BRCGS has put together information to support resumption of business operations under the banner “Restart, Reshape, and Reinforce”. Companies can download the latest BRCGS guidance on audits affected by COVID-19, and subscribe to receive future guidance. The audit protocol Certificate Extension PLUS offers increased levels of assurance to customers through a more extensive assessment process based on a full site self assessment and the use of remote audit technologies. It also incorporates an assessment of the management of the specific risks likely to occur as a result of COVID-19 restrictions.
FLOCERT’s crisis response
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, FLOCERT had to stop all physical audits in mid-March (FLOCERT Newsletter, June). While it has been possible to convert all trader audits, most audits of producer organisations have had to be postponed. As the situation slowly clears in some countries, FLOCERT will start resuming onsite audits where this does not pose any health risk to customers and their communities, or to auditors and staff. The decision will be based on the local situation and regulations as well as auditors’ required travel routes. The main requirement will be that there are no travel restrictions within the region where auditees and auditors are located. Where onsite audits cannot be conducted, the remote audit methodology will continue until further notice.
“For traders this means: any audit may be converted into a remote audit. Our certification analysts will inform traders with upcoming audits whether they will be conducted remotely or onsite. For producers this means: wherever possible, FLOCERT will offer remote audits with a limited scope as approved by Fairtrade International. We will defer audits where remote auditing is not an option. Our certification analysts will inform producer organisations with upcoming audits whether their audit will be postponed or carried out remotely. Following instructions from Fairtrade International, we will continue to not offer any renewal audits or initial audits for producer organisations.”
More flexible use of Fairtrade Premium
In late March, Fairtrade International announced that producer organisations could use the Fairtrade Premium more flexibly during COVID-19 to ease the impact of the crisis. An extension of the maximum amount of Premium distributed in cash and kind is allowed, to assist businesses certified under the Hired Labour Standard to transfer food, medical supplies, etc. to their workforce. By mid-June, requests amounted to 800K EUR for Africa, almost 470K EUR for Latin America, and almost 184K EUR in the Asia/Pacific region. Most organisations have used the money to purchase protective equipment, personal care products and food, depending on the region. A few plantations have shared the funds in cash with their workers. Find more information here.
On 28 April 2020, Fairtrade International announced changes to the Fairtrade Hazardous Materials List. The List indicates materials that are prohibited (red), that are restricted for use under certain conditions only (orange), and that should be used with extreme caution since they are flagged as hazardous (yellow). The changes announced relate to materials in the Orange and Red lists. They become applicable in July 2020, January 2021 and July 2022.
FLOCERT has made some modifications to the Compliance Criteria, which will be valid from 6 July 2020:
Rainforest Alliance: New certification programme and new standard
A new programme will replace the existing Rainforest Alliance and UTZ certification schemes from mid-2021 (Fruchthandel, 30 June). It includes more meaningful and effective criteria and measurement tools, and several core innovations. From September 2020 the programme will be rolled out around the world through global training and the further development of supportive technological systems. From July 2021, all audits will be conducted in accordance with the 2020 Sustainability Standard for Agriculture. The certification programme includes core innovations in climate-friendly agriculture, strengthening human rights, improved data management, shared responsibility, social and environmental requirements for supply chains, combating deforestation, and risk-based requirements and quality assurance. The international NGO expects the new certification scheme to help at least 2 million farmers achieve better harvests, adapt to climate change, increase productivity and reduce costs.