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The impact of sustainability certification on labour conditions of farm workers

Increasingly popular sustainability certification schemes like Rainforest Alliance, Fairtrade or UTZ Certified aim to improve the working conditions of workers on farms in developing countries. New research shows that workplace conditions are generally better at certified companies than at non-certified companies, but that many farm workers still struggle with low wages, are not free to join trade unions, have no protective gear to do their work safely and are exposed to discrimination. In short, despite the efforts of these sustainability certification schemes, working conditions on certified farms are not yet on a par with internationally agreed standards. Fewer violations are reported from farms with sustainability certifications that have stronger labour right norms like Fairtrade and MPS-SQ, compared to those with relatively weaker codes (e.g. RSPO, UTZ Certified, SA8000, Rainforest Alliance).

Researcher Sanne van der Wal (SOMO): ‘Labour rights are often too rudimentary and inexplicitly formulated in the codes, and hence open to loose interpretation. Improving the wording of these rights in their codes is one of the ways certification schemes can have more positive impact on farm workers.’

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