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Certification is a way to improve the farmers state of affairs, by providing them with additional (or at least stable) income and other privileges, conditional on their compliance with certain requirements. Such requirements are outlined in documents called standards or codes of conduct, which are used by auditing committees to randomly check farms. The certified product, which eventually finds its way to the shelves of supermarkets, informs the consumers with information, certificates also provide marketing opportunities for companies involved in branding of cocoa products.
At the moment there are four labels for sustainable cocoa and chocolate (not mentioning DIRECT CACAO here*) These are EKO, for organic cocoa; Max Havelaar, for Fairtrade cocoa; Rainforest Alliance, for nature conservation; and UTZ Certified, for farmers support. Each of these certifiers focuses on different aspects of sustainability and its own unique standards and approaches to rewarding farmers.
Dutch cocoa processors and cocoa chocolate manufacturers utilize these different schemes. Currently the focus is very much on UTZ Certified, which launched its Cocoa Program in 2007, with a focus on certification, training and farmer organisation. Through UTZ Certified, mulitnational corporations aim to realize their sustainable sourcing objectives. Many complicated elements surround certification. One burning issue, repeatedly mentioned in interviews and at multi-stakeholder meetings, is harmonisation of standards.
Harmonisation of standards Each label has its own specific attention points, its own standards, its own system of rewards, its own traceability systems, and so on. The fact that there are several certificates, which all opetare differently, can cause confusion in the actual meaning behind a specific, label and the differences between the various labels. Moreover, it is unclear whether these labels can actually realise the claims they make. It is nessary to have such variety of labels for certifying more or less the same product and process?
The push to combine the efforts of EKO, Max Havelaar, Rainforest Alliance, and UTZ in issuing certificates to farmer organisations originates from different actors: the Tropical Commodity Coalation, the Dutch Initiative for Sustainable Trade, and from industry players, such as Cargill. The certifiers gave indicated that they are interested to collaborate in the pre-competitive stage of certification (the producer side), where there are lot of similarities (e.g., how auditing takes place, or yheir involvement in capacity development for farmers). By joining forces the certifiers can, at the same time, invrease the efficiency of the certification process and improve their credibility. Joining forces in the marketing of the produce is more complicated, as certifiers sill seek to protect their commercial interests. Within this context, the fair trade organisation Max Havelaar shared this concern regarding competition among certification schemes:
Because every certifier wants to safeguard its own supply, there is a danger that ther will be a new competition between the certifiers about who will actually get the certified cocoa.
This quote illustrates the prevalent fear that UTZ CERTIFEID will eventually attract the farmers and their produce, because they enjoy the support of industry. This is not an unrealistic fear as the supply of certified cocoa is lagging far behind demend. Another issue of concern is whether farmers will be able to select the certification scheme for which they want to produce their cocoa.
Questions regarding harmonisation It is sad that the different labels for sustainable cocoa have an 80% overlap in their social and environmental criteria. Several questions often arise in discussions on the harmonisation of standards, for example: How can the different certification schemes be integrated? How can the four certifiers operate collectively, in order to certify as many farmers as possible? What are barriers or disadvantages involved in harmonisation? Does harmonisation of standards lead to weak compromises? Are there no alternative form of certification available that could make the process faster and cheaper? Should they be actively sought out?
…In order to cope with some of the challenges that the use of certification schemes generate, the different actors involved in the cocoa sector also build upon experiences with certification in other sectors. UTZ CERTIFIED builds upon its experience in coffee, where it is among the biggest certification programs in the world. Other learned from the research conducted on sustainable biomass. For example, Fair Food has used a document prepared by Cramer (2007) for testing a framework on sustainable biomass to explore alternative (cheaper) ways of certifying cocoa. In this document three different certification systems were compared: the track and trace system, the mass balance system, and negotiable certificates. Currently, the Fairtrade Labelling Organizations are considering the mass balance system as an alternative way of certifying Fairtrade products. This system prescribes to stop the practice of segregated processing of Fairtrade cocoa and conventional cocoa. UTZ CERTIFIED allows both mass and segregation for certified cocoa.
Limits of certification Because certification is not sufficient for guaranteeing sufficient supply, it is combined with investments in farmer training, this called certification+
The concept of Certification+, introduced by Solidaridad and Mars, states that the premium provided by Certification is not meant to guarantee a living wage for farmers. By improving productivity and quality, farmers should be able to earn more for their cocoa and invest in improving their liveihood, especially in West Africa wher cocoa production is concentrated. Therefore, these parties claim to go beyond certification by improving productivity through providing better plant material and fertilizer, training, and financing. In addition, Solidaridad is improving support to farmers in producing countries by lobbying and by working to strengthen civil society.
NEXT TIME: Farmer training
The role of the social movement.
There is a large social movement in the Netherlands, led by several NGOs, that highlights critical issues in the cocoa chain, such as labour conditions, environmental awareness, or earning a living wage. Such NGOs traditionally oppose industry stakeholders – especially multinationals – due to their strong influence on the cocoa chain. But civil society is increasingly being involved in attemps by industrial players to mainstraim sustainable cocoa partnerships.
Solidaridad and Oxfam Novib are the two best known examples. Both NGOs cooperate with industry, for example, by founding the cocoa programme for UTZ CERTIFIED and actively participating in the IDH network. Whereas Solidaridad’s primary focus is on training and organising farmers in origin countries. Oxfam Novib focuses on lobbying and partner support. Both NGO’s are also active in generating knowledge on social and (to a lesser extent) environmental issues and play a role in awareness raising. For example, Oxfam Novib last year started the ‘Groene Sint’ campain, aimed at raising awareness of the abuse that takes place on cocoa plantations. This campain had an impact on supermarkets and larger stores that sell a lot of ‘chocolate letters’ (it is a Dutch custom to give chocolate letters as gift for St.Nicholas day – 5 December). So far, seven stores have committed to sell only fair chocolate letters for the 2010 celebration.
Besides Solidaridad and Oxfam Novib, there are some other examples that illustrate the social movement, such as the Tropical Commodity (TCC) and Fair trade certifier Max Havelaar. TCC brings together different stakeholders in conferences and gives an annual overview of the progress made in the different sectors. Max Havelaar is another example of a development oriented organisation that actively engages in the cocoa sector and tries to reshape it by bringen Fairtrade products on the market.
As stated, these organisations bring forward a number of critical, largely overlapping issues. The main themes of their work are scalling up sustainable production and involving and supporting farmers in the sustainability debate. Both organisations play an important role in lobbying and raising awareness, not only on level of consumers but also with producers from their target group. TCC advocates the participation of producer organisations in sustainability denate, for example at conferences. It also facilitates roundtable meetings in producing countries (e.g., Gahna, Ecuador, and Indonesia) where all stakeholders can interact. Through these meetings, producers get better acquanted with each other and can learn from each other’s experiences. It also helps them to get their ‘voice’ heard at international round table meetings.
Redefining the Dutch knowledge position.
With all eyes now focused on sustainability issues in the cocoa chain, a major shift is taking place. A more diverse set of actors is beginning to play a role in the sector and there is a change in the kind of knowledge taht is being developed in the Netherlands. Over the recent years, the Netherlands has developed a thorough knoledge base related to development of sustainable agricultural value chains. This knowledge base covers a wide range of products and different parts of the chains (e.g., production, processing, trade, marketing, etc.) but also addresses integral matters (such as agro logistics, tracking and tracing, bridging demand and supply, bridging theory and practice, ect.). Furthermore, the intense dialogue between companies, civil society and goverment has further enriched stakeholders with knowledge and experience, in particular regarding coping strategies for sustainability in terms of consumer responses.
The next chapter examines some of the key challenges involved in sustainable cocoa production, specifically by looking at the role played by Dutch knowledge partners.
This is what I learned and wanted to share after seeing the dvd received at the Origin Chocolate Event Amsterdam.
Global standard-setting organisations fro example, organic, Fair-Trade, Utz, 4C, Rainforest Alliance aim to improve the social, envirinmenttal, economic, and health and safety conditions for agricultural productions and processing. These organisations work to continuously improve their standards contributing to sustainable and inclusive value chain development.
The featured film captures key learning and experiences from a workshop on gender equity in global certified coffee, tea and cocoa value chains. It includes interviews with representatives from producer organisations, support services, standard setting organisations and certification bodies as well as the private sector.
Learning session in Kenia on gender & certified value chains.
What are the challenges?
If we look at like certification like organic, the standard that is audited by an organisation like Soil Association, we find that mainly it looks at the good agricultural practices. But when you look further, at the social aspects such as equity and non discrimination plus other social aspects they are not addressed in the standards. And until such aspects have been captured in the standards, thant’s the only written fact that they will be implemented uniformly across of the production sites, wheter in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania or anywhere else in the world.
So in fact that, as of now, various growers may come up with their own initiatives and implement but that may not be replicated in other growing sites across the various countries where certification is implemented.
“Social issues are not addressed adequately in many global standards.”
Local initiatives can be a source of learning for further development of standards.
Thank to Anna Lavan, research en development of the KIT, www.kit.nl sharing me the DVD Gender&Certfied Value Chains.
Also I would like to share the following www.directcacao.org DIRECT CACAO A new voice for fine cacao and chocolate.
Direct is a new organisation seeking to preserve and protect fien cacao through respect, value and mutual benefit for consumers and chocolate producers.
We believe that the only way to guarantee the future of fine cacao, and so the future of great fine chocolate, is by making sure that the farmers are properly rewarded for the cacao they produce. This can only be achieved through close links between the consumer, chocolate company and cacao farmer.
We aim to create a sustainable cycle based on quality and taste through short-chain Directly Traded fiencacao. We believe taht this is essential for preserving the environment, the livelihoods of farmer and for creating great tasting chocolate.
We NOT believe that ethical labeling schermes can achieve this and in fact can actually be detrimental to a fair and equitable trade in cacao.
Direct Cacao brings together chocolate makers and companies, chocolatiers, cacao growers and companies and independents to begin a new relationship based on a true respect for fine cacao.