Tag Archives: ISEAL

It’s not just certification.

We’re pleased to announce that we’ve become associate members of ISEAL!  You may not have heard of ISEAL before, so here to explain what ISEAL is and why we are very proud to become an associate member is Jeremy Boxall, our Commercial Manager.

Since 2003, LEAF has been setting standards known as the LEAF Marque, which represent sustainable farming.  If the farm meets the standard then they are certified, this is certification.  But the LEAF Marque is about much more than just certification.


The LEAF Marque logo

ISEAL membership to us, is like certification to a farmer.  If you’re a farmer and your farm is LEAF Marque certified it has to be up to the standard.  ISEAL drives us to make our standards systems up to the mark, in the same way our standards drive farm businesses to be more sustainable.  In essence, it is about continuous improvement, so as new associate members, we’re working towards ISEAL’s Codes.

Ultimately, we’re about delivering a positive change.  Specifically, this is working towards our vision of ‘a world that is farming, eating and living sustainably’.  ISEAL has a set of Credibility Principles and integrating these into our way of working means that we’ll be more successful in delivering a positive impact at farm level:

  1. Sustainability – Standards scheme owners clearly define and communicate their sustainability objectives and approach to achieving them. They make decisions that best advance these objectives.
  2. Improvement – Standards scheme owners seek to understand their impacts and measure and demonstrate progress towards their intended outcomes. They regularly integrate learning and encourage innovation to increase benefits to people and the environment.
  3. Relevance – Standards are fit for purpose. They address the most significant sustainability impacts of a product, process, business or service; only include requirements that contribute to their objectives; reflect best scientific understanding and relevant international norms; and are adapted where necessary to local conditions.
  4. Rigour – All components of a standards system are structured to deliver quality outcomes. In particular, standards are set at a performance level that results in measurable progress towards the scheme’s sustainability objectives, while assessments of compliance provide an accurate picture of whether an entity meets the standard’s requirements.
  5. Engagement – Standard-setters engage a balanced and representative group of stakeholders in standards development. Standards systems provide meaningful and accessible opportunities to participate in governance, assurance and monitoring and evaluation. They empower stakeholders with fair mechanisms to resolve complaints.
  6. Impartiality – Standards systems identify and mitigate conflicts of interest throughout their operations, particularly in the assurance process and in governance.  Transparency, accessibility and balanced representation contribute to impartiality.
  7. Transparency – Standards systems make relevant information freely available about the development and content of the standard, how the system is governed, who is evaluated and under what process, impact information and the various ways in which stakeholders can engage.
  8. Accessibility – To reduce barriers to implementation, standards systems minimise costs and overly burdensome requirements. They facilitate access to information about meeting the standard, training, and financial resources to build capacity throughout supply chains and for actors within the standards system.
  9. Truthfulness – Claims and communications made by actors within standards systems and by certified entities about the benefits or impacts that derive from the system or from the purchase or use of a certified product or service are verifiable, not misleading, and enable an informed choice.
  10. Efficiency – Standards systems refer to or collaborate with other credible schemes to improve consistency and efficiency in standards content and operating practices. They improve their viability through the application of sound revenue models and organisational management strategies.

This all ensures that we’re going in the right direction and that the work we do has the maximum impact. It’s not just certification.

Trade Not Aid

This post is from LEAF Marque Technical Manager, Anthony Goggin, on the FRICH project.

Earlier this year Christian Aid produced a comprehensive report entitled, “Hungry for justice: Fighting starvation in an age of plenty”. One of the many interesting chapters was on ‘Agriculture: sustainable solutions’ and the role that smallholders in the developing world can play in eradicating hunger and tackling the effects of climate change.

The chapter asks the following challenging questions:

“What kind of agriculture should be encouraged and supported? What kind of agriculture can address poverty and hunger in a world that faces the challenges that confront our planet at present?”

Reviewing recent literature, the chapter reported on the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) survey of global agriculture. This survey was critical of the way agricultural development had ignored important social and environmental goals, highlighting intensive systems, which rely on the use of external ‘inputs’ such as fertilisers, pesticides and modern varieties of seeds, often in combination with monocropping systems, such as ‘Prairie’ production of cereals.

They argued that, “monocropping reduces biodiversity to the extent that it can eradicate local species of plants”. However, this can be done in a sustainable way if the grower is committed to following the principles and practices of sustainable production. We know in LEAF that monocropping is sometimes the only option, for example, a banana plantation in St Lucia. But we always challenge them with other questions: ‘How long have you been practicing this rotation and will you be able to continue without any environmental detriment?’, ‘Can you enhance the habitats, within and around, the land you are managing?’

Farming systems need to be structured, yet flexible enough to ensure the site specific nature of the land, accounting for economic, social and environmental aspects.  The principles of Integrated Farm Management (IFM) are at the heart of the LEAF’s work and the LEAF Marque standard ensuring a commitment to soil health, judicious use of inputs and managing and planting native species to create and enhance the biodiversity on a farm.

The IAASTD stated the requirements for the solution: “Increased attention needs to be directed towards new and successful existing approaches to maintain and restore soil fertility and to maintain sustainable production through practices such as low input, resource-conserving technologies based on integrated management systems and an understanding of agroecology and soil science. These technologies minimize the need for high levels of inputs and are socially appropriate approaches to small-scale agriculture.”

The above is echoed in LEAF’s IFM approach which is defined as, “A cropping and livestock production strategy in which the farmer seeks to conserve and enhance the environment while economically producing safe, wholesome food.  Its long term aim is to optimise the needs of consumers, society, the environment and the farmer”.  The classic definition of ‘sustainable development’ is:

Development that meets the needs of the present without comprising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

‘Hungry for Justice’, quotes Essex University academics Jules Pretty and Rachel Hine’s (Rachel is also currently involved with LEAF and the Sensory Trust’s Let Nature Feed Your Senses project) definition of sustainable agriculture as a process that “seeks to make best use of nature’s goods and services as functional inputs”. They argue the key role farmers have to play in sustainable agriculture; since it “makes better use of the knowledge and skills of farmers, so improving their self-reliance. And it seeks to make productive use of social capital – people’s capacities to work together to solve common management problems, such as pest, watershed, irrigation, forest and credit management”.

I have been privileged to see many of these aspirations outlined in the report at work in the FRICH project (more information here and here) that LEAF has been involved in for the last two years.

We have witnessed groups of small scale growers coming together to be trained in sustainable principles and practices through LEAF’s IFM; they have demonstrated their commitment and enthusiasm to see it work in practice and in Kenya we now have the largest producer group that have become LEAF Marque certified. It is not always easy to maintain sustainability, it is ever evolving, but with LEAF’s help these farmers are better equipped and trained to develop their own skills in farming in a more sustainable way. The next part of our FRICH plan is to roll out the training in the French speaking nation of Senegal.

In their conclusions and recommendations the report suggests, “Sustainable agriculture… can help small farmers to increase production. For them to turn this into predictable, profitable income, initiatives are also needed that enable the creation of and access to markets that return fair prices for producers”. The FRICH project does just this, funded by DfID its aim is to help through trade measures rather than just giving aid. The report also recommends that other sustainable agriculture solutions National governments should consider.

On the final point above, LEAF Marque has been in the process of applying for ISEAL membership. LEAF sees this as an important step in the development of the LEAF Marque standard. ISEAL’s mission is, “To create a world where ecological sustainability and social justice are the normal conditions of business”. ISEAL members are leaders in their fields, committed to creating solid and credible standard systems that give business, governments and consumers the ability to choose goods and services that have been ethically sourced but most of all help the environment and guarantee producers a decent living.

Christian Aid shares the view that the economic, environmental and social elements of sustainability – must be in balance. This is something that LEAF has always strived to achieve.