Certification and roundtables

Certification can help companies strengthen and demonstrate sustainability performance as part of a comprehensive approach to achieve ethical supply chains

Certification programs and the Accountability Framework are complementary tools to define and implement ethical supply chains. Companies can use certification to help achieve and verify sustainability performance for the commodities they produce or source, consistent with the Accountability Framework. The Framework supports a company-wide approach to ethical supply chains and may be used to help manage non-certified supplies and to address additional elements of responsible business.

Common questions about the Framework and certification

Expand the items to the right to learn more:

How does certification help companies fulfill the elements of the Accountability Framework?

Many certification standards align closely with the Framework’s normative positions on no-deforestation, no-conversion, and full respect for human rights. Materials certified to such standards and brought to market via a segregated or identity-preserved supply chain model generally fulfill the Framework’s expectations for ethical supply chains, including elements on risk assessment, traceability, implementation systems, supplier management, land management, remediation, and monitoring and verification.

Purchase of certified materials or credits using a mass-balance or book-and-claim system signifies a contribution to supporting ethical commodities. However, it might not demonstrate that materials in the supply chain are deforestation-free, conversion-free, or produced with respect for human rights.

How can companies use the Framework in tandem with certification?

Companies can use the Framework to develop a comprehensive approach for ethical supply chains – including all commodities, all sourcing origins, and both certified and non-certified supplies – under a coherent company-wide set of policies, systems, and reporting practices.

Many companies that use certification also source non-certified materials. This may happen because certification is not available or not widely used for a particular commodity or origin, or because some suppliers are early in their sustainability journey and not yet ready for certification. The Framework can help companies develop effective policies, systems and practices to address environmental and social risk and to fulfill ethical supply chain commitments for non-certified supplies. Click here to get started.

Unlike certification programs, the Framework does not include a verification mechanism (see FAQ #6 for more detail). However, it provides guidelines for credible risk assessment and monitoring and verification of non-certified supplies.

The Framework and specific certification programs

Click on the items to the right to learn more about the relationship between specific certification programs and the Accountability Framework. The information presented in this section is based on this methodology. If there is a program that is not listed here that you would like to see included, please contact us with your suggestion.

Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO)

Overview

The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) operates a plantation- and mill-level certification program that has been adopted for about 19% of the world’s palm oil supply. Third-party accredited certification bodies are responsible for auditing certified operations. RSPO also has company membership requirements, a company progress reporting system, and initiatives for smallholder inclusion and landscape-level certification. Companies may use RSPO certification to demonstrate compliance with their NDPE (no deforestation, no peat conversion, no exploitation) commitments and to help address other sustainability issues in the palm oil sector. RSPO is a member of the ISEAL Alliance.

Alignment

RSPO’s plantation- and mill-level standard are aligned with the Accountability Framework on the topics of no-deforestation, no peatland conversion, and respect for the rights of indigenous peoples, local communities, and workers. This includes related definitions and cutoff dates. The standard’s implementation requirements related to free, prior and informed consent (FPIC), new plantings (i.e., site establishment), environmental and social assessments, and maintenance of conservation values are also well aligned with the Framework. RSPO’s Identify Preserved and Segregated supply chain options align with the Framework’s elements on supply chain traceability and control.

Guidance for companies

Companies may use RSPO to fulfill key elements of the Accountability Framework as mentioned above. Although all RSPO supply chains make positive contributions to supporting sustainable oil palm production, the RSPO Segregated and Identify Preserved supply chains are the preferred options for fulfilling the Framework’s elements on supply chain traceability and control as they do not allow for mixing of certified and non-certified material within the supply chain. The Mass Balance and Book and Claim options do not provide information about environmental or social performance at the farm or mill level for the non-certified physical materials in the supply chain beyond confirming that Fresh Fruit Bunches (FBB) originated from legal sources. When using these options, companies should conduct additional due diligence so that performance at the supply base level can be known, consistent with the Framework’s elements on traceability and control.

Companies that produce, process, finance, or source non-certified palm oil may use the Accountability Framework to establish policies and practices to fulfill NDPE expectations company-wide. This can be a first step to achieving certification, if desired. For instance, palm oil traders and downstream buyers may use the Framework to help define and standardize supplier codes, engagement procedures, and monitoring and reporting systems to implement their NPDE commitments across their entire supply chain.

In addition to using the Framework to guide actions on their non-certified material, companies are also encouraged to use the Framework to address aspects of responsible business that are not fully covered by the scope of RSPO. For instance, the Framework can support companies in developing effective management systems and company-wide monitoring and sustainability reporting for their entire supply chain, including both certified and non-certified volumes from all geographic origins.

Round Table on Responsible Soy (RTRS)

Overview

The Round Table on Responsible Soy Association (RTRS) sets standards for responsible soy production and chain of custody that certify soy, soy derivatives, and soy products. It allows for RTRS-certified material to be traded through a chain-of-custody program or as credits (through its trading platform). Third-party accredited certification bodies are responsible for auditing certified farms and chain-of-custody operations. RTRS certifies about 1.1 million hectares, corresponding to slightly more than 1% of the world’s soy supply. In addition to its certification program, RTRS also serves as a dialogue platform for members across the value chain to work toward increasing certified supply; provides a soy footprint calculator to calculate how much soy is embedded in soy products, animal feed, and food products; and asks its members (producers, civil society, industry, trade, and finance actors) to provide progress reports regarding and toward the expansion of sustainable soy value chains.  The RTRS Standard for Responsible Production is recognized by the European Feed Manufacturers’ Federation (FEFAC). RTRS is a member of the ISEAL Alliance.

Alignment

RTRS’s Standard for Responsible Soy Production (Version 3.1) is aligned with the Accountability Framework on the topics of no-deforestation and no-conversion, including with regard to definitions and cutoff dates. The RTRS standard is also generally aligned with the Framework on topics related to respect for the rights of indigenous peoples, local communities, and workers. RTRS’s implementation requirements related to free, prior and informed consent (FPIC), environmental and social assessments, and maintenance of on-farm conservation values are also well aligned with the Framework.

RTRS’s segregated chain-of-custody model enables 100% certified soy to be kept separate from non-certified soy and therefore aligns with the Framework’s elements on supply chain traceability and control. The mass balance model allows for mixing of certified and non-certified material. Although the point of origin of the non-certified material in mass balance products may be known, it is not independently verified against the RTRS standard. Similarly, the soy associated with the purchase of RTRS credits may be linked to a point of origin, and is a means of supporting responsible soy production; however, the environmental or social performance attributes at the point of origin are not independently verified against the RTRS standard.

Guidance for companies

Companies may use RTRS certification to demonstrate or promote responsible soy production and trade. Specifically, RTRS-certified products sourced under the segregated supply chain model fulfill the Accountability Framework’s expectations on no-deforestation, no-conversion, respect for human rights, supply chain traceability and control, and other elements listed above. If sourcing using the mass balance model or credit system, then additional due diligence may be required to ascertain compliance of the farms or areas from which non-certified soy is sourced.

Companies that produce, process, or source non-certified soy, soy derivatives, or soy products may use the Accountability Framework to establish policies and practices to fulfill ethical supply chain expectations company-wide. This can be a first step to achieving certification, if desired. Soy buyers may use the Framework to help define and standardize supplier codes, engagement procedures, and monitoring and reporting systems to implement their commitments across their entire supply chain. Companies are also encouraged to use the Framework to develop robust sustainability reporting for their supply chain, including both certified and non-certified volumes from all geographic origins.

Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)

Overview

The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) operates a forest management and chain-of-custody certification program, with over 220 million hectares certified worldwide as of 2020. Third-party accredited certification bodies are responsible for auditing certified forests and chain-of-custody operations. The FSC system also includes a Small and Low Intensity Managed Forest (SLIMF) standard for smallholders and communities, two standards for controlling non-certified materials (one for producers with field verification and one for companies that employs a risk-based approach), an ecosystem services procedure, and a policy for association that defines a minimum code of conduct applicable to operations (both certified and non-certified) of FSC members and certificate holders. Companies may use FSC certification to demonstrate that forest products have been produced and sourced in accordance with the sustainability criteria of the FSC’s various standards. FSC is a member of the ISEAL Alliance.

Alignment

The FSC Principles and Criteria for Forest Stewardship V5-2 and associated International Generic Indicators are generally aligned with the Accountability Framework on the topics of no-deforestation and no-conversion. This FSC standard does differ modestly from the Framework in that it allows for conversion of a “very limited portion” of a Management Unit (defined as a total maximum of 5% of the MU and no more than 0.5% in a single year) as long as this conversion produces “clear, substantial, additional, secure long-term conservation benefits in the Management Unit” and does not damage or threaten High Conservation Values. The FSC standard is also aligned with the Framework on topics related to respect for the rights of indigenous peoples, local communities, and workers. FSC’s implementation requirements related to free, prior and informed consent (FPIC), environmental and social assessments, and forest management that maintains conservation values are also well aligned with the Framework.

The FSC Chain of Custody standard includes one approach (the transfer system) that results in 100% FSC products and two that allow for a mix of FSC certified, recycled, and controlled volumes. All three systems support credible claims. Controlled volumes in FSC mix products have been subject to due diligence by chain-of-custody certificate holders and determined to be low risk for illegality, deforestation, and certain human rights violations. This due diligence process must follow FSC-approved national risk assessments.

Guidance for companies

Companies may source FSC certified products to fulfil key elements of the Accountability Framework, as mentioned above. FSC 100% generally demonstrates fulfilment of the Framework’s expectations on no-deforestation, respect for human rights, and supply chain traceability and control. If sourcing FSC mix products, the buyer’s level of confidence regarding compliance of the non-certified material in the mix product hinges on the due diligence processes carried out by upstream suppliers. Buyers are encouraged to monitor these processes to ensure that the due diligence is sufficient to ascertain compliance of non-certified materials, especially when these originate from areas that are not low risk for deforestation or human rights violations.

Companies that produce, process, or source non-certified forest products may use the Accountability Framework to establish policies and practices to fulfill ethical supply chain expectations company-wide. This can be a first step to achieving certification, if desired. Forest products buyers may use the Framework to help define and standardize supplier codes, engagement procedures, and monitoring and reporting systems to implement their commitments across their entire supply chain. As an example, the Book Chain Project has developed a mill-level due diligence approach for the publishing industry, informed by the Accountability Framework. Companies are also encouraged to use the Framework to develop robust sustainability reporting for their supply chain, including both certified and non-certified volumes from all geographic origins.

Rainforest Alliance

Overview

The Rainforest Alliance operates a global agricultural certification program that is applicable for tree crops (e.g., coffee, cocoa), tea, fruits (e.g., bananas, coconuts, pineapples), nuts, and cut flowers. The program is implemented on more than 5 million hectares, including major portions of the worldwide production of coffee, tea, cocoa, and bananas. The program’s 2020 Sustainable Agriculture Standard (SAS) was published in June 2020 and will be implemented as the basis for auditing beginning in July 2021. At this time, it will supersede the prior Rainforest Alliance and UTZ Certified farm standards. The 2020 SAS consists of Farm Requirements (for agricultural producers and producer groups) and Supply Chain Requirements (for commodity buyers and intermediaries). Rainforest Alliance is a member of the ISEAL Alliance.

Alignment

The Farm Requirements of the 2020 SAS are aligned with the Accountability Framework on the topics of no-deforestation and no-conversion (and related definitions), and respect for human rights. This includes a no-conversion requirement with a cutoff date of January 2014 and an “assess and address” mechanism to identify and remedy potential human rights violations. The standard also includes requirements for long-term protection of natural ecosystems and conservation values in certified production units that are well aligned with the Framework.

The program’s Traceable/Identity Preserved and Segregated supply chain options align with the Framework’s elements on supply chain traceability and control. The mass balance model (which is currently available only for cocoa, hazelnuts, coconut oil, and orange juice) allows for mixing of certified and non-certified material and does not provide information on the environmental or social performance attributes at the point of origin of the non-certified material.

Guidance for companies

Companies may source Rainforest Alliance Certified products to fulfill key elements of the Accountability Framework, as mentioned above. Certified materials covered by the Traceable/Identity Preserved and Segregated supply chain options demonstrate fulfillment of the Framework’s expectations on no-deforestation, no-conversion, respect for human rights, and supply chain traceability and control. If using the mass balance traceability model, then additional due diligence may be required to ascertain compliance for the non-certified portion of the mass balance product.

Companies that produce, process, or source non-certified volumes of commodities covered by the Rainforest Alliance standard may use the Accountability Framework to establish policies and practices to fulfill ethical supply chain expectations company-wide. This can be a first step to achieving certification, if desired. For instance, buyers may use the Framework to help define and standardize supplier codes, engagement procedures, and monitoring and reporting systems to implement their commitments across their entire supply chain. Companies are also encouraged to use the Framework to develop robust sustainability reporting for their supply chain, including both certified and non-certified volumes from all geographic origins.

Global Platform for Sustainable Natural Rubber (GPSNR)

Overview

The Global Platform for Sustainable Natural Rubber (GPSNR) was launched in October 2018 in response to the need for an independent platform to lead environmental and social improvements in the natural rubber sector. Current members include: smallholder producers; rubber producers, processors, and traders; tire makers; car makers; and, civil society organizations. In September 2020, the GPSNR membership adopted the GPSNR Policy Framework for Sustainable Natural Rubber Production and Sourcing that outlines the components that member companies are required to include in their natural rubber production and purchasing policies and other documents. AFi was represented on the working group that developed these requirements in order to support the GPSNR Executive Committee’s recommendation of alignment with the Accountability Framework. GPSNR is also developing an assurance model and reporting requirements to track progress toward or compliance with the Policy Framework.

Alignment

GPSNR’s Policy Framework is well-aligned with the Accountability Framework on the topics of no-deforestation and respect for the rights of indigenous peoples, local communities, and workers. The GPSNR policy component regarding no-conversion is less comprehensive than the Accountability Framework in that it focuses specifically on no-conversion of High Conservation Values (HCVs). Additional provisions of this component related to the long-term protection of natural ecosystems and their conservation values is well aligned with the Framework. GPSNR’s implementation requirements related to management systems, traceability, supply chain assessment, stakeholder engagement, supplier engagement, and monitoring are also well aligned with the Framework.

The GPSNR Policy Framework is not a certification standard, and neither member companies nor their products are currently independently verified against the components in that framework. Company members are given a transitional period of time to adopt the GPSNR Policy Framework as company policy.

Guidance for companies

Companies that produce, process, or source natural rubber are encouraged to participate in the GPSNR and/or to adhere to the GPSNR Policy Framework as a means of applying the Accountability Framework. Company policies that follow the GPSNR Policy Framework are aligned with the Accountability Framework as described above.

When sourcing natural rubber from a member of GPSNR, buyers should confirm whether the supplier’s policies align with the GPSNR Policy Framework. Additionally, they should assess how these policies are being implemented, including through due diligence and/or independent verification to ascertain compliance at the origin of production.

Still have questions?

If you have specific questions about how the Framework can be applied in your context, or if you would like to speak to a member of the AFi team, please contact us below.

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