Fair Food Program receives highest recommendation in newly released evaluation of seven food justice certification programs!

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Fair World Project — a project of the Organic Consumers Association, the nation’s largest network of green and ethical consumers — releases powerful new report looking into the standards, enforcement, and impact of best-known certification programs…

The CIW’s Fair Food Program received the highest recommendation in a new study of seven of the leading certification programs in the country carried out by Fair World Project, a project of the Organic Consumers Association.  The report “strongly recommends” the Fair Food Program, along with the Agricultural Justice Project, “for their strength in key areas as well as for their involvement of workers in all levels of the program.”  The study ranks the FFP above other well-known labeling programs, including Fair Trade USA, the Rainforest Alliance, Fairtrade International’s Fairtrade Certified, and the Equitable Food Initiative’s “Responsibly Grown, Farmworker Assured” program.  The FFP was also singled out as “the only program based on legally binding agreements that include the worker organization, participating grower, and participating buyer.”

The report, titled Justice in the Fields: A report on the Role of Farmworker Justice Certification and an Evaluation of the Effectiveness of Seven Labels,” summarizes the findings of its research with a clear and thoughtful analysis of the keys to meaningful food justice standards and enforcement:

fair_world_2To be effective, voluntary certification programs must have strong enforcement mechanisms and include workers in all levels of decision-making, governance, and enforcement. This includes independent auditing programs, worker control of claims made regarding labor practices, and complaint mechanisms that result in correction of violations. To make a market claim, programs must include rigorous standards that go far beyond legal requirements, along with meaningful economic leverage, both to encourage proactive compliance with those standards and to enforce them when necessary. (read more)

The Fair Food Program was specifically recognized throughout the report for several “best practices”, including:

  • “Clear consequence with economic impact that has had proven results on farm.”
  • “Routine use of unannounced audits on a large percentage of farms.”
  • “High percentage of workers interviewed by worker representatives.”
  • “Complaints line is easily accessible to all workers and has had a positive impact on field through resolutions.”
  • “Extensive worker to worker training on worker rights.”
  • “Transformation of time keeping records.”
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An auditor speaks with a worker during a recent audit at a Fair Food Program participating farm.

The report also enumerated several elements of a successful social responsibility program that are unique to the FFP, including:

  • “The use of labor contractors in agriculture is common and largely associated with labor abuse. Fair Food Program is the only program that requires 100% of workers to be employed directly by the grower, enforcing direct relationships and accountability.”
  • “Innovative Wage Strategy: Fair Food Program implemented a “penny-per-pound” premium as a way to shift money from corporations to farmworkers. Participating restaurant chains and retailers pay a small additional amount, usually a few cents per pound of tomatoes, when buying from participating growers. This additional money goes directly to farmworkers on participating farms as a premium above and beyond regular wages.”
  • “Fair Food Program is unique in its market enforcement mechanism. The program does not rely entirely on the incentive of the use of a label, and in fact the label was a later development, and not used by all participants. Instead, the program relies on legally enforceable contracts.”

We are honored to receive the highest recommendation of this comprehensive study.  But perhaps more importantly, we are truly encouraged to see the bedrock principles of the Fair Food Program (and of Worker-driven Social Responsibility more broadly) embraced by a growing number of food justice and human rights experts.  Just last month, Professor Jim Brudney of Fordham University published a chapter on the Fair Food Program in a new textbook on business and human rights in which he concluded that, due to its unique focus on worker participation and strong enforcement mechanisms, the FFP is “substantially more successful than other corporate compliance programmes.” Likewise, this latest report by the Fair World Project concludes:

Following best practices modeled above, some recommendations that all programs should adopt include:

• Announced and unannounced audits covering all seasons, crops, or phases of the production cycle to ensure seasonal and migrant workers are included in interviews even if they are only on the farm part of the year;
• Enforcement mechanisms that go beyond audits;
• Direct involvement of workers and worker representatives in audits and in between audit monitoring.

The growing recognition of these key elements of the Worker-driven Social Responsibility model bodes well for the increased uptake of the model in corporate supply chains and the extension of its human rights protections to larger and larger numbers of workers around the globe.  In support of this expansion, the Fair World Project also launched a new alert in conjunction with the release of its report encouraging major several major grocery chains — including Kroger and Safeway — “to do more to put farmworkers at the core of their business model.”  You can read more about their call to action here

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