A basic guide to the 2017 SAN Standard: get your answers here.
Periodically, the SAN revises its standards in order to keep up with innovations in farming practices, lessons learned from implementation, new scientific findings, and technological advances. The revision process has involved collecting and analyzing the invaluable input of hundreds of stakeholders, including farmers, NGOs, companies, and scientists worldwide. It also encompassed several rounds of field-testing in representative regions and crops to help ensure critical issues are being addressed in the SAN auditing system.
While much of the standard is unchanged from the previous version, an important and innovative change is the “Continuous Improvement Framework.” This framework recognizes that sustainability is a path, a process over time, rather than a final or fixed destination. This system defines three performance levels focused on fourteen areas of mandatory improvement including key issues such as water, waste management, soil conservation, working conditions, and living wage. The levels are defined as Good (C), Better (B), and Best (A) sustainability performance. The continuous improvement framework in the 2017 SAN Standard requires farms to reach B level within three years, and to reach top level performances (Level A) by year six.
In addition, the entry requirements for certification have been strengthened with 14 new critical criteria summing up to a robust set of 37 Critical Criteria – 30% of all criteria for crop farms. There are six additional Critical Criteria for cattle farms and two for the group administrator’s management system. The Critical Criteria are a solid bottom line and cover the highest-priority and highest-risk environmental, social and labor issues, considered as essential first steps in the sustainability journey. Critical Criteria are the guarantee of entry-level performance for the farms that are certified.
The social and labor principle has been strengthened to further protect workers’ rights and improve the livelihoods of workers and their families. Other changes include the requirement of a farm’s planning cycle and that a proportion of the certified farmland to be under native vegetation. The 2017 SAN Standard is the first voluntary certification standard for sustainable agriculture to include specific risk mitigation criteria for pesticides classified as having inhalation risk to workers and bystanders and risk to aquatic life, wildlife and pollinators.
Evaluations of farm performance under the 2010 SAN standard demonstrated that while certified farms were usually managed more sustainably than non-certified farms and generally increased their performance over time, persistent challenges remained in a few areas, and some farms did not register sufficient improvements over time. Based on this experience, the 2017 SAN Standard takes a more deliberate approach to continuous improvement by identifying which sustainability elements are most important and defining a realistic timeframe for implementation of these improvements. Social benefits and workers’ rights requirements have been further specified, the new standard is more strongly focused on results and impact, and our assurance model combines certification audits, surveillance audits, and surprise audits for a cost-effective and risk-based assurance approach.
The new system recognizes that sustainability is a path, a process over time, rather than a final or fixed destination. Many farms that reach the highest performance level will benefit economically because of resulting efficiencies that reduce costs and increase profitability. Further, achieving level A (Best Sustainability) may help producers realize improved economic benefits and market access by clearly demonstrating to buyers their leadership on important social and environmental issues. SAN is working on a risk management system, in which farms with highest performance would also see a reduction in their auditing costs for being certified.
The 2017 SAN Standard represents a higher level than the previous standard, with many improvements in its content and also the adoption of a much stronger continuous improvement framework. At the same time, the standard is designed to be inclusive and allow farmers to progress in their path towards sustainability, with a more focused starting point on high priority issues. This starting point represents a more extensive and more robust set of mandatory critical criteria than the 2010/11 standards to assure that all certified operations attend high-risk topics consistently.
The SAN 2017 continuous improvement system determines mandatory compliance timelines for Level C, B and A continuous improvement criteria and strict rules for closing out nonconformities related to these. Continuous improvement at the Level C and B criteria is not optional anymore and at least more than half of the more aspirational Level A criteria need to be achieved over time.
The standard recognizes and seeks to address the challenges posed by climate change by promoting Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA) designed to improve the resilience of farms and farming communities. CSA requirements are embedded throughout the standard and include protecting native ecosystems and biodiversity, avoiding deforestation, maintaining healthy soils, sustaining water resources, and guiding farmers to select and adopt climate-smart planting materials and farming practices. Additionally, the SAN Standard seeks to reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with the use of fuel and chemical fertilizers, and to curtail methane emissions, while requiring maintenance or enhancement of carbon stocks in soils, forests, and other on-farm vegetation.
The SAN Standard’s definition of natural ecosystems include “High Carbon Stock Areas”; both are protected on certified farms.
The 2017 SAN Standard includes strict requirements to prevent land conversion, including deforestation and destruction of natural ecosystems. The standard contains Critical Criteria that aims to protect “High Conservation Value (HCV)” areas and enforce criteria prohibiting deforestation. This includes retroactive measures to ensure certified farms have not damaged HCV areas since November 2005.
In addition, the 2017 SAN Standard will only certify farms that have not destroyed natural ecosystems – including forests –in the 5 years previous being certified, with January 2014 as a cutoff date.
The standard also covers reforestation and restoration of natural ecosystems, and certified farms are required to conserve native vegetation, especially large native trees, zones adjacent to water bodies, and shade tree cover on production plots.
Yes, in order to remain certified, all organizations must comply with 50% of the applicable Level A criteria by year six, in their third certification audit with the 2017 SAN Standard. Even if the standard goes through periodic reviews, and slight adjustments are done to some criteria, it is important to start planning now in order to meet Level A criteria.
It is well known that diverse native shade canopies for shade-tolerant crops (such as coffee and cocoa) help conserve biodiversity and increase farm resilience. The new SAN Standard requires that for all crop and livestock production systems, farms conserve or restore trees and other native vegetation. Certified farms – independent from crop or production system – maintain and increase the amount and diversity of native vegetation to help diversify production systems, conserve native habitats and their biodiversity, and support critical ecosystem services such as pollination, pest control, and water purification.
Farms also contribute to conservation in the broader landscape by maintaining wildlife corridors and aquatic ecosystems, and by avoiding negative impacts to surrounding protected areas.
Traditionally, certification systems have been approaching the pesticide issue by establishing a list of pesticides that cannot be used in certified farms. Recognizing these limitations -because permitted pesticides pose risks for human health and the environment too- SAN decided to go beyond this approach and introduce innovative pesticide management requirements related to risk mitigation.
The new requirements are based on a stronger Integrated Pest Management (IPM) plan and the regulation of 320 pesticide active ingredients. This regulation includes the prohibition of 150 pesticides covered by the WHO/FAO framework of Highly Hazardous Pesticides (including obsolete substances), and specific SAN risk management requirements for an additional set of 170 active ingredients.
The 2017 SAN Standard also ensures pesticide risk reduction through several significant requirements that raise the bar for certification in health, environmental protection and sustainable crop production. Some examples of risk mitigation measures are:
- No application zones
- Plant barriers
- Application techniques
- Application during inactive times or management of flourishing or weeds.
- Restrictions for aerial fumigation in order to reduce drift to natural ecosystems and areas with human activity
- Pre-harvest and reentry intervals
- Use of special respirators for substances with high risk of inhalation.
The prohibition of use of the 150 substances included in the List of Prohibited Pesticides is a Critical Criterion (3.4), covering the following categories:
- Stockholm and Rotterdam conventions & Montreal Protocol.
- WHO classes Ia (extremely hazardous) and Ib (highly hazardous).
- GHS classes 1A & 1B for carcinogenicity, mutagenicity and reproductive toxicity.
- Proven negative effect for health or the environment, such as Paraquat, Atrazine, fumigants phosphine, aluminum and magnesium phosphide and the neonicotinoids: clothianodin, imidacloprid, thiamethoxam, and the phenylpyrazole fipronil.
The 170 substances included in the SAN List of Pesticides for Use with Risk Mitigation can be only applied under risk mitigation measures defined by the Oregon State University‘s Integrated Plant Protection Center.
Those mitigation measures are specifically designed to minimize risks posed by pesticides to human health, wildlife, pollinators and aquatic ecosystems. The 2017 SAN Standard is the only certification standard including these advanced science-based requirements in agriculture.
Yes. The 2017 SAN Sustainable Agriculture Standard is the first voluntary certification standard of ISEAL members’ that enforces effective and specific measures to reduce negative impacts of pesticides to insect pollinator populations on farms in tropical and subtropical countries.
Based on a scientific risk assessment of the Oregon State University’s Integrated Plant Protection Center, the 2017 standard only authorizes the use of insecticides with proven risk to bees and other pollinators, if farms comply with specific SAN risk mitigation criteria.
These criteria include:
- The mandatory implementation of an Integrated Pest Management plan that avoids or reduces the use of pesticides.
- The restoration and conservation of more native vegetation for a more diverse agroecosystem that provides more food resources and reproduction sites for pollinators.
- Avoiding the spray drift of insecticides to the core habitats of pollinators (natural ecosystems and flowering weeds) through non-spray zones and the establishment of vegetative barriers.
- No spraying of insecticides when crops that provide nectar to pollinators are flourishing.
- If bee hives are used, they are temporarily covered during application, and hive bees are provided with a clean water source outside the treated area.
Based on scientific evidence, SAN is prohibiting the use of the three neonicotinoids clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiamethoxam and the phenylpyrazole fipronil, because they significantly affect bee populations, as well as other pollinators and birds.
Nevertheless, given the wide use of these substances (often called neonics) in tropical agriculture worldwide and current limitations to substitute them with less toxic but equally effective alternatives, SAN is establishing an exceptional phase-out for the use of these substances on certified farms until June 30, 2020.
This 2020 phase-out of neonics has been consulted with Northern and Southern stakeholders from Europe, West Africa, India and Latin America during 2015 and 2016. The immediate prohibition of these substances on SAN certified cocoa, coffee, tea, cattle and other farms would not be feasible, as these substances are a very widely used element for significant insect pest attacks for agriculture crops and cattle pasture in the world.
The 2017 SAN Standard includes a critical criterion requiring that worker housing provided by farm management is safe, disease-free, and adequately protects its occupants from extreme weather conditions. The 2017 SAN Standard also includes continuous improvement requirements for housing to meet requirements related to minimum area and hygiene facilities per occupant, ventilation, fire smoke evacuation mechanisms and privacy of workers and their families.
The standard prohibits farms to hire children under 15 years old. Presence of child labor likely to harm the health or safety of a minor, including forced labor, trafficking, sexual exploitation, criminal activity (as set forth by the International Labor Organization), will result in the immediate suspension or termination of a certificate.
Work done by minors between 15 and 17 years is subject to strict conditions, such as requiring authorization from parents and guardians and not conflicting with school hours. The only exceptions for light work of minors under 15-years-old are tasks that are traditional for children in the location and are part of the family’s or local culture, e.g. milking a cow on a family farm.
In the 2017 SAN Standard, discrimination is prohibited, and there is an emphasis on access to training and other services for women. The standard requires maternity leave and accommodation according to the needs of nursing women without income loss. Pregnant or nursing women cannot be assigned tasks such as handling pesticides.
The new SAN Standard requires demonstrated progress toward living wages. It does this pragmatically using a basic needs approach that is achieved through a combination of Critical and Continuous Improvement Criteria, with planning processes for living wage payments led by the certified operation.
Workers on certified farms must receive no less than the legal minimum wage of the applicable laws of the country, but the final goal is supporting farms to reach the payment of living wage.
The 2017 San Standard requires that all workers have access to potable water and decent housing (when housing is provided). Discrimination in hiring practices or wage rates is strictly prohibited. Workers have the right to organize and are provided grievance mechanisms to, among other things, object to paid wages and have their objections reviewed. Additionally, employers cover the cost of work-related gear, equipment or trainings.
As a member of the Global Living Wage Coalition, SAN will provide a calculation of living wage for countries or their regions with certified farms or group administrators. Where a locally calculated living wage level is available, this benchmark is used as a basis for employers. In absence of this living wage calculation, the farm management and group administrator are required to provide access to health care and basic education for workers and their families.
In the case of smallholders organized in groups, group administrators and smallholders may democratically agree on how to provide access to health care and education for smallholders and their families. Plantations and group administrators have to document a plan that demonstrates progress towards living wage for workers. Smallholders who primarily rely on family or household labor, or reciprocal workforce exchange with other members of the community are exempted from the living wage criteria.
On a SAN/Rainforest Alliance Certified farm, workers must not be subject to termination, retaliation, or threats as a consequence of submitting a complaint or grievance. Workers have the right to have their objections reviewed, with the final decision documented. Farm management and group administrators must inform workers of the right to make a complaint. Workers on certified farms have the right to establish and join worker organizations of their own free choice without employer influence of interference. Workers have the right to collectively negotiate their working conditions into a collective bargaining agreement and are protected against acts of discrimination.
Additionally to the implementation of effective grievance mechanisms (critical criteria), workers have to be informed about their right to access external complaint and grievance mechanisms, including SAN accredited Certification Bodies, the SAN secretariat or local authorities.
According to the 2017 SAN Standard, the certified operation must implement an integrated farm planning and management system that effectively addresses environmental and social compliance and risk, establishes procedures and systems for ensuring conformance to the standard, and demonstrates continuous improvement toward sustainable agriculture.
This planning and management system supports increased farm productivity and efficiency, reduced environmental impact, and increased capacity to adapt to climate change. Increased efficiency in the use of land, water, fertilizers, and pesticides also supports climate change adaptation and mitigation (Climate Smart Agriculture).
Certified farms must produce their crops or cattle products on properties that are free of legitimate dispute by current or former local residents or communities. Legitimate right to use the land is demonstrated by legal documents or by documentation of traditional or community use rights.
The 2010 cattle standard has been optimized with advanced technical concepts based on the first certification experiences in Brazil and Central America.
Cattle is raised in accordance with responsible practices and certified farms keep track of animals and have herd health and nutrition programs respecting SAN prohibited substances. Pastures are selected and managed based on agro-ecological parameters, resistance to pests, nutritional value and production rates to ensure optimum growth and avoid pasture degradation. The farm practices responsible animal husbandry through an animal welfare program including safe transportation. The farm and its handling facilities do not mistreat the cattle and animals are provided shelter, food and water in sufficient quantity and quality to ensure good health and productivity.
Certified cattle production systems reduce greenhouse gas emissions through improved diet, optimized productivity, manure and urine processing.
The 2017 SAN Standard contributes the protection of workers human rights by requiring businesses to demonstrate commitment to certification and to complying standard criteria and applicable law.
The criteria within the SAN Principle 4 on “Improved livelihoods and human wellbeing” are designed to protect the human and labor rights of farmworkers and their families. Criteria include ILO core conventions (Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize Convention, Right to Organize and Collective Bargaining Convention, Forced Labor Convention, Abolition of Forced Labor Convention, Minimum Age Convention, Worst Forms of Child Labor Convention, Equal Remuneration Convention, and Discrimination Convention) and internal and external grievance mechanisms.
Also for child labor there is a child labor prevention, monitoring plan and remediation requirements.
In order to implement the new 2017 SAN Standard efficiently and generate positive impacts on farms, SAN designed a strategy to develop the skills needed for the technical staff, auditors and consultants of the SAN technical community. The strategy is articulated in three parts: Self-learning with SAN support; In-person activities; and continuous training.
The first activity started in March 2016, with the launch of the SAN E-Learning Center. The aim was to inform to the SAN members and Certification Bodies key personnel on relevant topics and prepare them for the implementation of the training strategy. After this, each organization is in charge of developing its own training plan for the rest of their technical staff and for producers.
The Continuous Training began in May 2016 and is a process based on the E-Learning Center tools: Forums, Online Library, Virtual Classrooms and Special Activities.
In person activities will begin early 2017 and will be organized in conjunction with the Certification Bodies in each region. The main objective is to solve implementation problems and calibrate the technical community’s knowledge. The activities will include in person workshops, field practices and special workshops, each of them adapted to the needs of the organizations involved.
Yes, farms that produce crops under greenhouse conditions have to comply with the same standard criteria than normal agriculture production, including good occupational health and safety conditions, management of pesticide spray drift, treatment of waste waters and maintenance or establishment of native vegetation on the farm to offer habitat for wildlife – just to mention some requirements.
The SAN 2017 Standard is mandatory for the whole farm area, crops and production activities within the farm’s limits (not only for the crops included in the certificate scope).
All audits taking place from July 1, 2017 onwards will be based on the 2017 SAN Standard. New farms or groups being certified from that day need to pass an audit to start their regular cycle.
For currently certified operations, SAN has defined a transition process according to the date of the last certification audit with the 2010/11 SAN Standard. All certified farms will be audited against the new standard between July 2017 and December 2018. For more details about this process read this document.