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  • 1. Standards for group certification Rainforest Alliance Certification November 2004 Version Rainforest Alliance San José, Costa Rica November 2004
  • 2. Contents The Sustainable Agriculture Network and Rainforest Alliance............................................................................2 Rainforest Alliance Mission .................................................................................................................................2 Sustainable Agriculture Network Mission............................................................................................................2 Introduction to these standards............................................................................................................................3 Requirements for groups and producers ..............................................................................................................3 Models of groups..................................................................................................................................................4 Definitions............................................................................................................................................................7 1. ESTABLISHMENT OF A GROUP.................................................................................................................10 2. INTERNAL CONTROL SYSTEM ...................................................................................................................11 3. CHAIN OF CUSTODY...................................................................................................................................13 The Sustainable Agriculture Network and Rainforest Alliance The Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN) is a coalition of independent, nonprofit, conservation organizations that promotes the socio-environmental sustainability of agricultural activities through development projects and the certification of sustainable agriculture. Network member organizations provide certification services to the producers and agricultural companies in their country and contribute knowledge and experience to the development of Sustainable Agriculture standards. Rainforest Alliance (RA) is the secretariat of the Network and administers the certification systems. The farms certified by the SAN can use the Rainforest Alliance Certified™ seal on their products. Rainforest Alliance Mission The mission of the Rainforest Alliance is to protect ecosystems and the people and wildlife that depend on them by transforming land-use practices, business practices and consumer behavior. Companies, cooperatives and landowners that participate in our programs meet rigorous standards that conserve biodiversity and provide sustainable livelihoods. Sustainable Agriculture Network Mission The mission of the Sustainable Agriculture Network is to improve environmental and social conditions in tropical agriculture through: • Certification of sustainable farm management practices and issuing a credible seal of approval to farms that meet certification standards. • Transforming thinking on the part of farmers, marketers, consumers, and industries so that we all assume responsibility for our actions. • Connecting conservation activists in the North and South and providing them with a way to work together. • Raising public awareness about our interdependence on tropical ecosystems.
  • 3. Introduction to these standards OBJECTIVE OF THESE STANDARDS These standards provide criteria for evaluating the viability and efficacy of the systems for guaranteeing compliance of groups of farms with the Standards for sustainable agriculture – Rainforest Alliance Certification™. The objective of group certification is to make Rainforest Alliance certification accessible to producers who, for various reasons, do not have the means of entering a RA certification process individually, or who will obtain substantial economic benefits through the application of the standards to various farms under a single socio-environmental management system. The scope of group certification These standards apply to eligible producers and farms, as well as the entities (group administrators) that provide the tools and maintain the necessary systems for the producers to become certified. To identify which groups, producers and administrators can be eligible for group certification, it must be determined whether they have the characteristics described below. These standards do not encompass socio-environmental performance requirements included in the Standards for sustainable agriculture –Rainforest Alliance certification or the additional standards for different crops. It is the responsibility of each farm to execute the best management practices needed for compliance with those standards. In group certification, the SAN delegates the compliance verification process for the standards to the group administrator, and verifies that this process is completed through audits of the group and the administrator. Requirements for groups and producers Which groups qualify? A group of farms is eligible for a group certification when it has the following general characteristics: • The group is relatively homogeneous in terms of production systems, geographic location and farm size. • There are no large differences in natural factors (climate, soils, and types of ecosystems or natural vegetation) among the farms. • For some group models, the cost of individual certification is disproportionately high in comparison with the sales value of the product. • The group is sufficiently large and has adequate resources to support an impartial entity in managing a viable internal control system that objectively ensures that individual producers conform to production standards. • Products from the certified group of farms included in the group certification are traded as a group and not individually.
  • 4. • The group has or can implement a system of traceability that allows monitoring of the flow of certified products (Chain of Custody). The group does not have to be legally constituted; however, it is important that there is a structure and system for facilitating the making and communication of decisions as well as managing the administration system. Certification requirements In order to obtain Rainforest Alliance certification, the farms and the group administrator must achieve the following levels of performance: • 80% general compliance with the applicable standards. • 50% or higher compliance with any principle of the applicable standards. • Compliance with all the critical standards indicated. The applicable standards are: Audited element Standard for compliance Standards for sustainable agriculture – Rainforest Alliance certification™ Member farms of the group Additional standards for crop – Rainforest Alliance certification™ Standards for groups of producers - Group administrator Rainforest Alliance Certification ™ Details about the requirements and the qualification of the farms are found in the document Requisitos técnicos y cíclo de certificación – certificación Rainforest Alliance™ (Technical requirements and cycle of certification –Rainforest Alliance certification ™). Models of groups Experience has shown that there is no one group type or scheme. There are benefits of group certification for all kinds of farms, from very small to large or industrial farms. Since the objective of RA certification is fostering the implementation of best socio-environmental management practices, group certification should make the benefits of RA certification more accessible to the greatest number of farms possible. Therefore, RA offers various models of group certification. It is important to emphasize that any model should have the characteristics mentioned in the previous section. Model 1: Membership groups or private farm organizations. This is the model that typifies group certification. It consists of the certification of a group of private farms that are members
  • 5. of an organization, such as an association of producers or a cooperative. The organization acts as the administrator of the group and manages the internal control system (ICS), makes internal audits and markets the farm products included in the certification. Typically, the organization provides technical assistance and training opportunities to the farms and facilitates elements of socio-environmental management for improving farm compliance with the certification standards. Model 2: Multiple farms of a single owner. This model applies to groups of farms of a single private or company landowner that operates under one social and environmental management and administration system. The farms cannot be independent entities with different systems for administration, policies, or social or environmental management; however, they can be registered under different owners for legal reasons, but their connections to one another and to the landowner or the mother company must be clearly documented. As with other models, certification under this model can only include farms that are relatively homogeneous in their production systems and natural conditions, and that are relatively close to one another geographically. It does not apply to farms of a single owner located in different countries or in different geographic regions. Model 3: Traders and suppliers. Today it is quite common to find traders that acquire products from various farms and, because of the requirements of their clients they impose certain criteria or standards for performance, quality or other sort on their suppliers. Many times the same trader provides technical assistance and implements a kind of inspection system on the supplying farms to guarantee compliance with the criteria of their clients. This model contemplates the reality of clustering independent farms under one trader. In this case, the trader assumes the role of group administrator and takes responsibility for the development and management of an ICS for the farms included in the certification. Like other group administrators, the trader can provide technical assistance and training opportunities to the farms and facilitate elements of socio-environmental management for improving compliance with certification standards. The members of the group cannot trade the certified products independently because the certification applies to the group and not to each farm. Model 4: Communal lands. Communal lands present a special challenge for group certification. In general, the owners of communal lands are governments, ethnic or religious groups, or other groups, and the private producers that form part of the group have rights of usufruct of the soils for agricultural production and other related uses, although other models exist. The area that each producer enjoys can be well defined or specific areas can be shared between various producers. Examples include indigenous reserves, Mexico’s system of ejidos (communal lands), some cooperatives and community lands. When a group operates under a scheme of parcels or areas with usufruct rights defined for each producer, it can opt for certification under Model 1. In that case, there should be an entity that can assume the responsibilities of establishing and managing an ICS, making internal audits and trading the products from the parcels or producers included in the certification. It is important to indicate, as in all the models of group certification, the existence of a farm in the RA audit
  • 6. sample that does not comply with the certification requirements means that the certification is cancelled or not granted. Communal lands that are managed and used jointly, without parcels or areas assigned to each producer, can be certified. In this case, all the designated lands or areas are incorporated into the certification and samples of the relevant areas are made (areas for production, infrastructure, conservation and others) in proportion to the sampling requirements; for example, one third per year for a small group. Again, there should be an entity or structure that assumes the responsibilities of the group administrator. Model 5. Federation of groups. Many cooperatives, associations, unions and other groups of producers belong to federations or other groups. Many times these federations do not exercise much influence on the daily operations of their members. On the other hand, there are federations that group organizations for very specific purposes, such as agricultural cooperatives. These federations carry out important activities for the group, for example, the processing and the trading of products, training of members, administration and the provision of technical assistance. In these cases, the federations are de facto group administrators, and they can opt for a group certification that encompasses the organizations making up their membership. Federations of organizations have two group certification options at present. The first is the certification of the federation with its members forming the group, as described in the previous paragraph. Under this scenario, the federation assumes the role of group administrator. The second option is that each federation member organization is certified independently and assumes the responsibilities of group administrator. In this case, the federation can continue to provide some services to the members, such as the commercialization of products or some technical assistance, but it does not function as the group administrator. It is important that the federation analyzes the advantages and disadvantages of becoming certified or certifying its members individually. As with any other group certification model, non-compliance by one of the members of the group implies that RA certification will be cancelled or not granted. What is a small producer? All producers and all sizes of farms are eligible to form part of a certified group. There are various factors that influence the decision to include a producer as part of a group certification. Not all factors apply to all producers, or all situations of the group. It is important that the group and the group administrator define and document the criteria used to allow or deny entry of a farm into the certification, as well as justify any exception to the entry process. The members of the Sustainable Agriculture Network differentiate between small and large farms in the design of the audit and in the sampling of the farms during the audit. The audit team audits a sample of the small farms. This sample can be larger for large farms and processing centers. The following criteria are considered in determining if a farm is small:
  • 7. 1. The producer does not depend on hired labor for most of the farm tasks. The exceptions are peak work periods (such as harvest periods), the hiring of specialized services, or short term jobs (weeding, fence repairs, etc.). 2. The cost of certification – audit and annual quota – is higher than two percent of the value of the certified crop if the farm is certified individually. 3. The producer lacks the technical and economic capacity to cover the expense of the improvements and the best management practices on the farm. 4. Generally, the producer has limited capacity for establishing and carrying out administration activities, such as accounting, managing finances or complex inventories, making payrolls that include social benefits, and others. 5. He also has limited capacity for accessing markets for his products other than local markets. 6. The producer generally uses traditional production systems. The large producers are those that do not have most of these characteristics and must be audited annually. The criteria indicated are not definitive, but are guidelines for the selection of farms to form part of the group, taking into account the objective mentioned for the group certification. The Sustainable Agriculture Network does not have the right to determine if a farm, producer or company can belong to an organization or group, but it can condition and limit their participation in the certification granted to a group of farms. The SAN reserves the right to assign special conditions to farms included in the group that are exceptions to the normal selection criteria. What is a Group Administrator? The group administrator (administrator) is the entity that signs the certification contract with Rainforest Alliance. It is in charge of maintaining the Internal Control System (ICS), which consists of a group administration system to ensure farm compliance with the Rainforest Alliance certification standards. The following sections present specific aspects of the administrator. The administrator can be legally incorporated as a legal corporate identity, as in the case of a cooperative, an association, or an export firm. It can also be an entity formally recognized by the producers without having a legal corporate identity. In both cases, the administrator has a documented structure and meets Rainforest Alliance and SAN requirements. Definitions Group administrator (Administrator) - The entity that signs the certification contract with Rainforest Alliance and takes responsibility for the development, execution and maintenance of the internal control system and for verification of farm compliance with Sustainable Agriculture standards. Document – Consists of information and its means of back-up. These means can be paper, sample, photograph, or magnetic, optical or electronic disc. !
  • 8. Standards – The set of principles and sections that indicate the certification requirements for Sustainable Agriculture. Federation – An organization whose members are other organizations, such as associations, cooperatives, unions, and others. Farm – The unit or units subject to certification or auditing that form part of the group under RA certification. Small farm – Defined as a farm that does not depend structurally on hired labor to carry out most of the farming, processing or packing tasks. Large farm – A farm that depends on hired labor to carry out most of the farming, processing or packing activities. In general, the cost of certification for a large farm is less than two percent of the gross value of the certified products in the market. Certified group – Various farms with similar characteristics under a single RA certification. They must be committed to complying with internal control system requirements and Rainforest Alliance standards. Monitoring – A system for observing the surroundings to detect changes in the environmental or human setting due to human activities, in this case, farming. Critical standard – A standard that the group must comply with fully in order to obtain certification. Partial compliance is not allowed. Policy – Overall intentions and orientation of a farm or company regarding a requirement of the standards. Procedure – The specific way of carrying out an activity or a process for the purpose of complying with the standards. Producer – The administrator for the farm or group of farms with the same owner. This can be a company, an individual farmer, a cooperative or other organization or individual in charge of managing a farm. Certified products – The agricultural products produced by a certified farm. These include processed or semi-processed products that have not been mixed with products from farms that are not certified. Program – Element of a system that contains objectives, goals, policies, procedures, and other elements and planning and execution documents needed for ensuring compliance with the standards. Record – A document that shows results obtained or provides evidence of activities performed. "
  • 9. System – A group of elements that are mutually related or that interact. A management system is a system for establishing policies and objectives, and for attaining those objectives. Socio-environmental management system – A system, applied at the farm level, which contains the policies, programs and procedures necessary for complying with Sustainable Agriculture standards and with relevant national legislation. Internal control system – A documented management system that has the policies and procedures that allow the group administrator to verify member farm compliance with the SAN standards. #
  • 10. 1. ESTABLISHMENT OF A GROUP The administrator as well as the members of the group must demonstrate their commitment to comply with these standards and with the standards for sustainable agriculture. Similarly, the group administrator must demonstrate that it has the institutional capacity for ensuring that the farms included in the certification comply with Rainforest Alliance certification requirements. 1.1 COMPLIANCE WITH THE STANDARDS All the farms must comply with the certification standards of the Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN). 1.1.1 The group administrator and each producer must sign a declaration of their commitment to comply with the certification requirements and the standards, the internal control system, and to collaborate with the audit process. The group administrator must keep copies of the signed declarations. Critical standard. 1.1.2 All the farms and their processing installations must attain the level of compliance with Standards for sustainable agriculture – Rainforest Alliance certification™ indicated in the RA certification policies. In the field, the farms of the group have the responsibility of implementing any system, program or policy developed by the administrator for compliance with the indicated standards and requirements. Critical standard. 1.2 GROUP ADMINISTRATOR The group administrator must demonstrate that it has institutional capacity for managing farm certification and performance verification against the Standards for sustainable agriculture – Rainforest Alliance certification™. 1.2.1 There must be policies and procedures for clear communication between the group administrator and the farms for transferring the information necessary for the proper functioning of the internal control system as well as for complying with the requirements of these standards and those of Rainforest Alliance certification. 1.2.2 The group administrator must demonstrate that it has the resources – human, financial, physical and others – needed for carrying out the administrative and technical aspects related to farm certification. 1.2.3 There must be a description of the general organizational structure (for example, with the board of directors, management, administration and the technical component) of the group administrator, with positions and responsibilities clearly identified. 1.2.4 In the case that the group administrator is not legally recognized or registered as an organization (does not have legal corporate identity), it must have a documented description of its mission and objectives, a list of its members, and documented policies and procedures for operations management and decision-making. 1.2.5 The group must have policies and procedures for distributing the costs of maintaining the internal control system and the costs associated with Rainforest Alliance certification among the private farm members of the group.
  • 11. 2. INTERNAL CONTROL SYSTEM The group administrator is in charge of verifying the compliance of the farms included in the certification with the Standards for sustainable agriculture –Rainforest Alliance certification™. The group administrator must have a documented internal control system (ICS) that contains elements necessary for verifying the performance of farms in the group and for managing the membership of the group. 2.1 ICS STRUCTURE AND CONTENT The ICS must consist of an operational structure, with documented policies and procedures and basic information about the farms included in the certification, to help the administrator manage group membership and verify the performance of the farms against the Standards for sustainable agriculture – Rainforest Alliance certification™. 2.1.1 The ICS must have an administrative operations structure that defines the person in charge of the internal control system and a committee in charge of decision-making regarding the participation of farms or producers in the group as well as the distribution of ICS costs. Critical standard. 2.1.2 There must be a documented operations manual that includes internal inspection protocols; policies and procedures for accepting or removing producers or farms from the group; policies and procedures for applying sanctions in the event of non-compliance with the standards; procedures for communicating corrective actions; and policies and procedures for handling complaints, appeals, sanctions, and other problems. 2.1.3 The group administrator must develop and maintain a database (physical and/or electronic, depending on the nature of the information) of the farms included in the certification that covers the information listed below as a minimum for each farm. Critical standard: a. A copy of the data form for Rainforest Alliance producers with the information for each farm. (Annex 1) b. Map or chart of the farm. c. Results from the last two internal and external audits, the plans for improvement and other corrective actions proposed and implemented for the farm, the results from any oversight by the producer or the group administrator and any other document that would indicate tendencies in the farms’ socio-environmental performance with respect to sustainable agriculture certification standards. d. Total production and production per area (hectare) of the last two harvests or the last two years since incorporation into the group and an estimate of total production and production per area for this year or harvest. e. The date of entry and the dates of internal and external inspections. In the event that a producer resigns or is expelled, the reason and date of departure should be recorded. f. Other documents related to compliance with certification standards and requirements, such as the declarations of commitments to compliance, appeals regarding findings, recommendations or other aspects. 2.1.4 A summary of all the data on land use (in hectares) must be kept for the entire group that includes the following categories of use: total area of each farm; certified production area; other production areas; area under conservation; area with infrastructure; other areas.
  • 12. 2.1.5 A summary of total production and production per area (hectare) per product for the last two years or harvest must be kept, as well as estimates for the coming harvest, and for all the producers included in the certification. This can be done for regions or zones. 2.1.6 The ICS must include a general map (1:50,000 scale minimum) with the location of each farm. 2.1.7 There must be no distinctions, exclusions or preferences of any kind based on race, color, gender, religion, political opinions, nationality or social origin for selecting and including farms in the certification. Critical standard. 2.2 Internal inspection system The internal control system must have an internal inspection system executed by properly trained auditors, for evaluating the performance of the farms with respect to the Sustainable Agriculture certification standards as well as for fostering the improvements necessary for improving compliance with the standards. 2.2.1 The frequency and distribution of the internal inspections of all the farms must ensure that the farms receive adequate information and feedback for ensuring their compliance with the sustainable agriculture standards. Corresponding records on the inspections for each farm must be kept. 2.2.2 New operators must be included in the group after an internal inspection only. Critical standard. 2.2.3 Cases of non-compliance detected by the group administrator are handled within the internal control system and according to a documented system of sanctions. 2.2.4 There must be a separation of responsibilities among the technical personnel such that the possibility of subjectivity in internal inspections is minimized. The personnel that carry out internal inspections should not audit their own farms, or those of family members or other people with whom they have some kind of relationship that could influence their decisions about the farm. 2.3 TRAINING There must be written evidence of training of group administrator personnel as well as the producers or technical personnel of the farms in the certified group regarding the scope, requirements, and internal control system procedures and the requirements of the certification standards.
  • 13. 3. CHAIN OF CUSTODY It is important that Rainforest Alliance is certain that products bearing the RA-certified™ seal come from certified farms. The group administrator must have a system for keeping products from certified farms separate from products from non-certified farms. The farms that are part of the group can only sell certified products through the group administrator. 3.1 CHAIN OF CUSTODY SYSTEM The group administrator must have a system for avoiding the mixing of certified products with non-certified products from the farms until they are sold or transferred to third parties. 3.1.1 Products from the farms included in the certification are traded through the group administrator and not individually. Critical standard. 3.1.2 All the products from farms included in the certification must be properly identified and accompanied by documentation – invoices, receipts, packing or contents lists, information about the transport or embarkation – including the farm certification code, a description of the certified product, product volume and destination or client. Products that are not packed or that cannot be marked, such as coffee in cherry form, must be accompanied by proper documentation. Critical standard. 3.1.3 The administrator must keep copies of the documentation and a record that summarizes product transactions for a period of three years. The records must include transaction dates, product descriptions, volumes and destinations or buyers. Critical standard. 3.1.4 All product processing and/or packing installations on certified farms must comply with the Chain of Custody standards of Rainforest Alliance. Critical standard.