas for improvement and prepare for a verification audit. All ETP audits are performed by third-party auditors. The segregation model of supply chain traceability is applied to all ETP tea products to ensure accountability of compliance claims in the marketplace. The initiative is funded primarily by membership fees.


3. [The ETP (originally the Tea Sourcing Partnership) was established in 1997 by major tea-packing companies from the United Kingdom to monitor and ensure its members’ supply chains. Originally, this focused purely on the social and labour rights of workers and was measured against local and national laws. In 2009 the ETP launched its own standard, called the ETP Global Standard. The social and labour provisions are based on the Ethical Trade Initiative base code, which covers the relevant International Labour Organization core conventions. The standard also covers key environmental provisions relevant to the tea industry.]

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GLOBALG.A.P.

Founded in 1997, the Global Partnership for Good Agricultural Practice (GLOBALG.A.P.) is a private initiative operating in the food and agriculture sector across 110 countries. GLOBALG.A.P. acts as a benchmark for local producers to become integrated into the GLOBALG.A.P. system through local G.A.P., a stepwise improvement plan that provides a subset of less-stringent GLOBALG.A.P. checkpoints. This enables emerging growers to meet minimum requirements for food safety and hygiene at the “Foundation” level before advancing to stronger food safety criteria.

The initiative operates business to business, developing standards and offering accreditation and certification services. GLOBALG.A.P.’s certificate validity period is one year. All audits are performed by third-party auditors. GLOBALG.A.P. offers a separate Chain of Custody certification and applies the identity preservation, segregation and mass balance models of supply chain traceability to its products. The initiative is funded primarily by fees and services.

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fairtradez

Founded in 1997, Fairtrade International is a member-based initiative operating within the food and agriculture sector across 120 countries. The initiative coordinates Fairtrade labelling at the international level. Fairtrade sets minimum pricing and premium levels as part of its commitment to poverty reduction for developing country producers.

The initiative operates business to consumer. A separate certification company, FLO-CERT, inspects producers and traders to ensure they comply with Fairtrade standards. Full re-assessment for Fairtrade’s certificates is conducted every three years. Within this three-year period, yearly surveillance audits and random field checks are performed. All audits are conducted by third-party auditors. The three supply chain traceability models of identity preservation, segregation and mass balance models are applied to all Fairtrade products to ensure accountability of compliance claims in the marketplace. The initiative’s primary source of revenue is from membership fees and grants.

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fscz

Founded in 1993, the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)4 is a member-based initiative operating within the forestry sector across 102 countries. In recognition of the local geographical and political diversity associated with forestry systems, FSC manages a series of National Standards Development Groups that adapt FSC international standards to the local context by adding country specific indicators, verifiers and guidance.

The initiative operates business to consumer5, developing standards and marketing the FSC label in order to ensure sustainable forestry practices among its members. FSC’s certification validity period is every five years, during which time a minimum of one annual surveillance audit is conducted. All audits are performed by third party auditors. FSC offers a separate Chain of Custody certification and applies identity preservation, segregation and mass balance models of supply chain traceability to all its products. The initiative is funded primarily by fees and services.6


4. [For the purpose of this review, FSC references the FSC Group, which includes FSC AC with FSC IC, GD and Accreditation Services International.]
5. [Forest management standards are developed in consultation with members and other stakeholders to define requirements for sustainable forestry practices. Certification of forest management against these standards is conducted to ensure that forestry with the FSC certificate is practiced sustainably. Marketing of FSC is conducted by some FSC entities and stakeholders.]
6. [SSI correspondence with FSC.]

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ifoamz

Founded in 1972, the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM) is a member-based initiative operating in the food and agriculture sector across 116 countries. As an international umbrella organization, IFOAM sets standards and quality assurance systems for organic standards. Organic certification is typically determined by standards set at the national or regional level. Many different Organic standards may operate within a single country, which may or may not comply with IFOAM global standards. Moreover, local Organic standards are increasingly regulated by governments. IFOAM plays a special role in the organic sector as an association of standards, and the initiative unites organic stakeholders, advocates long-term social and ecological change, facilitates production and trade, assists organic development, and provides training.7

The initiative operates business to consumer8, developing standards to ensure sustainable agriculture practices among its members. IFOAM-compliant enterprises are required to undergo a full assessment every year for recertification. Third-party, accredited auditors conduct all audits. The identity preservation and segregation models of supply chain traceability are applied to IFOAM’s food and agriculture products. The initiative’s primary source of revenue is from fees and services.9


7. [Throughout the systems section of this report we refer to Organic and IFOAM standards interchangeably. However, it is important to note that not all production considered Organic is actually compliant with IFOAM standards. IFOAM does, nevertheless, represent the leading global reference for defining Organic standards. Market data on Organic production and trade includes all recognized Organic production independent of whether or not the production complies with IFOAM criteria per se.]
8. [In addition to having a consumer-facing label, IFOAM also operates business to business (D. Gould, IFOAM, personal communication, December 2013).]
9. [For IFOAM, “fees and services” references “project income.”]

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rsbz

Founded in 2007, the Roundtable on Sustainable Biomaterials (RSB) is a global, member-based initiative operating in the energy sector across six countries. RSB is one of the few global commodity standards with specific performance requirements for greenhouse gas mitigation.

The initiative operates business to business, developing standards and marketing the RSB label to ensure sustainable biomaterial production. RSB units are certified case by case, with reassessment periods ranging from monthly for high-risk cases to two years for low-risk cases. Audits are conducted by third-party auditors. RSB offers a separate Chain of Custody certification and applies the identity preservation, segregation and mass balance models of supply chain traceability to its products. RSB’s primary source of revenue is public and private grants.

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pefcz

Founded in 1999, the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification Schemes (PEFC) is a member-based initiative operating in the forestry sector across 63 countries. PEFC membership consists of independent national standard-setting bodies as well as international stakeholder members. The initiative manages the PEFC Sustainability Benchmarks, which set baseline requirements for national standards initiatives to be endorsed by PEFC.

PEFC is an international umbrella organization that develops standards and provides independent assessment10 and endorsement of national forest certification systems. The initiative operates business to consumer, developing standards and marketing the PEFC label to ensure sustainable forestry practices. PEFC Sustainable Forest Management certificates are valid for five years, with all audits conducted by third-party auditors. PEFC offers a separate Chain of Custody certification and applies the identity preservation, segregation and mass balance models of supply chain traceability to its products. The initiative is funded almost entirely by membership fees (PEFC, 2013).


10. [12 PEFC independently assesses national standards for conformance with international requirements.]

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proterraz

Founded in 2012, the ProTerra Foundation is a member-based, not-for-profit foundation.11 The ProTerra Standard is applicable to any food or agricultural product, although it is currently used primarily for soy production and soy-derived consumer products. ProTerra is the first certification program in the food and feed commodities sector to respond to the demand for both non-GMO soy and improved sustainability.

The initiative operates business to consumer, developing standards and managing and maintaining quality control over certification. The validity period of ProTerra certificates is one year, with all audits conducted by third-party auditors. Identity preservation and the segregation models of supply chain traceability are applied to all ProTerra soy products to ensure accountability of compliance claims in the marketplace.


11. [ProTerra certification was under Cert ID until the ProTerra Foundation was established in January 2012.]

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rspoz

Founded in 2004, the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) is a member-based initiative operating in the palm oil sector across 71 countries. The initiative aims to achieve mainstream market uptake of sustainable palm oil production and processing. To this end, the Task Force on Smallholders was initiated to promote smallholder participation in the RSPO.

The initiative operates business to consumer, developing standards and providing certification services to ensure sustainable palm oil production among its members. RSPO-compliant enterprises undergo annual surveillance audits during the five-year certification period. All audits are conducted by third-party, accredited auditors. RSPO offers a separate supply chain certification and applies all four models of supply chain traceability—identity preservation, segregation, mass balance, and book-and-claim—to its products. The initiative is funded primarily by certified sustainable palm oil trading fees.

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rainforestallz

Founded in 1987, the Rainforest Alliance/Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN/RA) is a member-based initiative operating in the food and agriculture sector across 43 countries. The Rainforest Alliance and SAN represent a unique bi-party approach to standards development, conformity assessment and marketing. SAN is a coalition of independent, mostly Southern non-profit conservation organizations that promote the social and environmental sustainability of agricultural activities by developing standards and supporting technical assistance. SAN is the sole standard-setting body for Rainforest Alliance Certified agricultural products. The Rainforest Alliance manages labelling and marketing support SAN-compliant products.

The initiative operates business to consumer, developing standards, providing certification and marketing the Rainforest Alliance label in order to ensure sustainable agricultural practices. SAN units are certified every three years. All audits are conducted by third-party auditors. SAN offers a separate Chain of Custody certification and applies the identity preservation, segregation and mass balance models of supply chain traceability to its products. The agricultural related work of Rainforest Alliance is funded primarily by membership fees12 and public grants.


12. [Included in membership fees are “certification fees” and “contributions and membership” (Rainforest Alliance, 2013).]

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rtrsz

Founded in 2006, the Round Table on Responsible Soy (RTRS) is a member-based initiative functioning as a multistakeholder platform that works toward achieving responsible soy value chains. The initiative develops and manages standards for responsible soy production and operates across 21 countries. The RTRS offers a generic set of principles and criteria explicitly designed to apply to genetically modified, conventional and organic production systems.

The initiative operates business to business. RTRS units are reassessed for certification each year. All audits are conducted by thirdparty, accredited auditors. RTRS offers a separate Chain of Custody certification and applies the segregation and mass balance models of supply chain traceability to its products to ensure accountability of compliance claims in the marketplace. The initiative is funded primarily by private grants and membership fees.

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utzz

Founded in 2002, UTZ Certified is a multistakeholder initiative operating in the food and agriculture sector across 33 countries. Originally an idea of a Guatemalan coffee grower and a Dutch coffee roaster, UTZ Certified has grown into an independent, non-governmental, not-for-profit organization dedicated to creating a world where sustainable farming is the norm.

The initiative operates business to consumer, developing standards, providing certification and marketing the UTZ label through and with its partners, in order to ensure sustainable agricultural practices. All UTZ units are certified yearly, with all audits conducted by third-party auditors. UTZ also offers a separate Chain of Custody certification. The initiative applies the identity preservation and segregation models of supply chain traceability to all its products.13 Membership fees constitute the primary source of revenue for UTZ.


13. [UTZ also applies the system of mass balance to cocoa, but not to coffee, tea or rooibos. The initiative also provides traceability services for other sustainability initiatives (SSI direct communication with UTZ Certified).]

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