Trends in certification: Assurance for Private Company Codes


More and more traders, brands and retailers in global commodity supply chains are setting up their individual sustainability programs. Sandra Gebhard takes a closer look into this trend.

FLOCERT Coffee audit in Costa Rica
Coffee audit in Costa Rica

“As a mission driven assurance provider we’re seeing more and more traders, brands and retailers in global commodity supply chains setting up their individual sustainability programs. Most of these companies have worked more than a decade with the globally known sustainability certification and labelling schemes and would now like to move away from mainstream ‘standardized’ solutions and tailor their individual ways into sustainability. Private company codes of conduct give them a chance to shape and measure their sustainability efforts and demonstrate their individual impact, gained from their own values, aims and actions. We’ve seen this trend developing over a couple of years now, and have expanded our services so that we can offer those companies high quality solutions with a clear focus on benefits for producers, staying true to our Fairtrade heritage.

Private codes are wonderfully flexible to company’s needs and supply chain realities. Well designed and implemented, their benefits aren’t just skin deep – they can be felt right through the organization and along the entire supply chain, with stakeholders and code users able to share a sense of ownership and get involved in putting the standards into practice. There’s a great opportunity to draw up sustainability roadmaps with supply chain partners, giving both parties a chance to deepen their connection and create mutual benefits.

While we were developing our new range of services to assure private sustainability programs, we realized that the best private code and impact services we produce are those that we co-design with our customers. That means that we can draw on the expertise of the customer to develop a code that meets their needs. At the same time we can bring in our expertise on how programs can be best implemented for the advantage of all supply chain partners.

We’ve found that co-innovation processes are most successful when each party can play its individual strengths: the companies bring their expertise in trade and relationship management with its various supply chain actors, and we bring our expertise in social-economic and environmental topics in global supply chains, and respective claim verification.

We support companies to develop their own private sustainability code and design tailored verification architectures for private codes. On top of this we offer related impact measurement tools, develop customized “theories of change”, and measure the impact of our customer’s programs. For both verification and impact we offer continuous third-party verification, to assure private sustainability claims.

The Cocoa Life program from Mondelēz International is an example of a private code. For this program, we put in place a customized reporting system to collect data on the quantity of sustainably grown and traded cocoa and the financial flows.

Watch our video to find out more:

In most cases, our private code customers approach us with an ambition to communicate the real impact of their individual sustainability programs. This process requires a lot of conversation and interaction, not only with our customer but also with their supply chain partners and the people who will use the code in the future. Working closely with a customer allows us to carefully consider the company’s environment, culture and individual needs before tailor-making the code. The program is prototyped and tested with key stakeholders, and feedback is collected and carefully built into the final design of the code. This makes the process more agile.

In the end, what matters is that responsible businesses are taking steps to make global trade fair and sustainable.”

Sandra Gebhard is FLOCERT’s Verification Program Manager. She is also a big fan of Salsa dancing.