Certification and sustainability programs: Reinventing Sri Lankan plantations
Wednesday, 30 April 2014 00:00
There has been an increasing trend among Sri Lankan plantation companies, over the last few years, towards obtaining certification and the utilisation of sustainability programs in their work.
Certification is a powerful marketing tool and widely recognised as a useful component to stimulate movement toward sustainable management.
Demonstrating to buyers that sustainable agricultural practices, including compliance in safety and quality standards they seek are already being met has undergone a phenomenal change in recent years globally. Certification and Sustainability programs also bring together organisations such as growers, manufacturers and retailers, environmental and local and international NGOs.
Recent statistics obtained by the Planters’ Association of Ceylon (PA) indicate all Regional Plantation Companies (RPCs) have initiated action towards obtaining factory and estate certification.
Among the factories, popular quality certifications include ISO 22000, ISO 9000 and HACCP, while sustainability programs of the Ethical Tea Partnership (ETP), Rainforest Alliance and Fairtrade have been initiated by estates.
Ethical tea partnership
The Ethical Tea Partnership (ETP) is a not for profit membership organisation working to improve tea sustainability, the lives of tea workers, and the environment in countries where tea is produced. According to the PA survey, 168 plantations are Ethical Tea Partnership compliant.
Certification is obtained through assessment of estates’ performance against social and environmental criteria laid out in the ETP standard. Partnering ETP has also enabled a platform for different stakeholders to jointly find ways of assisting the industry and plantation communities adapt to the future.
On a wider scope ETP also promotes ethical business practices, benefiting all associated with the tea industry.
The Rainforest Alliance
The Rainforest Alliance (RA) is an international not-for-profit conservation organisation that works to preserve biodiversity and ensure sustainable livelihoods by transforming land-use practices, business practices and consumer behaviour.
In Sri Lanka over 78 estates have obtained RA certification. Giri Kadurugamuwa, Rainforest Alliance Consulting Coordinator for Sri Lanka said: “Rainforest Alliance certification is important for plantations as instead of solely focusing on production, environmentally sound, socially equitable, economically viable ways to produce, by meeting the needs of the present without compromising the future generations are introduced by training producers to comply with the Sustainable Agricultural Standards (SAN).”
Kadurugamuwa noted: “More than 10,000 hectare in 49 estates are in the pipeline for certification this year and shows the importance and demand for RA certification by plantations Sri Lanka.”
Fairtrade and forest stewardship
The PA survey reveals that 25 estates have received Fairtrade certification while 97 estates are Forest Stewardship Council complaint.
Through the Fairtrade International certification, Sri Lanka plantations agree to conform to standards required by importing countries in accordance with internationally set procedures, satisfying buyers that benefits reach the workers.
The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)specifies three fields of benefits of certification: social benefits, environmental benefits and economic benefits.
In Sri Lanka, the Plantation Human Development Trust (PHDT) facilitates the ISO Certification process acting as an agent for Sri Lanka Standards Institution (SLSI), accredited by the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO). The certification process seeks to improve the productivity and competitiveness of the plantation industry.
To date, 132 factories have obtained ISO 22000 certification. This quality certification harmonises the food safety approach internationally, applying to all stakeholders across the food chain.
The ISO 9000 family Quality Management certification addresses various aspects of quality standards providing guidance and tools for companies and organisations who want to ensure that their products and services consistently meet customer’s requirements. Over 45 RPC factories have obtained this certification.
Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points
Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) certification has been designed to analyse the product cycle from the raw ingredient stage to the finished product. It is a rigorous two-year process to gain the initial certification with annual audits. Ninety two (92) factories have obtained this quality accreditation.
Through the implementation of quality and safety management systems such as HACCP, Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) and Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) Regional Plantations have incorporated industry best practices, regulatory compliance and related sustainability with emphasis on quality, food safety, and providing a safe workplace for all employees.