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Ethical trade in fresh produce industry



Source: Sustainability Initiative South Africa (SIZA)
Contribution: Rudolf Badenhorst, Marketing and Product Promotions Manager, Potatoes South Africa

Social cohesion is playing an increasingly important role in how we not only conduct ourselves personally but also on a corporate and trade level. Business and society have a social responsibility to ensure that business takes place in an ethical and sustainable manner to the betterment of all involved. It is for this very important reason that Potatoes South Africa (PSA) is currently engaging with various industry partners to determine what is needed to establish a social compact within our industry whereby the potato value chain organises itself in such a fashion to ensure inclusive mutual protection and welfare amongst all stakeholders.

The South African Fruit industry has gone a long towards achieving this goal through the establishment of the Sustainability Initiative South Africa (SIZA). The South African fruit industry was one of the first in the world to realise the need for an internationally recognised ethical standard. The result was the development of a standard and programme that took into account the unique social environment of South African farming communities, while harmonising the ethical trade requirements of different retailers. The programme, which was officially launched in August 2012, has been dubbed the Sustainability Initiative of South Africa (SIZA).

The SIZA code has been aligned with the Global Social Compliance Programme (GSCP), which serves as an auditing reference platform for various international companies. SIZA is in effect becoming an internationally recognised standard with an increasing number of leading international retailers.

Therefore the fruit industry’s ethical trade programme, SIZA, not only allows fruit growers to remedy weaknesses in their labour practices, but also to prove their fruit has been produced in an ethically responsible way. Support for the programme is growing steadily under leading retailers across the world.

SIZA complies with the minimum standards of the South African labour law and in effect allows growers to identify areas where they don’t comply with legislation. Farmers are sometimes not aware that they do not complying with legislation, especially when it came to the administrative side where policies could be interpreted in different ways. As such SIZA is a tool that can help you improve producers’ systems.

While it wasn’t the main aim SIZA in the future hopes that it can serve as a tool through which the South African agricultural industry can be promoted. Nicholas Dicey, chairman of the South African fruit producers industry body HORTGRO, stated that “South African farmers are often villainised in the media, with huge generalisation based on isolated incidents, which are often not even true. With the help of SIZA we hope to gain concrete evidence that most farmers are in fact treating their workers well and in effect address this negative perception of farmers”.

PSA has engaged with SIZA to determine where there are opportunities for cooperation to improve efficiencies relating to this matter throughout the fresh produce industry and to ensure the sustainable development of the potato industry.
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