Steven Versfeld, a pome producer from Achtertuin Farm, outside Ceres, became the first South African producer ever to receive platinum status without any non-compliances from the Sustainability Initiative of South Africa (SIZA). His third-party ethical audit was done on the latest version of the SIZA Social Standard, version 6.
According to Retha Louw, SIZA Chief Executive Officer, it is no minor achievement to get “no findings” during a SIZA audit. “It takes hard work, dedication, and the intention to implement a certain lifestyle culture on your farm,” she says.
Louw notes that the programme’s foundation is built on continuous improvement which allows for members to strive for best practices and achieve more than mere minimum compliance. “Versfeld has shown that businesses can meet requirements and even exceed beyond the scope. As the standards and world around us evolve, new requirements will persist, meaning businesses will have to remain consistent in their approach to implement best practice every day.
“Apart from the fact that the audit requirements are very broad in terms of ethically responsible management systems, labour legislation, and certain SIZA code requirements, SIZA auditors are evaluated on a regular basis on their knowledge and audit ability,” she says.
“This ensures that auditors regularly sharpen their auditing and evaluating practices. Standards and legislation can also change frequently, which means practices need to adapt within the business.”
Werner van Dyk, SIZA’s audit manager says, there is not necessarily a fixed list of questions that a person can use in preparation for an audit. “Interviews are conducted with both management and several employees across all levels of employment, where after ethical practices are evaluated. Thus, although there is preparation material available, the evaluation of humans is not always as clinical or scientific,” says Van Dyk. “It makes general day-to-day business practices a farm lifestyle and part of the company culture, rather than a quick questionnaire completed before an audit.”
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