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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 or labelling initiatives, or both, some led by NGOs and others led by the business sector or governmental institutions. They often refer to international treaties and conventions, sometimes translating them into verifiable standards for direct implementation by producers or traders, or both.


Standards may be set by governments. Governmental standards are usually called regulations, except when developed and administered by semi-independent agencies. They may in turn be based on international agreements or guidelines set by intergovernmental bodies, such as the FAO/WHO Codex Alimentarius Commission. Intergovernmental guidelines are normally generic in nature. This allows national governments to set more specific standards adapted to the needs and situation of the country. Examples of governmental environmental standards in agriculture are the Codex guidelines for the production, processing, labelling and marketing of organically produced food, and national organic regulations that may or may not follow these guidelines. National regulations may in turn choose how to arrange the certification system, whether to accredit private certification bodies or to keep the certification in the hands of governmental bodies. Governments may develop a national product label, for exclusive use or for use alongside labels of certification bodies. Such standards are voluntary in the sense that one can chose not to certify and not to carry the label. However, when using the certificate and/or label, producers and traders have to comply with the regulation.

A second type of standard-setting organization may be the industry itself. These may be the producers themselves (i.e. the first party), or actors further down the chain, the buyers or retailers (i.e. the second party). By definition, certification involves a third party with no stake in the business being certified. Therefore, in this publication, only those industry standards are discussed that use a third party to carry out verification.

The producers, generally in an association or cooperative, might have an interest to set a standard and invite a third party to verify implementation in order to demonstrate to a wide range of buyers that they fulfil certain requirements generally in demand in the market. Such an assurance programme may save time and money, compared to assuring each buyer individually. An example of such producer-set standards are those standards set by national producer associations under the COLEACP harmonized framework. Another example would be the first organic standards set by organic producer associations, which not only served to assure consumers but also functioned as a learning tool for the producers.

At the other end of the chain, if a group of buyers recognize that they have basically the same requirements for certain products, they may set a standard together. This would encourage producers to implement such standards more quickly, as it becomes clear that a large part of the market requires them. An example of such a buyers' standard is the EurepGap protocol.

Also with a stake in the industry itself, but from a different perspective, are the trade unions. Their main mode of work is through negotiating collective bargaining agreements for individual enterprises, and this sits uneasily alongside setting general standards. Nevertheless, the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) has established a kind of generic code, and trade unions may be involved in multi-party coalitions that are setting standards.

Many environmental and social standards are set by NGOs. NGOs may be advocacy groups, but can also be broad stakeholder groups. Standard-setting NGOs may themselves be an umbrella organization of various smaller NGOs, each with their own constituencies. Whether a standard set by NGOs becomes generally accepted will depend on many factors. Among them, the public recognition of the NGO setting the standard; the standard-setting process, especially stakeholder consultation; the "implementability" of the requirements; and the publicity around the standard. As with governmental standard-setting bodies, NGOs may choose to do the verification themselves, or to accredit certification bodies.

Finally, governments, the private sector and NGOs may form two- or three-party coalitions to set standards. For example, governments, industry and consumer organizations are all represented among ISO members, and the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI) is a tripartite organization with government, NGO and trade union representation.

In the rest of this chapter, an overview of the main voluntary social and environmental standard-setting and certification programmes for tropical and horticultural crops are presented. Only those standards are included that are implemented internationally. For each programme, the organizations behind the initiative are briefly introduced, after which the scope of the standard, the certification system and the labelling system (if any) are discussed. They are grouped according to the type of standard-setting organization, although in the case of multi-party organizations, the choice has been somewhat arbitrary. The overview is not exhaustive, especially for those standards that are not accompanied by a certification programme[24].



Organic production is holistic management of the agro-ecosystem, emphasizing biological processes and minimizing the use of non-renewable resources. Although the terms "organic", "ecological" or "biological" have developed in Europe and North America to distinguish organic from conventional agriculture, many low-input traditional agriculture systems in other parts of the world are also de facto organic systems. In this respect the term "organic by default" has been introduced, and even "organic by neglect". However, these terms do give the false impression that any agriculture systems in which no agrochemicals are used would automatically comply with organic standards, which is not necessarily the case.

Development and scope of organic standards[25]

Inspired by the ideas of Rudolf Steiner (in the 1920s), Sir Albert Howard (in the 1930s) and Lady Eve Balfour (in the 1940s), farmers themselves developed organic farming methods on a learning-by-doing basis. As the organic sector developed, organic farmer associations wrote their own standards, more to communicate what they had learned than to codify what constitutes organic farming. On-site inspection did not commence until the mid-1970s, and farmer associations subsequently developed their own certification systems serving their own members. In time, these certification units became more independent to avoid conflicts of interests and to increase confidence among the growing group of consumers.

The International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM) was founded in 1972. IFOAM has its headquarters in Bonn, Germany. IFOAM formulated the first version of the IFOAM Basic Standards (IBS) in 1980 and has revised them biennially ever since. IBS serves as a guideline, on the basis of which public and private standard-setting bodies can develop more specific organic standards.

While the market for organic products has been growing, supply has lagged behind, and the resulting price premiums have provided an incentive to cheat. In reaction, many countries have developed national organic regulations to be able to protect honest organic producers and consumers against misleading organic claims. The first organic regulations were adopted in the United States of America (the States of Oregon (1974) and California (1979)). In Europe, France was the first country to adopt an organic regulation (1985). EU Regulation 2092/91, covering the labelling of organic foods, was adopted in 1991. Other national standards important for international trade are the Japanese Agriculture Standard (JAS) organic standards for plant products (2000) from the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF) and standards of the US National Organic Program (NOP) developed by USDA in 2002. With a view to harmonization, Codex formulated guidelines for the production, processing, labelling and marketing of organically produced food, adopted in 1999 for vegetal products. The guidelines were revised in 2001 to include provisions for livestock and livestock products. The Codex guidelines are voluntary; member countries can choose to what extent they follow them.

Organic standards cover all crops and almost all livestock. Standards for fish farming, bee-keeping and harvesting of wild products are increasingly being developed by the various standard-setting bodies. Organic standards for plant production typically include: criteria for conversion periods; seeds and propagation material; maintenance of soil fertility through the use and recycling of organic materials; and pest, disease and weed control. The use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides and of genetically engineered organisms is prohibited. There are also criteria for the admission and use of organic fertilizers and natural pesticides.

During the last revision of IBS, the standards for ecosystem management were strengthened to include issues of landscape, contamination control and soil and water conservation. There are ongoing discussions on whether the standards should also include criteria for labour conditions and other social issues, to which currently only a general reference is made[26]. Processing, packaging and traceability standards usually include requirements to prevent mingling of conventional and organically produced products, and criteria for additives and processing aids. Because long travel distances contribute to the use of external inputs, it is debated whether criteria for local sourcing and means of transport should be developed (the "food miles" debate).

In addition to the organic standards and certification systems, an international voluntary Code of Practice for Organic Trade has been developed by the IFOAM traders group, and launched in February 2003. The core of the Code of Practice are eight principles, including "transparency and accountability of negotiations" and "equitable distribution of returns". Any organic trader can sign up to the code and participate in a continual self-assessment process[27].

Certification and accreditation


The International Organic Accreditation Service (IOAS) accredits certification bodies that have organic certification programmes that comply with IBS and the IFOAM Accreditation Criteria for certification bodies. Because IBS is a generic standard, IOAS requires that certification bodies elaborate some standards in more detail. In 1999, the IFOAM Accredited Certification Bodies (ACB) signed a multilateral agreement to facilitate acceptance of products that were certified by an ACB. However, the agreement contains an "additional requirements" clause that those products should also comply with standards beyond IBS that the "accepting" body might have in its own standards[28].

EU regulations

EU regulation EEC 2092/91 provides for national accreditation of certification bodies or certification by national authorities[29]. Certification bodies are usually required to conform to European standard EN 45011 or ISO Guide 65, both of which are standards for the operation of certification systems. The organic guarantee system of countries outside the EU may be recognized as being equivalent, and those countries appear on a "third-country" list. The list may specify production units or inspection bodies within the country for which equivalency is determined. For imports from non-listed countries, importers may obtain an authorization from individual EU member states for each imported product. The importer must show evidence that the product was produced and inspected according to rules equivalent to EU organic standards and was certified by a certification body that operates in compliance with ISO Guide 65[30]. Administrative procedures to obtain such import authorizations may differ considerably between countries. Since 2002, an original certificate has to be sent with the goods.

US National Organic Program

NOP is administered by the USDA and requires that all products sold in the United States of America as "organic" must be certified by a certification body or a state certification programme that is accredited by the USDA. NOP came into force in October 2002, and currently (March 2003) has 81 accredited certification bodies, of which 30 are registered outside the United States of America. Foreign accreditation agencies may also be recognized by USDA to perform NOP accreditations. Recognized accreditation programmes as of March 2003 were those of Denmark, France, New Zealand, Quebec and the United Kingdom[31]. Certification bodies in those countries may be assessed by their own government agency to determine if they fulfil NOP requirements. For certification bodies in the NOP system, ISO Guide 65 accreditation is voluntary[32].

Japan Agricultural Standard

In early 2000, MAFF enacted the JAS, which took effect in April 2001. Henceforth, organic products of vegetal origin sold in Japan needed to bear the JAS seal and to be certified by an approved and registered certification body. The JAS rule requires that each processing or packaging plant has a qualified "Grading Manager" responsible for reviewing the audit trail and an operating procedure and grading report to demonstrate that the audit trail is JAS-compliant[33]. As of May 2002, there were 62 Registered Certification Organizations from Japan and 6 Registered Foreign Certification Organizations. A particularity is that de-certification decisions fall under the direct responsibility of MAFF and are not the responsibility of the certifying body. In addition, MAFF has recognized the EU, USDA and Australian organic guarantee systems. Even so, Japanese traders and processing companies still need to get a "government or corresponding organization's certificate" to use products certified under those systems[34].

Internal control systems

Many organic regulations[35] and the IFOAM/IOAS system allow for group certifications. In that case the farmer group must establish an internal control system that ensures that all individual members comply with the standard, and which includes a documentation system. The role of the certification body then becomes to control whether the internal control system works properly. Continuing discussions are being held on the requirements for such systems and the so-called "re-inspection rate" (i.e. the percentage of individual farmers to be "re-inspected" by the external body).

International harmonization of organic standards and certification systems

The current plethora of different standards and different requirements for certification and labelling increases certification costs for producers wishing to export to multiple markets. It also poses logistic challenges for international organic trade. Especially for compound products with ingredients from several origins and with various potential markets, the administrative problems multiply. In an effort to harmonize existing organic guarantee systems, a taskforce has been formed by IFOAM, FAO and UNCTAD. This International Taskforce on Harmonization and Equivalence in Organic Agriculture started work in 2003, and is to serve as an open-ended platform for dialogue. It will work on proposals related to mechanisms for the establishment of equivalence of standards, regulations and conformity assessment systems for the consideration of governments, the Codex Alimentarius Commission and other relevant bodies.

Label and market

There are countless organic labels, reflecting the many organic certification programmes. However, in those countries with an organic regulation, the use of organic claims is subject to strict criteria. For compound products, it is usually stipulated that only when a high percentage (90-100 percent) of the ingredients come from certified organic facilities may the product be called organic. If the "organic percentage" falls below the specified level, it is in many cases allowed to specify organic ingredients in the ingredient list. In general, organic claims should be accompanied by information on the certification body and the system or regulation under which these products are certified. The IFOAM accredited seal may appear on the product only as part of the logo of the certification body and in the bodies own promotional material. The use of the European and the USDA logo is voluntary, provided the requirements for use are fulfilled. In Japan, the use of the JAS logo is compulsory if any organic claims are to be made[36].

World retail sales of organic products were estimated by the International Trade Centre (ITC) to be US$19 billion in 2001, up from US$10 billion in 1997. In 2003, the European market was expected to reach US$10-11 billion in total organic sales, North America US$12 billion and Japan US$400 million. Before the JAS regulation came into effect there was an undifferentiated "green market" in Japan, and the share of organic within this green market was unknown. As a consequence Japanese figures were usually highly overstated[37]. More details on the organic markets for selected horticultural and tropical commodities are given in Chapter 5.


The Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center is part of the Smithsonian National Zoological Park, a United States of America governmental institute for wildlife research and conservation. The Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center aims to protect migratory birds and their habitats, and its activities extend throughout the Americas. The centre claims to look both at the way human-made changes affect bird populations and the way bird habitat preservation will affect human populations.

Development and scope of the standard

The guidelines for shade coffee have been developed by the institution's scientists. Their field work focused on the Americas and they acknowledge limited knowledge about shade systems in Africa and Asia, and therefore further research would be required before the standards could be adopted and applied beyond the Americas. During the initial standard-setting process there was hardly any stakeholder involvement, but, in 2003, the Centre invited public comments on the standards. The standards are mainly requirements additional to organic criteria, as organic certification is a prerequisite for bird friendly certification. Criteria focus on the species composition of shade trees, canopy structure, secondary plant diversity and buffer zones. The certification programme began in 1999.

Accreditation and certification

The Smithsonian institute accredits organic certification bodies that are accredited by the USDA against ISO Guide 65 for bodies operating product certification systems[39]. In addition, inspectors should be trained and individually accredited by the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center. Inspection may be done at the same time as the organic inspection. The certification system allows for certification of collective operators with an internal control system.

Label and market

Coffee from certified production facilities may carry the "Bird Friendly" label. The label is exclusively used in the United States of America. The centre does not publish data on sales volumes of labelled coffee, but estimates are included in the figures for labelled coffee presented in Chapter 5.

ISO 14001

Although ISO 14001 is not a de jure intergovernmental standard, it is de facto as governments are involved in or endorse the ISO system as a whole. ISO has long been recognized as the major standard-setting body for voluntary international harmonized industry standards. ISO declares itself to be a not-for-profit, non-governmental organization. Its member bodies are either governmental, parastatal, tripartite or non-governmental bodies, the last-named group often consisting of industry representatives. There can only be one ISO member per country. ISO was founded in 1947 and has its Central Secretariat in Geneva. Only recently has ISO started to develop environmental standards, and has started work on social responsibility.

ISO has been mentioned several times in preceding paragraphs with reference to its guidelines for the standard-setting and certification process. The most important ISO standards in this respect are the 'definitions' (Guide 2), guides for standard-setting (Guides 7 and 59), for accreditation (Guide 61) and for certification bodies (Guides 62, 65 and 66). However, this section deals with the environmental management standard ISO 14001.

Development and scope of standard

ISO/TC 207 is the ISO Technical Committee responsible for developing and maintaining the ISO 14000 series. TC 207 consists of business and government experts from 55 countries. The first standards of the series were published in 1996[40]. The standard that can be implemented by companies and against which companies can be certified is ISO 14001 Environmental management systems - Specification with guidance for use. ISO 14004 gives guidelines on principles, systems and supporting techniques for the implementation of environmental management systems, including guidance that goes beyond requirements of ISO 14001. Other standards in the ISO 14000 series are "tools" for implementing an environmental management system and deal with environmental monitoring and auditing, labelling and product life cycle assessment.

ISO 14001 has been written to support implementation of environmental management systems in many different types of organizations, including manufacturing and service companies, government agencies, associations and NGOs. Requirements for certification are the development of an environmental policy, including an implementation and communication plan, definition of responsibilities, staff training activities, documentation and monitoring. Apart from compliance being required with local (environmental) rules and legislation, the standard does not set specific performance targets. Instead, ISO 14001 aims at continuous improvement.

Accreditation and certification

ISO itself does not certify nor does it accredit certification bodies[41]. Certification against ISO 14001 is carried out by either governmental or private certification bodies on their own responsibility. Usually they are required (by the country in which they operate) to be accredited by their national accreditation authorities, typically members of the International Accreditation Federation. Because ISO only sets the standards and has no authority to control accreditation and certification activities, the ISO logo can not be used in connection with certification or certificates, nor used on labels.

Label and markets

A growing number of farms are being certified against the ISO 14001 standard. However, products from these facilities can not be labelled as ISO 14001 certified, because the product itself is not certified. However, an indication on the product that the producing firm is ISO 14001 certified, including indication of the certification body would be allowed. Use of such reference would fall under the control of the certification body. More and more of such "ISO 14001 certified firm" claims can be found on products.

ISO 14001 is rapidly becoming a default certification for plantations. Managers of such large production units often claim that ISO 14001 has been very useful for them in structuring their documentation, providing environmental management tools and, in some cases, reducing costs. Because there is no price premium and the certification can be costly and requires extensive documentation, ISO 14001 might be less attractive for smaller agricultural operations.



This is a private certification system driven by 22 large-scale retail chains in Europe, that form the core members of the Euro-Retailer Produce Association (EUREP). The EUREP Good Agriculture Practices (EurepGap) scheme brings those 22 retailers together with large-scale fresh produce suppliers and producers. Furthermore, there are associate members from the input and service side of agriculture (mainly suppliers of agrochemicals, certification bodies and consultancy firms). The associate members may participate in meetings but they are not part of the EurepGap decision-making process. Initially, the EuroHandelsinstitut e.V. (EHI) acted as international secretariat. In March 2001, EHI founded an independent daughter company, FoodPLUS GmbH, a commercial company that acts as global body, serves as legal owner of the normative document, and hosts the EUREP Secretariat.

Development and scope of standard

The EurepGap Fruits and Vegetables standard was developed by the EurepGap Technical Committee - Fruits and Vegetables. This Committee used to be dominated by retailers, but now consists of half retailers and half supplier representatives. Other standards are currently under development by other Technical Committees. So far only the Fruits and Vegetables standard is operational. In the rest of this text the term EurepGap is used to indicate "EurepGap Fruits and Vegetables".

EurepGap has the declared aim of increasing consumer confidence in the safety of the food. The main focus of the EurepGap norms is on food safety and traceability. The norms also address some environmental (integrated pest management (IPM) practices) and some social (issues on workers health) dimensions, although these have been criticized for being rather vague. EurepGap was also aimed at harmonization of requirements for food hygiene and for Maximum Residue Limits (MRLs) 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.

The EurepGap system is targeted at large-scale producers (that at least is the experience so far in Latin America), who have the human and financial resources to implement and monitor the EurepGap "management system".

Certification and accreditation

Certification bodies wishing to certify against EurepGap need to be accredited by FoodPLUS. A prerequisite for accreditation is an ISO 65/EN 45011 accreditation. A particularity of the EurepGap system is the possibility of the issuing of non-accredited certificates. Each applicant certification body is given a period of six months to complete the required accreditation, which includes the issuing of non-accredited certificates as a practical exercise. In communications with the retailer, such non-accredited certificates are said to be also accepted.

In addition to the certification costs, certified producers have to pay an annual fee to FoodPLUS (around €25 a year). Farmer associations that have already implemented an existing farm assurance scheme with third-party verification can benchmark that scheme against EurepGap. If the farm assurance scheme is accepted as equivalent and is accredited, the farm audit for that scheme would serve as an EurepGap audit as well.

It is also possible for a so-called "Produce Marketing Organization" (PMO) to get a group certification. A PMO can be a cooperative or other group of growers that have a legal entity that takes over responsibilities of EurepGap implementation for the associated and contracted growers through an internal control system. Detected non-compliance of one farmer in the group may lead to de-certification of the whole group.

Label and market

There is no product label associated with EurepGap certification and no premium. The market for products from EurepGap certified produce consists of the 22 EUREP retailers. Certification will not be a guarantee for being "listed" by those supermarkets, but may become a prerequisite. It was said that some retailers would require EurepGap certification for fresh fruits and vegetables as early as January 2003. However, in spring 2003, information on the EurepGap web site read: "Some retailers are saying that all their suppliers must be EurepGap certified by 2004. Others do not have a deadline, but will in time question why preferred suppliers are not EurepGap certified and perhaps review their decision to do business with them".

Although there is no product label, EurepGap is currently preparing the rules and prerequisites for carrying a reference to EurepGap at individual box level. This might lead to appearance of EurepGap references in European supermarkets, albeit not on the individual products.

COLEACP Harmonized framework

The COLEACP is an inter-professional association of exporters, importers and other stakeholders in the EU-ACP[43] horticultural trade[44]. To improve market recognition of ACP produce and to respond to 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. The COLEACP Harmonized Framework is meant as a minimal set of food safety, environmental and social standards to be incorporated into national codes. At the time of writing (December 2002), 13 fresh produce trade associations were participating, coming from 9 African and Caribbean countries.

Development and scope of the standard

The standard was developed on the basis of a comparison of existing codes from the participating organizations and a benchmarking analysis against existing codes in Europe. A Monitoring Committee, including representatives of each of the participating associations, reviews the Framework annually.

The Harmonized Framework is a "generic standard" or a "standard for standards". The Framework applies to all exports of fresh horticultural produce: fruits, vegetables, floriculture products and herbs, but excludes processed products. The requirements cover the whole production chain from farm to export, i.e. production, harvesting, post-harvest treatments, packaging and storage. National trade associations may set more stringent standards for certain parameters or may develop additional sets of requirements to meet specific circumstances.

The Framework contains standards for food safety during crop production and during harvesting and post-harvest handling and facilities. Environmental standards include criteria for the selection, use, storage and transportation of pesticides and fertilizers; use of integrated crop management; occupational health and safety; water, soil and waste management; protection of flora and fauna; energy use; packaging materials; and record keeping. Labour standards address contracts, remuneration and working hours; disciplinary and grievance procedures; freedom of association and collective bargaining; no discrimination; protection of interests of children; special conditions for female employees; no forced labour; no harsh or inhumane treatment; occupational health and safety; access to health care services and sanitation; and worker accommodation. Furthermore, the framework contains a chapter on relationships with outgrowers, including standards on production and purchasing policy; technical advice; and support for implementation of the code.

Accreditation and certification

Any association wishing to claim that their standard complies with the Harmonized Framework must submit their code annually for verification by the Harmonized Framework Monitoring Group. This can be considered a type of accreditation mechanism.

Being a generic standard, the Harmonized Framework does not involve any certification or labelling programme. However, the Framework does require that national codes have a certification system with annual audits executed by third-party, independent auditing teams. These may be internationally recognized auditing bodies or in-country audit teams that in turn are externally verified. In-country auditors will have to attend the COLEACP auditor training course, and external auditing bodies will have to be approved by the Harmonized Framework Monitoring Group.

However, due to a lack of resources, COLEACP had to suspend the activities of the Monitoring Group. Nevertheless, national producer associations continue to work with the Harmonized Framework. An example of a national code operating according to this system is the well known Silver and Gold standards of the Kenya Flower Council. Another example is the Code of Practice for the Zimbabwe Horticulture Industry, from the Horticultural Promotion Council of Zimbabwe. Because they are national sector initiatives, they fall outside the scope of this publication.

Label and market

There is no label associated with the Harmonized Framework. Some of the programmes of associated associations have developed a label that is granted to certified producers. Despite the attempt to increase recognition for all participating schemes, there seems still to be quite some variation in levels of recognition obtained by individual schemes in the European markets. Specific market data related to certified produce are lacking.


Although IFOAM is an NGO, the organic movement and IBS were dealt with earlier, together with governmental organic regulations.

Rainforest Alliance Certified

The Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN; formerly the Conservation Agriculture Network (CAN)) is a coalition of ten conservation-oriented NGOs in the Americas[45]. The programme initially focused on the environmental impact of production methods and on habitat conservation, but has increasingly incorporated standards for community relations and labour conditions. The Rainforest Alliance is the main force behind the initiative, and its Costa Rican office is the secretariat of SAN (the Rainforest Alliance head office is in New York)[46].

Development and scope of standards

The product-specific standards have been developed together with producers, mainly from Costa Rica and other Latin American countries. The programme has set standards for five tropical crops: bananas, citrus, coffee, cocoa, and ferns and ornamental plants. Currently "whole farm" standards are being developed, for farms that grow additional crops for which no crop-specific standards currently exist. Promotion and uptake of the standards has mainly been confined to the Americas.

Environmental standards include the prohibition of clearing of primary forest and requirements for soil and water management and conservation and buffer zones; detailed requirements for the use, storage and transport of agrochemicals; integrated pest management; criteria for waste management and recycling; and requirements for a monitoring system. With respect to the Social criteria the certified company should respect all ILO conventions ratified by the country in which they operate. For those issues for which the ILO conventions are not ratified the certification standards apply directly. These include requirements for a social policy and communication to workers; contracts and wages; no discrimination; no child labour below 14 and specific conditions for young and disabled workers and pregnant women; no forced labour; freedom of expression and the right to organize and collective bargaining; occupational health and safety; working hours; training; accommodation; and linkages with local communities.

Accreditation and certification

There is no accreditation system. In most cases the certification is done by the local SAN member. The Rainforest Alliance operates the certification system in Costa Rica and Honduras and in countries where there is no SAN member. All auditors, also those from SAN members, are trained by the Sustainable Agriculture Programme secretariat, i.e. the Rainforest Alliance. The producers pay for the auditing and certification costs depending on service delivered (i.e. actual auditor days and travel, etc.) and on top of that a fixed amount per hectare[47].

Label and markets

The former "Better Banana Project" and "ECO-OK" seals are currently (2003) being replaced by a new label: "Rainforest Alliance Certified". The seals are used mostly in public relations activities of certified producers, and in relations between producers and buyers (importers, wholesalers and retailers). The label is administered by the Rainforest Alliance, and they charge a fee for use of the label on products, although this fee may be waived.

Until now the labels have been little used directly on the product, except for coffee and orange juice in the Americas and Japan. Companies that consider their own trade mark to be a quality mark are hesitant to use an additional label. Furthermore, in Europe, the ECO-OK label could not be used because the term "eco" is legally reserved for organic claims. In addition, in the trade chain, the large banana companies (Chiquita and Reybanpac) did not separate bananas from certified facilities from bananas from non-certified facilities. That meant that not until all production facilities and independent suppliers of the company had been certified could a claim be made towards end-consumers.

In 2002, a chain-of-custody protocol was developed and tested on coffee mills. The new label is already used on coffee and in future might be used more directly on end products. Because many products from certified facilities are not labelled, there is no clear market segment for Rainforest Alliance Certified products.

Fair trade

The fair-trade initiatives try to provide better market access and better trading conditions for small-scale 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 was founded in 1997 as an umbrella organization of 17 national fair-trade labelling initiatives. Now also producers and traders are represented on the board and on various committees.

Development and scope of standards

Since its inception, FLO has established product standards, starting with coffee. In 2002, FLO established a framework of generic standards differentiated for smallholder production and plantations, complemented with product-specific criteria where appropriate. The standards encompass: labour standards; standards for farmer associations and cooperatives; and trade standards, including minimum prices, for licensed traders. Labour standards to be complied with by plantations and factories include freedom of association; criteria for wages and accommodation; occupational health and safety standards; and no child or forced labour can occur. Standards for farmers' associations and cooperatives set criteria for a democratic participative organizational structure. Trading standards stipulate that traders have to pay the FLO minimum price plus the fair-trade premium, partially pay in advance when producers ask for it, and commit themselves to a long-term trade relationship. Environmental criteria are included in the crop-specific standards.

Currently, product-specific standards exist for coffee, tea, cocoa, cane sugar, honey, bananas, other fresh fruit, fruit juices, bananas, rice and sports balls. Standards for wine and cut flowers are being developed. In 2003, FLO was expecting to develop generic standards for environmental criteria and for the determination of minimum prices. Currently, these prices are set in different ways: for coffee, for example, the minimum price established by the International Coffee Organization a few decades ago is the reference, while minimum prices for bananas are set country-by-country on the basis of production costs[48].

Accreditation and certification

In 2002, FLO was reorganized to allow for a greater separation between its four functions of promoting fair-trade in general, producer support, standard-setting and certification. Since January 2003, the certification unit is a legally independent certification body. Inspection is done by local auditors, while the certification decision is taken at FLO headquarters in Bonn, Germany. FLO will also recognize Certimex, an organic certification body in Mexico, as an inspection body for FLO. This will further reduce certification costs[49]. The national fair trade labelling initiatives grant licence fees to traders of fair-trade labelled products (against a fee) and monitor the trade flow to control that the label is used correctly. Furthermore, the national initiatives promote the label and fair trade in general. Part of the licence fees are channelled to FLO to cover the certification costs. This makes it possible to certify producer organizations free of charge.

Label and markets

Since 2003, the various national fair trade labels in Europe are being replaced by the new International Fairtrade Certification Mark. In the United States of America and in Canada, the national labels will continued to be used for the time being. The international label will greatly reduce logistical costs as products will not have to be packaged separately for each destination.

Year-on-year growth of fair-trade volumes has been around 20 percent for the last few years. The biggest volumes have been reached for bananas, with a total of 30 000 tonnes traded in 2001, and for coffee, with 14 000 tonnes traded. The largest fair-trade markets are Switzerland and the United Kingdom[50].


The Social Accountability Standard SA 8000 is a workplace standard developed by Social Accountability International (SAI) in 1998[51]. SAI was founded by the Council on Economic Priorities, a corporate social responsibility research institute based in the United States of America, that operated from 1969 to 2001. In 1996, SAI convened an international multi-stakeholder Advisory Board to develop the SA8000 standards. The SAI Advisory Board includes experts from trade unions, businesses and NGOs. SAI is based in New York.

Development and scope of standards

The standard 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, and criteria on working hours, wages, freedom from discrimination and the requirement for a social management system.

The standards were initially developed for the manufacturing industry, and approved for use in the agriculture sector in 2000. The standards were revised in 2001 and another revision of the guidance documents is underway.

Certification and accreditation

SAI accredits certification bodies to audit production facilities. Accreditation requirements include: demonstrated adherence to ISO/IEC Guide 62; documentation on how to obtain information about working conditions from regional interested parties, NGOs and workers; information on how it will determine the sufficient wage level; and documentation on how it ensures that audit personnel are trained in the components and application of SA8000. The individual auditors performing the inspections must be accredited as well.

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 SA8000 certification over time, and report publicly on progress. SA8000 was approved for use in the agriculture sector in 2000, and so far 15 agriculture facilities have been certified, covering growing, packing and processing of bananas, pineapples, canned fruit, coffee, tobacco and wine.

Label and markets

The SAI-SA8000 label is not used on products. Certified facilities and signatories may use the label in their communications. Consequently there is no differentiated market for SA8000-certified products. The "market" could be understood to be those large buyers, e.g. retailers, that are Signatory Members and consequently try to move their suppliers towards SA8000 certification.


ICFTU/ITS Basic Code of Labour Practice

The International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) was set up in 1949 and has 231 affiliated organizations in 150 countries, with a membership of 158 million[52]. It is a confederation of national trade union centres, each of which links together trade unions of that particular country. It also maintains close links with Global Union Federations, which link together national unions from a particular trade or industry at international level, such as the International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers' Associations (IUF).

Development and scope of standard

The text of the code was developed by the ICFTU/ITS Working Party on Multinational Companies, with consultations with various trade union organizations and other interested individuals and organizations. The Basic Code aims to establish a minimum list of standards that ought to be included in all codes of conduct covering labour practices. These could be company codes of conduct, especially codes that are meant to apply to the international operations of a multinational company. The purpose of the Basic Code is to promote the primacy of international labour standards and to incorporate freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining. It is not intended that collective bargaining agreements should be limited to the provisions of the code.

The Basic Code is also meant to encourage the use of consistent language in codes of conduct and to assist any trade union in negotiations with companies and in working with NGOs in campaigns involving codes of conduct.

The content of the code follows the same ILO conventions as the SA8000 standard. Because the ICFTU Basic Code is a generic code and not meant for certification purposes, it is not as detailed with respect to verifiable indicators. Although not meant for certification, it can be used as a benchmark for evaluating any codes of labour practice adopted unilaterally.

Ethical Trading Initiative

The Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI) is a multi-stakeholder alliance in the United Kingdom[53]. It has a tripartite structure in which NGOs, unions and the private sector are represented, with support from government. The ETI focuses on ethical sourcing by companies, in particular retail chains. Although the ETI is a national initiative, and strictly speaking outside the scope of this paper, the sourcing and impact are international. The ETI is a learning initiative to gain insight into how social standards can be developed and implemented.

Development and scope of standards

ETI has developed a Base Code of nine principles, based on ILO conventions. The Base Code was first published in 1998, and is similar to the SA8000 standard. 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 particular aspects of implementing the Base Code. Pilot projects conducted in the agricultural sector so far are a horticulture project in Zimbabwe and a project in the wine industry in South Africa. A pilot project on bananas in Costa Rica has been stopped at mid-term due to the inability of the three parties of the Costa Rican tripartite steering committee to agree.

The horticulture pilot project in Zimbabwe resulted in the formation of the Agricultural Ethics Assurance Association of Zimbabwe (AEAAZ), a tripartite association of local business, trade unions and development agencies. AEAAZ plans to implement a system of monitoring and verification of its own code, which is currently in draft form.

Accreditation, certification, label and market

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. There is no certification system and consequently no label or specific market.

Sustainable Agriculture Initiative Platform

The Sustainable Agriculture Initiative Platform (SAI-Platform) was founded in 2002 by three major global food industry companies - Unilever, Nestlé and Danone - to actively support the development of sustainable agriculture and to communicate it worldwide. By 2003, there were already 16 food industry companies that were member of the SAI-Platform. The platform defines sustainable agriculture as a productive, competitive and efficient way to produce agricultural raw materials, while at the same time protecting and improving the natural environment and socio-economic conditions of local communities.

SAI-Platform aims for recognition and implementation of sustainable practices for mainstream agriculture (not niche markets) on a worldwide scale. The individual SAI-Platform members are free to decide whether or not to participate in assessment processes, and are free to take any specific action, such as with respect to implementation[54]. The SAI-Platform held its first General Assembly in April 2003, and created three working groups to develop guidelines for cereals, coffee and palm oil.

For tropical and horticultural crops, the work by Unilever on sustainability indicators is relevant. In pilot projects, good agricultural practices are developed and parameters are defined to evaluate performance for each indicator. The ten indicators are: soil fertility and health; soil loss; nutrients; pest management; biodiversity; product value; energy; water; social and human capital; and local economy. Guidelines for best practices have been developed for tea (plantations and smallholders), palm oil, peas and spinach, and are being developed for tomato, rapeseed and sunflower. The guidelines are specific for the country in which the pilot project that developed them operates or operated, but always conform to the ten sustainability indicators[55].

There is no certification system or label associated with SAI-Platform, but its members form a large part of the total market for food products. Suppliers to these firms may be asked to participate in pilot projects or in general to implement guidelines developed by the platform or one of its members.

"Race to the Top" project[56]

Being a national initiative, and not having formulated a real standard, the "Race to the Top" project nominally falls outside the scope of this paper. However, the "Race to the Top" project is worth mentioning because it has a potential impact on producers and on the above-mentioned certification initiatives. "Race to the Top" is a collaborative project of major United Kingdom multiple retailers and an alliance of farming, conservation, labour, animal welfare and sustainable development organizations. The project is coordinated by the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), and 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 (local sourcing); nature (on-farm); animal welfare; and healthy food. In 2002, indicators and measures were developed, and, in 2003, baseline data were to be collected against which progress could be measured. The "Race to the Top" project has the potential to develop into a certification scheme for food retailers.


Certification bodies increasingly seek multiple accreditations, so that they can offer more certification schemes to their clients. This may potentially lessen the burden for multiple-certified farmers with respect to documentation requirements and certification costs. Certification bodies could potentially cover two programmes with one integrated audit. However, it is not always easy to really integrate the audits, because the various certification programmes have different reporting requirements, and sometimes even contradicting demands on farmers. It is therefore encouraging that some of the labelling and accreditation programmes are increasingly collaborating.

ISEAL Alliance[57]

The International Social and Environmental Accreditation and Labelling (ISEAL) Alliance is an effort of 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 ISEAL Alliance are to attain credibility and recognition for the participating organizations, to defend common interests and to promote continuing professional improvement of member activities.

ISEAL members have their origins in civil society and claim a diverse range of stakeholders in their decision-making structures. In addition, their standards and accreditation programmes are truly international in nature and focus on non-product-related process and production method certification. These characteristics combine to make ISEAL member organizations unusual within the fields of conformity assessment and voluntary labelling instruments. As such, members have prioritized the need to monitor and have input into policy development to ensure that interpretations of regulatory issues and voluntary frameworks are favourable to member programmes, and that these types of conformity assessment programmes are recognized as legitimate.

A programme of peer review will be implemented for both standard-setting and accreditation. For accreditation, participating organizations will be assessed against ISO/IEC Guide 61:1996 General requirements for assessment and accreditation of certification/registration bodies and ISEAL Guidance. For standard-setting, a similar guidance document (a Code of Good Practice for Voluntary Standard-setting Procedures) is being developed through a multi-stakeholder discussion process, to complement Annex 3 of the Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) Agreement of the WTO and relevant elements of ISO Guide 59. Their approach is to start with those internationally recognized standard-setting procedures, and adapt them to be more appropriate to voluntary process and production method (PPM) standards.

A long-term objective for ISEAL is to act as a broker in the harmonization of members' systems. This begins with the harmonization of procedures for setting standards and carrying out accreditation, and will move to the harmonization and elimination of duplication in areas where members' standards overlap.

SASA project[58]

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 cooperation among the organizations and to develop guidelines and tools for social auditing for a wide range of agricultural production systems and product chains. Additional sub-objectives are to examine supply chain actors' impacts and responsibilities, to address the particular needs of smallholder producers, and to explore the possibilities for integrated audits for multiple certification programmes.

In order to achieve these objectives, the four organizations are conducting a series of pilot exercises in different crops around the world, in both developing and industrialized countries. Around each pilot audit a consultative e-mail discussion and a local stakeholder meeting are organized to ensure broad input into the project. In combination, pilot activities help the development of best practice recommendations for verifying safe and decent workplace conditions in diverse agricultural settings. Examples of critical social issues that have been recognized as posing challenges for social auditing are working hours in seasonal production systems and freedom of association and right to collective bargaining.

Apart from the pilot audits, workshops are organized to focus on specific standards or certification procedures, such as smallholder group certification for social audits. In addition, to facilitate auditing against multiple standards during one inspection visit, an integrated audit template is being developed, together with recommendations for joint training of inspectors.

[24] For a more in-depth description and comparative analysis of the ETI, FLO, organic, SAN and SA8000 standards, see Courville, 2000 (reviewed by Piano, 2001).
[25] The paragraphs on the historic development of organic standards draw on Rundgren, 2002.
[26] Schmid, 2002; Riddle and Coody, 2002.
[27] IFOAM, 2003.
[28] Commins, 2002.
[29] EEC, 1991.
[30] Commins and Kung Wai, 2002.
[31] USDA, 2003.
[32] Anonymous, 2002b.
[33] Weinberg, 2002b.
[34] Anonymous 2002a.
[35] Additional countries and administrative units that have regulations are: Argentina, Australia, Bulgaria, Canada, People’s Republic of China, Costa Rica, Czech Republic, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, Hungary, Iceland, India, New Zealand, Norway, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Republic of Korea, Switzerland, Taiwan Province of China, Thailand, Tunisia and Turkey. Other countries are in the process of formulating regulations.
[36] Schmid, 2002; Riddle and Coody, 2002; Weinberg, 2002a.
[37] Kortbech-Olesen, 2003.
[38] Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center, 2003; Consumers Union, 2002.
[39] Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center, 2002.
[40] ISO, 1998a.
[41] ISO, 1998b.
[42] FoodPLUS, 2002; M. Andersen, RUTA/FAO, pers. comm.
[43] Country in Africa, the Caribbean or the Pacific that has signed the Cotonou agreement with the European Union.
[44] COLEACP, 2001.
[45] CAN, 2001; Rainforest Alliance, 2003.
[46] Other SAN members are Conservación y Desarrollo (CyD) in Ecuador; Centro Científico Tropical (CCT) in Costa Rica; Toledo Institute for Development and the Environment (TIDE) in Belize; SalvaNatura in El Salvador; Instituto Para la Cooperación y Autodesarrollo (ICADE) in Honduras; Fundación Interamericana de Investigación Tropical (FIIT) in Guatemala; Pronatura Chiapas in Mexico; Fundación Natura in Colombia; and Imaflora in Brazil.
[47] CAN, pers. comm.
[48] FLO, 2003.
[49] Zonneveld, 2003.
[50] FLO, pers. comm.
[51] SAI, 2003.
[52] ICFTU, 1997, 2003.
[53] ETI, 2003.
[54] SAI-Platform, 2003.
[55] Unilever, 2002.
[56] IIED, 2003.
[57] ISEAL, 2003a.
[58] ISEAL, 2003b.

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