UTZ CERTIFIED recently announced that it is partnering with fellow ISEAL Member 4C Association and the Federation of Coffee Growers of Colombia (FNC), with financing from 4C Industry Member Tchibo GmbH and the Dutch Sustainable Trade Initiative (IDH), in a pilot stepping-up project in Colombia.
Stepwise approaches are initiatives or programmes that enable producers or enterprises to move in a gradual way towards improved social and/or environmental performance. The defining feature of a stepwise approach is the structured, stepped path to performance improvement that it lays out for producers and businesses.
The project involves 180 coffee growers and their families from the Risaralda Department, who are part of two FNC-licensed 4C Units. The farmers will receive training from FNC agricultural extensionists on general sustainability issues, good agricultural practices, traceability requirements and implementation of the UTZ Internal Control System.
The project’s objective is for the group of farmers to receive UTZ certification, and through the production of an Implementation Guide, project partners hope that the experience can be replicated so that other farmers can step up from 4C compliance to UTZ certification.
ISEAL’s Step Report
In 2010 ISEAL initiated a research study on stepwise approaches as a possible strategy to help scale up the impacts of sustainability standards. The findings were released in a report published in 2011 that is available here. Among the seventeen stepwise approaches investigated in the report were: Rainforest Alliance’s Sustainable Tourism Program; Forest Stewardship Council’s draft step programme for forest managers to move from legal and then controlled wood before achieving FSC certification; Fairtrade’s draft shrimp standard; Union for Ethical BioTrade's five-year step approach for expanding ethical biotrade practices; and the Business Social Compliance Initiative to SA8000 step programme.
The research underscored the diversity of approaches that can be adopted to design and implement a step programme. While some have improvement requirements embedded within standards, others keep the stepping up outside of the standard or combine internal and external steps. Some require improvement within a set time frame and others make improvement optional.
While steps and improvement paths make up the core of a stepwise approach, most of the examples studied for this report also employ other strategies or incentives (such as marketing benefits, capacity building and price premiums) to encourage participation in and progression through the stepwise programme. The salient findings from the report include:
- The specific structure of a stepwise approach does not seem to be a significant determinant of success. Market demand, market access, and the provision of free support appear to help ensure success. In general, complimentary incentives are needed to entice large numbers of hard-to-reach participants to join and improve.
- Stepwise approaches seek to reduce a number of different barriers to certification. At a minimum, they reduce entry requirements, which is likely to attract more participants. In addition to reducing barriers to entry, stepwise approaches also try to keep costs low for participants, often by enlisting actors higher up in the supply chain to subsidise support and audit costs.
If stepwise approaches are going to contribute to scaling up goals, it is important to identify a sustainable business model for each stepwise approach, to pay attention to the supply chain and market demand when designing stepwise approaches, and to structure the incentives included in stepwise approaches in such a way that they encourage improvement, not just participation in the programme.
To download the Step Approaches Report, click here
To read the full article about the UTZ CERTIFIED / 4C stepping-up project, click here