New UTZ code: Child labor ‘prevention’, climate changes, living wages and gender equality

UTZ says new code will see child labor 'laisons' placed in communities in need. Photo credit: UTZ Certified

Certifiers UTZ says a redraft of its code of conduct focuses on ‘prevention’ and monitoring of child labor on farms as well as including new measures around climate change.

Britta Wyss Bisang, standards director for the organization, said UTZ wanted the code to become an “every-day and easy-to-use tool” for farmers, and it had therefore been simplified in both language and structure.

UTZ told ConfectioneryNews that the code gave farmers advice on dealing with environmental change as well as placing greater emphasis on collective bargaining and wages.

The changes come after a period of review conducted every five years by all stakeholders – producers, academics, industry members and NGOs. The review involved two public online consultations and 10 workshops in the cocoa-producing countries.

Farmers have the option to begin using the new code from June 1st this year, with the measures becoming mandatory from July 1st next year. The UTZ provides certification around sustainability and the welfare of producers of cocoa, tea, coffee, and other agricultural commodities.  

Making changes

It said the new measures sought to raise farmer awareness of environmental issues with risk assessments and diversification of production.

“[Climate change] is a big issue for farmers, causing less predictable weather patterns, particularly in tropical areas, which has a big impact, so farmers need support to adapt to these changes,” the board said. 

It said that policies around child labor were another key change in the redraft. “On child labor, in addition to the prohibition of child labor based on ILO [International Labor Organization] conventions, there is greater emphasis on prevention, monitoring and remediation,” it said, noting it would appoint child labor liaisons to communities based on risk assessments.

The liasons are individuals who may or may not be part of the certified group and whose role is to be aware of cases of child labor in their community and report such cases to local NGOs and government authorities. “This individual may also take part in the implementation of actions to prevent and/or remediate child labor in their community.”

Outside of these two main changes it said specific measures had been added to ensure that women were included in training sessions, and good agricultural practices that optimize yields were upheld with small, feasible steps. Renewal of unproductive crops another focus area along with greater emphasis on, "diversification of production".

Every day code  

The board said simplified language and structure of the code would enable more farmers to join the UTZ program.

“The focus is on enabling farmers to implement the code. We want the code to become like a tool-kit, something that can be used every day. It’s not only the language but the structure that is simpler, too with a core code and product specific modules, which we also see as a positive step.”

A copy of the 2009 code of conduct can be found here. The 2014 version is here

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