4.6 Multi-Stakeholder Endorsed Standards

Is it useful and possible to apply a multi-stakeholder endorsed sustainability standard?

Sustainable Commodity Standards

For a number of agricultural raw materials, standards have been developed by so-called multi-stakeholder initiatives (Roundtables). These are associations in which producers, traders, processors, manufacturers and retailers cooperate with environmental and social NGOs to set, implement and certify sustainability standards. Examples are the Roundtables on palm oil (Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil - RSPO), soy (Roundtable on Responsible Soy - RTRS) and sugar (Bonsucro).

Your company may prefer to base its sustainable sourcing on sector sustainability standards defined in such multi-stakeholder settings, especially when dealing with commodities that are linked to intensive public debate on sustainability issues, such as biodiversity, deforestation, climate change and human rights issues (including child labour). Endorsement by external stakeholders may provide better protection against reputational damage and risks of supply insecurity than applying company-internal or industry-owned standards. However, there are no guarantees, as major multi-stakeholder initiatives such as RSPO and RTRS have come under criticism for not going far enough to address the fundamental underlying environmental issues. Moreover, such multi-stakeholder endorsed standards are available only for a limited number of commodities. See Annex A for more information.

Social Compliance Standards

Apart from crop-specific sustainability standards, there are several general standards on social compliance issues (labour rights, child labour, freedom of association, anti-discrimination, health and safety, etc.), which may cover some of the more important social sustainability issues related to certain crops. Important social compliance standard organisations are Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI),  Business Social Compliance Initiative (BSCI), UN Global Compact and others. See Annex B for more information. Your company may decide to include (parts of) these standards into its supplier code(s). 

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