Blog It Café

FRIDAY, MARCH 04, 2016

UTZ headquarters

About a month ago I went to Amsterdam to make a few visits related to my project and a very important one was to the Headquarters of UTZ Certified. Since the end of last year I have been in touch with important coffee certifiers and UTZ people were always very receptive, open and prompt to answer questions.


Thanks a lot to Henk Gilhuis, Lenneke Braam and Anita Aerni.


The most interesting about the visit was to hear about their tools to help producers learn about their property, measure productivity and improve producing practices, which confirmed the impression I had that UTZ is the certifier with the biggest focus on helping farmers improve their entrepreneurial skills.




Some key factors:


Who initiated: In the 90s two business partners, a Belgian-Guatemalan coffee grower, Nick Bocklandt, and a Dutch coffee roaster, Ward de Groote, initiated the idea of the UTZ program. Market launch was in 2002.


How is it financed? Nationale Postcode Loterij, The Sustainable Trade Initiative (IDH), Irish Aid, Ford Foundation, Hivos, Department of the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs, Agriculture & Innovation and Euromonitor.


Mission: To create a world where sustainable farming is the norm. Sustainable farming helps farmers, workers and their families to fulfil their ambitions and contributes to safeguard the world’s resources, now and in the future.


Number of participants/hectares covered in 2012/2013: 212.914 of smallholders, 710 certified coffee farms and 508.661 hectares


Which crops are covered by the certifier? Coffee, cocoa, tea, and provides traceability services for RSPO (Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil) certified sustainable palm oil.


Do they have different requirements for different market players? Yes (Chain of Custody Standards). 


Volume of Coffee produced as UTZ in 2014 (4C Association report): 729,918 million tons


Sold as UTZ in 2014 (4C Association report): 258,867 million tons


Main Producer Countries in 2012 (ssi 2014): Brazil (33%), Vietnam (22%), Colombia (11%)


Some of the most interesting questions discussed were:


Could you give an estimation to “illustrate” what is the average cost for a producer to get certified?

There are no membership fees for producers; they pay only auditing costs, which is around 3000 reais in Brazil (800 euros), for example. Audits are usually done once a year by national partner companies in the producing country and producers or cooperatives receive a list of these partner companies and can choose which one they prefer based on price or personal preference.

Although auditing costs are not so high, the biggest obstacle to join the program are the high implementation costs, since producers sometimes have to make a lot of changes in their properties in order to follow the requirements.


Are there trainings to implement the code of conduct? Who is responsible for it?

No. Producer organizations or individual producers receive a self-assessment check-list and they can also hire a consultant to help them distinguish which adaptions they would need.


After a producer gets certified, how is he assisted in order to learn more about sustainable agricultural practices?

There is an Online Platform (UTZ Academy) where producers and other members can download material for courses and general information regarding subjects such as labor law requirements, water, energy, pesticides etc. One of the requirements to get certified by UTZ is to provide trainings for all group members in a variety of subjects from First Aid to learning how to increase Yields. 


Are there any adaptions in the Standards for each country/region?

No, the code is international but local offices are stablished in order to better understand how countries work and help producers interpret the code.


How to increase international demand for certified coffee?

UTZ works in a business to business basis, talking to the big roasters and other interested parties in order to explain how the system works and how it is beneficial to the supply chain. Customized projects can also be offered.


How are decisions regarding the Code of Conduct taken? Are there also producers?

Yes, a producer from each country is elected to be part of the Product Adviser Committee, which revises all the proposals in the code from time to time.


About the economic benefits of certification, are there trainings to help producers learn about price negotiations / price information?

Actually UTZ is developing a Tool to help farmers create awareness of their productivity in order to implement measures to improve it and to know more about the characteristics of the product they have, aiming to improve price negotiations.


How to assure clear contractual terms for producers when they are selling their coffee?

There is nothing specifically for that but if the producer has access to Internet he can make offers in the UTZ portal, describing the type of coffee he has and the price he expects.


Regarding the social benefits of certification, what are the key factors for improving farmers’ livelihood?

UTZ’s Impact report shows that one of the most positive aspects of certification was the increase of Labor Law fulfillment. Brazil was a great example of a country where this improvement occurred.


The interview was a great opportunity to understand more about how their system work and I found it really important how openly they talk about it!



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