The Sustainable Vanilla Initiative (SVI) is a voluntary industry initiative, which aims to promote the long-term stable supply of high-quality, natural vanilla, that is produced in a socially, environmentally and economically sustainable way. SVI members believe vanilla can benefit all partners along the value chain, beginning with improving farmer livelihoods. The SVI is hosted by IDH, the Sustainable Trade Initiative in collaboration with US-based Sustainable Food Lab (SFL) and liaises with vanilla exporters, producers, sector organizations and public authorities worldwide to progress issues of governance, traceability, labor rights and technical assistance to grower groups.
In recent years, the international vanilla bean market has faced challenges of falling quality, price volatility and insufficient product traceability. SVI was launched in 2015 in response to a shared sense of purpose from international food manufacturers and vanilla industry to improve sustainability and quality in vanilla production, with an initial focus on Madagascar, the world’s largest vanilla producing country, and Uganda a promising secondary origin. The Sustainable Vanilla Initiative works to bring innovative solutions to these market challenges through a comprehensive strategy addressing challenges inherent to vanilla’s complex supply chain in producing countries.
SVI aims to:
- Grow the supply and market for sustainable / traceable vanilla
- Improve and sustain vanilla households’ incomes / livelihoods
- Improve quality by significantly reducing early harvesting of green vanilla
- Address the concerns about child labor in vanilla production
The initiative currently has 28 members ranging from major consumer goods manufacturers and global flavors and fragrances companies to international vanilla bean traders and cooperatives selling vanilla extracts. Collectively, members represent over 70% of worldwide vanilla bean purchases.
Hear more about the Sustainable Vanilla Initiative in this episode of the IDH podcast.
Participating companies share a commitment to pre-competitive projects to improve quality, product traceability, good market governance and the livelihoods of smallholder farmers who form the foundation of the global vanilla bean trade. SVI has initially focused efforts on collaboration with stakeholders in Madagascar, which currently represents more than 80% of world supply and is currently also working with the vanilla sector in Uganda to grow production and quality of supply.
Growing the supply and market for sustainable / traceable vanilla
2020 goal: Double the supply of (traceable) sustainably produced vanilla (compared to baseline year)
SVI members believe that greater transparency and traceability is important to the sustainability of the vanilla market and are committed to helping move there. Many companies follow their own programs and have private certification in place, which provides enhanced chain-of-custody records and product traceability. SVI is also in the process of developing and piloting an effective sector-wide traceability system in Madagascar. Such a system could potentially be a key contributor for a professional sector organization and governance. More developments to come.
Improving (and sustaining) vanilla households’ incomes/livelihoods:
2020 Goal: Improved livelihoods and income of at least 30,000 vanilla farmers
The SVI member companies work individually and in partnership to improve farmer livelihoods and incomes through programs that offer farmer training/services and community services. Please visit the Member Highlights section to learn more about how companies are working toward SVI’s goals.
In 2017 SVI partnered with CARE to support vanilla farming households to rebuild their agricultural production of both food and cash crops after Cyclone ENAWO devastated the country and its vanilla production. Click here for more information on SVI’s efforts toward hurricane Enawo relief.
Improving quality by significantly reducing early harvesting of green vanilla:
Since its launch in 2015, the SVI has been very active in collaborating with the Malagasy vanilla sector to improve the governance of the vanilla sector and tackle the extensive problems with early picking and quality. Through SVI, for the first time in over 20 years, the international industry is meeting with the Malagasy government officials, representatives of Malagasy vanilla bean growers, collector and exporter groups on annual basis to agree plans for market reform. Click here for more information on SVI’s work with vanilla campaigns and here for more information on stakeholder collaboration or contact Don Seville or Jan Gilhuis.
Vanilla has demonstrated potential to improve the livelihoods of farmers in Uganda, become a world leader in vanilla quality and business reliability and become a major global origin that would relieve some of the supply pressure on the Madagascar market (which currently supplies 80% of the world’s vanilla). SVI is working with Catholic Relief Services, the Uganda Vanilla Exporters Association (VANEX) and the Ministry of Agriculture to address the current problems with vanilla quality (driven by picking of immature beans) and security (reducing theft) and to build the supply of quality vanilla in Uganda by:
- Helping to pass and promote clear regulatory frameworks that protect quality and professionalism in Kasese and Buikwe Districts.
- Support measures that facilitate enforcement of the rules and security measures to address theft that enable farmers leave vanilla on the vine until maturity
- Communicate through the network of agricultural extension about the critical importance of quality (leaving beans on the vine until full maturity)
- Promote vanilla to help Uganda grow production
- Support the Ministry of Agriculture to declare harvest dates, which will help reduce early picking and theft and lead to higher quality vanilla. Click here for more information on the Minister’s Decree.
For more information, please contact Don Seville.
Addressing concerns of Child Labor in vanilla production:
The Sustainable Vanilla Initiative partnered with the International Labor Organization (ILO) and the US Department of Labor from 2017 to 2020 to address the concerns raised about child labor in the vanilla industry in Madagascar through the SAVABE Project. Along with individual SVI member supply chain programs (which continue to expand), SVI continues to ensure exporter partners sign and implement a vanilla code of conduct, raise awareness of child labor, and work together with the all sector partners to strengthen institutions, and improve livelihoods. For more information on SVI’s partnership with the ILO click here, or for more information on the SAVABE Project in particular click here. Alternatively, please contact Jan Gilhuis directly.
SVI has compiled a toolkit or reference documents, awareness raising tools and training tools to support in the fight against child labor. While these resources were compiled specifically for exporters and curers/collectors in the vanilla sector in Madagascar, we encourage their use by any stakeholder who would find them useful. We will publish the toolkit shortly.
SVI members range from major consumer goods manufacturers and global flavors and fragrances companies to international vanilla bean traders and cooperatives selling vanilla extracts.
Membership in SVI is open for all international companies in the vanilla supply chain committed to sustainability in vanilla. The current members of SVI are: Aust & Hachmann Canada LTD/LTEE, Authentic Products, Barry Callebaut, Blommer, DeMonchy Natural Products, Eurovanille, Firmenich, Fona, Frontier Co-op, General Mills, Givaudan, Jogue, Kerry, Mane, Mars, McCormick, Mother Murphy’s, Nestle, Nielsen Massey, Prova, Queen / Dr. Oetker, Rodelle / ADM, Silver Spoon, Symrise, Touton, Unilever, Virginia Dare, and Watkins
How to get involved
|Implementation Guide for Exporter Code of Conduct on Child Labor||Toolkit and guide||2020|