An auditor in a sugarcane field inspecting compliance with Bonsucro standards.
Photo: Joe Woodruff/Bonsucro


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Voluntary sustainability standards and certification systems alone cannot reach all the world’s poor. Effective standards require critical enabling conditions, such as access to resources and finance. Organisations and institutions are now collaborating to boost the impact of standards and are improving the coordination of actors in food systems.

Over the last 20 years, sustainability standards and certification systems have become important players in the global food system. Voluntary standards such as Fairtrade, Rainforest Alliance and the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) are increasingly mainstream in certain markets and sectors, and the range and volume of certified products continues to grow year on year.

While the objectives and approaches of different agricultural standards and certification systems can vary, credible schemes share certain key characteristics. They are run by independent organisations that ensure compliance and maintain integrity of the system. They promote good practices on the ground to benefit people and the environment, and they monitor and measure their impacts to ensure that they achieve these outcomes. They offer market incentives to certified producers, while providing assurance to buyers through independent, robust verification and traceability systems. They enable businesses and consumers to play their part in supporting the transition to a more ethical, equitable and sustainable food system.

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