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RSB works with WWF to showcase the power of smallholder certification in sustainable production in Brazil

Back in 2016 we joined the Cana Sustentável partnership in Brazil with Socicana (the Association of Sugar Cane suppliers of Guariba) to support the implementation of our smallholder standard for a group of sugar cane growers, composed of 11 small properties (belonging to 17 farmers), with each farm having a total area of less than 75 hectares. This month we got the opportunity to visit these farms again – two years after they first achieved our best-in-class sustainability certification – as part of a visit arranged by WWF US and WWF Brazil with members of the Bioplastic Feedstock Alliance including Lego, P&G and Unilever.

In a visit to one of these small farms, as well as the headquarters of the association, the visitors were impressed by the steps being taken by small-scale farmers to not just ensure their economic survival, but to future-proof their land and livelihoods for generations to come with real sustainability investments guided by the RSB Principles & Criteria and Socicana’s TOP Cana programme.

“The concern for sustainability in Brazilian agricultural production was much greater that we had imagined. We were really surprised by the sustainability investments being made here – I noted, however, that producers need incentives to continue investing in sustainability,” said Maria Peterson, LCA Manager at the LEGO Group.

Long-held perceptions within the industry – that including smallholders in sugarcane supply chains is high-risk – have been shown to be unsubstantiated. This small sample has highlighted the potential within the smallholder community to respond to challenges, overcome sustainability issues and to become a valuable part of the supply chain – in Brazil and beyond.

Understanding RSB’s Smallholder Standard
RSB’s Smallholder Standard supports group approach to enable small-scale farmers (smallholders) to access RSB certification.
– Groups of small producers can join together under a common management system to receive a single RSB Certification
– Group Management is responsible for the application for certification as well as implementing the RSB requirements via training and support
– RSB audits are conducted on a sample basis
– RSB’s Principles & Criteria are adapted for smallholders
— A stepwise approach allows 2 years after the initial audit for the group to become fully compliant
— Provides guidance at Group Management level and Farm level
— Excludes the requirement to comply with RSB Principal 5 (Rural & Social Development)Learn more about our Smallholder Standard here.

RSB was incredibly pleased to see that the project has taken root in Guariba and is contributing to securing livelihoods in our changing world. Aurea Nardelli, our Certification Manager and Technical Advisor, was on-site and had this to say, “We are thrilled to see the impact that the Cana Sustentável project is continuing to have here in Guariba – with social and environmental impacts being managed to an extremely high standard. This project is proving that, with the right support, the smallest farmers can stand up and tackle the big challenges. The sugarcane from these producers should be on the shopping list of every biomaterials producer that takes sustainability seriously!”

Ensuring that certification is relevant and attainable for small-scale farmers has been a key focus for the RSB and led to the development of our Smallholder Standard. This standard opens the door to certification for smallholder farmers – those farming an area of less than 75 hectares – the world over. Allowing groups of smallholders to join together to achieve certification using a stepwise approach to managing sustainability issues, while supporting them to make improvements in management, environmental and social practices, the smallholder standard helps farmers to overcome implementation issues together – and at a lower cost. We believe that applying the RSB Smallholder Standard can unlock enormous benefits for farmers, their communities and the planet, all while ensuring a supply of truly sustainable feedstocks for the industry.

Read the Socicana Case Study here
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