UTZ Certified certification, similarly to rival Rainforest Alliance coffee certification program, has been called "Fairtrade light" by critics, as it offers producers no minimum or guaranteed price for their crop. UTZ-certified producer organizations are therefore highly vulnerable to the volatility of the coffee market. This major price difference makes the UTZ CERTIFIED label considerably cheaper than Fairtrade for companies such as Sara Lee interested in tapping the ethical market.
Michael Conroy, an independent consultant on certification for sustainable development, criticized UTZ CERTIFIED in his 2007 book Branded!: "the environmental standards of UTZ CERTIFIED are far weaker than those of either Fairtrade or Rainforest Alliance". UTZ CERTIFIED's standards for example, explicitly announces that genetically modified coffee plants, though not presently available, would be allowable so long as farmers obey local regulations on their use. Any kind of chemical fertilizer may be used as long as an external, technically qualified advisor has determined the quantity of fertilizer to be use. No chemical pesticides or fungicides banned in the European Union, the U.S. or Japan may be used, but any that are acceptable in those three markets are acceptable on coffee farms if they are applied "according to the label".
Many have also criticized UTZ CERTIFIED for not having clear requirements as regards to the remuneration of hired labor - in this respect, only national laws must be followed. In addition, several observers have criticized the program for its lack of crop pre-financing and producer support.
UTZ CERTIFIED Cocoa
UTZ CERTIFIED works together with major stakeholders from industry, government and civil society to help achieve a more sustainable cocoa sector.
Why certified cocoa?
The cocoa sector, just like the coffee sector, is facing social, environmental and economic sustainability challenges. Threats to original forest, improper use of chemicals, farmer living and working practices, and low prices are just a few. Today's consumers are increasingly aware of this and expect their favourite chocolate brands to contain responsibly produced ingredients sourced through a transparent supply chain.
A mainstream certification and traceability program for sustainably produced cocoa will allow producers to improve business practices and meet market expectations and enable brands to demonstrate their commitment to sustainability. For producers this means better quality beans, higher productivity and better (cost) efficiency, which enables them to increase their income. For consumers this means the assurance that their brand has addressed social and environmental issues in sourcing.
In only 5 years, UTZ CERTFIED has become one of the largest certification programs for coffee, based on a mainstream code of conduct, a highly advanced traceability system, independent verification and focused producer support.
UTZ CERTIFIED is now extending this success and experience into other commodities, such as cocoa. For this UTZ CERTIFIED is developing a meaningful, practical and inclusive code of conduct that reflects minimum requirements for sustainable cocoa production.
UTZ CERTIFIED is working together with major stakeholders from industry, government and civil society to help achieve a more sustainable cocoa sector. UTZ CERTIFIED is cooperating with Ahold, Cargill, Heinz Benelux, Mars, Nestlé and ECOM to develop and implement a mainstream certification and traceability system for sustainable cocoa. Solidaridad and Oxfam Novib are supporting the initiative. Other companies and NGOs are invited to join and support the program.
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The UTZ CERTIFIED cocoa program is currently in a first phase of development. During this period the main activities include:
organizational setup of the program
development of first draft code
intensive stakeholder consultation and network building
working out traceability and chain of custody requirements
The program partners are currently working on the development of a code of conduct for sustainable cocoa production, together with different stakeholders from the cocoa industry and local and international non-governmental organisations. This first draft code will be open for public consultation in February and March and tested in pilot programs in Côte d'Ivoire, the world's largest cocoa producing country. At the same time UTZ CERTIFIED will build capacity on the ground in close cooperation with its partner at origin, the Certification Support Network (CSN).
UTZ CERTIFIED aims to have trained the first agronomists and independent certifiers and to be able to start implementing the final code late 2008 / early 2009 in Côte d'Ivoire.
The program aims to have the first producer groups certified by the end of 2009, representing some 10.000 farmers with a total production volume of 8,000 MT per year.
In the first instance, the certification process will focus on producer groups in Côte d'Ivoire, but UTZ CERTIFIED has the intention to expand the program to other countries in the future, customizing the program to adjust to local circumstances where necessary.