Fruit South Africa has finalised a South African ethical Standard and audit process for the industry that is aligned to South African law, is internationally recognised and has the benefit promoting ONE standard and ONE audit. This will replace the numerous standards and audits with which producers must comply.
The development of this South African initiative, called SIZA (Sustainability Initiative of South Africa) is a world-first with regards to enabling mutual recognition of audits amongst international and local retailers. In order to achieve this, Fruit SA engaged with the Global Social Compliance Programme (GSCP), an organisation which aims to harmonise ethical requirements and avoid duplication of audits while ensuring global standards are adhered to. The GSCP is supported by various retailers, including Tesco, M&S, Walmart, Ahold, Migros, COOP Switzerland, Delhaise, Carrefour and local retailer, Pick n Pay. The GSCP is not a certification or accreditation body, but encourages organisations such as Fruit SA to use its tools as the basis for their own programmes.
Fruit SA used the GSCP reference Code as the platform for the development of its own Standard and aligned this to South African law. The Standard was submitted to the GSCP to undergo a process of equivalence validated by an independent international panel of experts. The review panel signed off the equivalence process in August 2012. The process is open and transparent and any member of the GSCP is entitled to view the outcome of the review process.
Looking at the way forward, Fruit SA has formalized its ethical trade programme under the name of the Sustainability Initiative of South Africa (SIZA) which will be the custodian of the ethical standard. SIZA membership is open to producers, exporters, and stakeholders across the supply chain. It is envisaged that this multi-stakeholder platform will in time serve the needs of the broader agricultural industry and is not exclusive to the fruit sector. As a non-profit entity, SIZA membership fees will be used to sustain the programme on a user-pays basis, implement support programmes for producers and their employees, and reduce costs associated with compliance. SIZA is development-led rather than audit-led and aims to provide growers with the tools to be self-regulated. The programme will roll out in November 2012 with information sessions in different parts of the country to raise awareness of the programme and build membership.
This is the first step in the development of a complete harmonised assurance solution for the South African fruit industry with the aim of the elimination of the need for multiple audits. As a locally developed, managed and funded programme that is aligned to international requirements, the SIZA programme is recognised as a world-first of its kind. In addition, while the programme has been driven by the fruit industry, it is open to all agricultural industries in South Africa and will look to work with the WWF in the future in providing the framework for a harmonised environmental standard with the same international recognition afforded by the GSCP.