(Chapter II-IV formed together the meeting's background document sent out prior to the meeting)
Over the past twenty years, there has been growing public awareness of environmental and social issues in agricultural production and trade. Food safety crises and animal disease epidemics have intensified concerns over intensive agricultural practices. Consumers have also become more knowledgeable about labour conditions and about the problems faced by small farmers due to low commodity prices.
There are an increasing number of company codes of conduct, some of which reach down the commodity chain to producers. In addition, consumers' concerns have given rise to a number of certification and/or labelling initiatives, some led by NGOs and others led by the business sector. Social and environmental certification and labelling are market-oriented mechanisms, they use market incentives to encourage management improvements above the minimum level required by law, to implement laws that are otherwise difficult to enforce, or to suggest a framework where formal laws may not exist. They often refer to international treaties and conventions, sometimes translating them into verifiable standards for direct implementation by producers and/or traders. In this way, voluntary certification programmes are complementary to (inter) governmental regulatory frameworks and to labour unions, but do not and can not replace these.
Conventions of the International Labour Organization (ILO): The ILO was created in 1919 primarily for the purpose of adopting international standards to cope with the problem of labour conditions involving "injustice, hardship and privation". The ILO standards take the form of international labour Conventions and Recommendations. Eight ILO Conventions have been identified by the ILO's Governing Body as being fundamental to the rights of human beings at work. They are conventions: No. 87 (1948) and No. 98 (1949) on Freedom of association and collective bargaining; No. 29 (1930) and No. 105 (1957) on the abolition of forced labour; No. 111 (1958) and No. 100 (1951) on Discrimination and equal remuneration; and No. 138 (1973) and No. 182 (1999) on the elimination of child labour. For the agricultural sector another important convention is No. 184 (2001) Safety and Health in Agriculture. These conventions are ratified by an increasing number of countries. The ILO also gives technical assistance to governments, employers' groups and workers organizations to promote the implementation of its conventions.
Conventions on pesticides and pesticide use:
Conventions on Biodiversity:
National standards and codes: There are numerous national standards and codes of conduct that address environmental and social issues. Some are developed by a specific industry alone while others are developed by wider coalitions that may include governments, NGOs and consumer associations. An example is the "Compromiso Ambiental" of the Costa Rican banana industry that is monitored internally. Another example is the Silver and Gold Standards Code of Practice of the Kenyan Flower Council that is monitored by Bureau Veritas. A third example is the Green Food Programme in China with A-Grade and AA-Grade labels, the latter meant to be recognised as an organic label in international markets. These examples are by no means exhaustive but serve to illustrate the wide range of geographical areas, farming systems and methods of implementation of such national standards.
COLEACP Harmonized Framework for codes of good practice in the horticulture sector: The COLEACP is an inter-professional association of exporters, importers and other stakeholders of the EU-ACP horticultural trade. To improve market recognition of ACP produce and to respond to the market demands for environmentally and socially responsible conditions of production, COLEACP took the initiative to encourage horticultural export associations to move towards harmonization of their Codes of Practice. Currently (December 2002) 13 fresh produce trade associations are participating, coming from 9 African and Caribbean countries. The Framework is meant as a minimal set of food safety, environmental and social standards to be incorporated into national codes.
Sustainable Agriculture Program of SAN/Rainforest Alliance: The Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN, formerly Conservation Agriculture Network (CAN)) is a coalition of conservationist NGOs in the Americas. The programme has set standards for more sustainable production methods for five tropical crops: bananas, citrus, coffee, cocoa and ferns/ornamental plants. The programme initially focussed on the environmental impact of production methods and habitat conservation, but has increasingly incorporated standards for community relations and labour conditions. The Rainforest Alliance is the main force behind the initiative and secretariat of SAN. Their "Better Banana Project" and "ECO-OK" seals will be replaced by a new label "Rainforest Alliance Certified" in 2003. Until now the labels have hardly been used directly on the product, but more in public relations activities of certified producers, and in relations between producers and buyers (importers, wholesalers and retailers).
Organic: Organic production is a holistic management of the agro-ecosystem, emphasising biological processes and minimising the use of non-renewable resources. This includes maintenance of soil fertility through the use and recycling of organic materials. The use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides is prohibited. The International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM) has formulated IFOAM Basic Standards, on which organic certifiers can base their standard, with a view of international harmonization. The International Organic Accreditation Service (IOAS) accredits certification bodies that have organic certification programmes that comply with the IFOAM standards. During the last revision of the IFOAM Basic Standards, the standards for ecosystem management were strengthened. There are ongoing discussions on whether the standards should also include criteria for labour conditions and other social issues, to which currently only a very general reference is made.
With the growing market for organic products, many countries have developed national organic regulations to be able to protect producers and consumers against misleading organic claims. The FAO/WHO Codex Alimentarius Commission has formulated guidelines for labelling of organically produced food, with a view to harmonizing national regulations.
Fair trade: The fair trade initiatives try to provide better market access and better trading conditions to small farmers. This includes a price premium for producers to be invested in social and environmental improvements. For larger production units an additional aim is to improve the conditions for workers. The Fairtrade Labelling Organizations (FLO) International is an umbrella organization of 17 national fair trade labelling initiatives, but producers and traders are also represented on the board. FLO has developed production criteria, both socially and environmentally oriented, differentiated for smallholder production and plantations. In addition, it has developed standards for trade, with which traders licensed by FLO have to comply. Complementary to the generic standards, there are product specific standards. Currently FLO standards exist for coffee, tea, cocoa, cane sugar, honey, fresh fruit, fruit juices, bananas, rice and sports balls. Standards for wine and cut flowers are being developed. From January 2003 the certification unit will be a legally independent certification body.
ICFTU/ITS Basic Code of Labour Practice: The International Confederation of Free Trade Unions adopted a text for a "Basic Code of Conduct covering Labour Practices" in December 1997. The code aims to establish a minimum list of standards that ought to be included in all codes of conduct covering labour practices. A central idea of this code is that codes of conduct must incorporate freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining. The basic code is meant to assist any trade union organization in negotiations with companies and in working with NGOs in campaigns involving codes of conduct. It can also be used as a benchmark for evaluating any unilaterally adopted codes of labour practice.
Social Accountability Standard SA 8000: This workplace standard has been developed by Social Accountability International (SAI) in 1998, initially for the manufacturing industry. The standard is very similar to the ICFTU/ITS Basic Code and promotes the implementation of International Labour Organization (ILO) conventions covering social justice and working conditions. These include prohibition of child or forced labour, enforcement of safe and healthy working environments, rights to freedom of association and to collective bargaining. SAI accredits certification bodies to audit production facilities. Companies that do a substantial amount of sourcing from contracted suppliers can join the Signatory member programme, which requires that the company issue a plan for moving company owned and supplier facilities to SA 8000 certification over time and report publicly on progress. SA 8000 was approved for use in the agriculture sector in 2000 and so far 11 agriculture facilities have been certified, covering growing, packing and processing of bananas, pineapples, tobacco and wine.
Ethical Trade Initiative: The Ethical Trade Initiative (ETI) is a multi-stakeholder alliance in the United Kingdom. It has a tripartite structure in which NGOs, unions and the private sector are represented. The ETI focuses on ethical sourcing by companies, in particular retail chains. The ETI is a learning initiative to gain insight on how social standards can be developed and implemented. It has developed a Base Code of 9 principles, based on ILO conventions. The Base Code is similar to the SA8000 standard. Companies involved in the ETI execute internal business evaluation programmes to assess compliance with the ETI Base Code and subsequently try to address non-conformities encountered in the evaluations. The ETI conducts various pilot projects to learn about: monitoring implementation of the Base Code; implementing core labour standards as part of supply chain management in a given country; applying the Base Code in circumstances that have been identified as potentially problematic; and implementing particular aspects of the Base Code.
The ETI's horticulture pilot project in Zimbabwe resulted in the formation of the Agricultural Ethics Assurance Association of Zimbabwe (AEAAZ), a tri-partite association of local business, trade union and development organizations. AEAAZ plans to implement a system of monitoring and verification of its own code, which is currently in draft form.
Race to the Top project: Race to the Top is a collaborative project of major UK multiple retailers and an alliance of farming, conservation, labour, animal welfare and sustainable development organizations. The project is co-ordinated by the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED). The project will offer supermarkets independent benchmarking against indicators grouped in seven modules: environment (emissions and waste); giving a fair deal to producers; wages and conditions for workers; communities (sourcing local); nature (on-farm); animal welfare; and healthy food. In 2002 indicators and measures were developed and in 2003 baseline data will be collected against which progress can be measured.
ISO 14001: this standard for environmental management systems is part of a series from the international organization for Standardization (ISO). It does not set specific quantitative performance targets but provides a framework for an overall strategic approach to an organization's environmental policy, plans and actions and aims at continued improvements. A growing number of horticulture farms are being certified against the ISO 14001 standard.
EUREPGAP: EurepGap is a certification system driven by 22 large-scale retail chains that form the core members of the Euro-Retailer Produce Association (EUREP). The main focus of the Good Agriculture Practices (GAP) norms are on food safety and traceability. They also include environmental (IPM practices) and social (issues on workers health) norms, although these have been criticised for being rather vague. EurepGap was also aimed at harmonization of requirements for food hygiene and of Maximum Residue Limits for pesticides in food. This harmonization effort has only partly been successful, considering that not all retailers are involved and that the standards refer to existing governmental regulations, which are not the same across Europe. EurepGap has enlarged producer participation in its standard setting process; retailer and producer representatives now have each 50% of the seats in the Technical Committee responsible for the regular revisions. In time, EurepGap certification may become obligatory for those producers selling to the retailers involved in EUREP.
ISEAL Alliance: The International Social and Environmental Accreditation and Labelling Alliance is an effort by leading international standard-setting, accreditation and labelling organizations that are concerned with social and environmental criteria in product and renewable resource management certification. These include SAN, FLO, IFOAM, IOAS and SAI. The main goals of the Alliance are to attain credibility and recognition for the participating organizations, to defend common interests and to promote continuing professional improvement of member activities through shared learning, peer review, development of guidance documents, and documentation of best practices in standard setting and certification procedures.
SASA project: Four ISEAL members, FLO, IFOAM, SAI and SAN also undertake the Social Accountability in Sustainable Agriculture (SASA) project. The objectives of the project are to enhance co-operation among the organizations and to develop guidelines and tools for social auditing. The project examines the impact and responsibilities of supply chain actors, the particular needs of small- and medium-scale producers and the possibilities for integrated audits for multiple certification programmes. To achieve these objectives eight pilot audits are being carried out and workshops are organized to focus on specific standards or certification procedures, e.g. on smallholder group certification for social audits.