As part of the 2025 strategy of the Sustainability Initiative Fruit & Vegetables (SIFAV), the SIFAV partners have agreed to verify the working conditions at their farms and packhouses located in high-risk and medium-risk countries. The objective: by 2025, at least 90% of the SIFAV partner’s volume originating from these countries are verified by one of the standards accepted in the baskets of social standards.
Decent working conditions: a core objective of SIFAV
Ensuring decent working conditions at producers has always been a core objective of SIFAV. Already in its 2020 program SIFAV partners committed to verify the labour conditions on the farms and packhouses they sourced from in high-risk countries. Their joint efforts across global fruit and vegetable supply chains ultimately led to the result of 85% sustainable sourcing volumes in 2020.
SIFAV 2025: finetuning of approach
During the development of the 2025 program, the SIFAV partners decided to increase the scope of their commitment and to finetune the approach on socially sustainable sourcing. This new ambition takes into account the dynamics of the sector, the differences in risks for various countries and the differences in realities for small and large farms. This ultimately resulted in the development of three new Baskets of Social Standards.
High-risk countries versus medium-risk countries
The probability of human and labour rights violations occurring is closely linked to the capacity of local governments to set stringent labour laws and ensure their implementation and enforcement. The difference in the level of assurance provided by the countries themselves requires different levels of additional assurance by the private sector. When there are indicators that governance is not adequate, the adoption of social standards and third-party verification is an additional assurance method for decent working conditions. Therefore, SIFAV partners have decided to implement third party verification at all farms and packhouses located in high-risk and medium-risk countries.
Following the Amfori Risk Classification, high-risk countries are defined by SIFAV as countries with a World Governance Index (WGI) average rating below 60 or 3 or more individual dimensions with as rating below 60. Medium-risk countries are defined by SIFAV as countries with a WGI average rating between 60 and 80 and by taking into account additional indicators on migrant labour, forced labour and fundamental labour rights into consideration.
Large farms versus smallholders
Decent working conditions should be ensured on all farms, independent of their size. However, large farms and smallholders differ in terms of resources and reality. Under SIFAV 2025 and for the purpose of social verification, smallholders are defined as family farmers or small single farmers that employ less than 5 FTE on a yearly basis (permanent or temporary). Farmer organizations of which two third of the farmers comply to the above definition are also considered as smallholders.
“With this updated basked of standards SIFAV takes the social compliance approach to the next level. It provides a clear direction on how to verify the position of workers in our fresh supply chains in medium and high-risk countries. This will increase transparency and will contribute to better understanding of potential issues like migration, and minimizing negative impact on all workers in agriculture. The joint approach of the SIFAV participants helps us to create awareness and is a clear and uniform signal to the regions applicable.”
Verifying work conditions through benchmarked standards: the SIFAV Baskets of Standards
Verifying labour conditions is an important step in a company due diligence exercise. Third party social verification helps companies assess the labour conditions at their producers. It also helps them with setting up a corrective action plan and an improvement process. Follow-up verifications also help companies to assess whether these improvements have had any effect.
SIFAV partners agreed to use social standards to verify the working conditions at their producers. Social standards that have gone through an independent benchmarking process and that are found to be equivalent are included in the SIFAV ‘Baskets of Standards’. Benchmarking ensures that all standards accepted meet a minimum level of assurance and quality set by these benchmarks.
By working with baskets of social standards, SIFAV is aiming to drive harmonization, to support alignment of market requirements to best practices and to promote transparency and comparability. The baskets also provide choice for supply chain actors ultimately resulting in higher efficiency, lower costs, and less audit duplications.
SIFAV follows two benchmarks when it comes to social standards: the Sustainable Supply Chain Initiative (SSCI) and the Farm Sustainability Assessment (FSA) benchmark, developed by the Sustainable Agriculture Initiative (SAI) platform.
For high-risk countries, equivalency to the SSCI benchmark is required. Since the SSCI benchmark is still relatively new and that the process is quite lengthy, SIFAV allowed a transition period for standards to go through this benchmark. At this stage, standards included in the high-risk basket are either equivalent to the SSCI benchmark or the GSCP benchmark (level B), which is the predecessor of SSCI. Starting 2024, only standards that have gone through the SSCI benchmark and that have been found to be equivalent will be included in the basket for high-risk countries.
Equivalency to FSA bronze on social chapter or to the SSCI benchmark is required for standards applied in medium-risk countries and for verification of smallholder farms. Adopting both benchmarks for medium-risk countries and smallholder farmers opens the possibility to accept standards that are more common in these countries and/or more accessible to smallholders. At this stage all standards accepted in these baskets are equivalent to FSA 2.1. All standards will need to go through the benchmark against the new FSA 3.0 benchmark by the end of October 2022 (following FSA requirements) to remain in these baskets.
The baskets are regularly reviewed by SIFAV to include relevant standards meeting the FSA and/or SSCI benchmark.
This country and farm classifications combined with the benchmarking requirements result in the following baskets of social standard
Broader commitment on social topics
In addition to the commitment to verify the labour conditions at their producers located in high- and medium risk countries, SIFAV partners also committed to work towards ensuring living wages in their supply chains. With living wages being an important lever to stop poverty and address other human right abuses like bonded labour or child labour, it makes sense to focus on this topic. All SIFAV partners committed to analyse the living wage gap in one of their supply chains as well as identify obstacles and pathways to reduction by 2025.