Equitable Food Initiative updates labor standards to include Ethical Charter Addendum

Equitable Food Initiative has released revised certification standards, including a new Ethical Charter Addendum, to help growers demonstrate that they abide by all the principles of the Ethical Charter on Responsible Labor Practices.

The Ethical Charter provides members of the fresh produce industry with guiding principles and values as a framework for responsible labor practices but does not yet offer guidance on how growers can demonstrate their alignment with those principles. As a result, EFI has launched an optional addendum with its updated certification program that has been carefully benchmarked to the Charter. Growers who are audited and certified to the full EFI standards and the addendum can be confident they abide by the Charter principles.

"Retail and foodservice buyers have expressed interest in receiving assurance that their suppliers adhere to the principles of the Ethical Charter," stated EFI Executive Director Peter O'Driscoll. "With our Ethical Charter Addendum, participating growers will be able to let their customers know they meet or exceed the charter's principles, validated by EFI and verified by a third-party auditor."

"EFI's approach is unique among certifications as it is built on the proven idea that improving how workers are recruited, engaged and managed results in better food safety and strengthened business performance," said Kenton Harmer, director of certification and impact for EFI. "The producers that are choosing to include the Ethical Charter Addendum in their EFI audit are not only communicating their alignment with the buying community on these important issues but are also demonstrating that they are the leaders in reducing risks to their workers, their business and their consumers."

In addition to its workforce development and certification programs, EFI offers free resources to the fresh produce industry to define and address issues outlined in the Ethical Charter, including a Responsible Recruitment Scorecard that gives growers questions to raise with staffing partners to ensure a mutual commitment to transparency and responsible recruitment. The scorecard provides produce suppliers with a rating indicator and advice on specific issues to address.

July marked the one-year anniversary of the Ethical Charter's release by a joint committee created by the Produce Marketing Association and the United Fresh Produce Association. Since its unveiling, the Charter has been endorsed by more than 40 companies, including leading retailers Albertsons, Costco Wholesale, Kroger, Sam's Club, Walmart, Wegmans and Military Produce Group. "Growers who are early adopters of the principles outlined in the Charter can gain a competitive advantage," remarked O'Driscoll. "The principles align directly with growing consumer demand for increased transparency."

Human rights and labor practices ranked highest among the leading social issues that consumers want retailers and brands to address, according to a recent study by Sprout Social. Grower-shippers who find ways to bring more transparency to the supply chain have an opportunity to meet the needs of their retail customers and their consumers.

"The Ethical Charter was developed to address industry-wide concerns around labor practices, which we know can have a direct impact on food safety," stated Ernie Farley, partner with Andrew & Williamson Fresh Produce and board chair for EFI. "EFI is being proactive in providing solutions, and that will strengthen the industry in the long-term, providing growers with the tools they need and buyers with the information they want."

For more information:
LeAnne R. Ruzzamenti
Tel: (202) 524-0540

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