Launch of the new 2017 SAN standard

Rainforest Alliance (RA) and The Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN) have launched a revised version of the SAN certification standard for 2017. One of the key changes is the introduction of a Continuous Improvement Framework, which recognises that "...sustainability is a path, a process over time, rather than a final or fixed destination".

Other changes include reference to protecting ecosystems designated as High Conservation Value (HCV) approach, with critical criteria aiming to protect HCV areas. Also, the principle addressing labour and social issues has been strengthened to further protect workers' rights and improve livelihoods, an area of growing concern for many actors in agricultural commodity supply chains.

The Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN) promotes the environmental and social sustainability of agricultural activities through the development of standards for best practices, certification and training for rural farmers around the world. The SAN Standard certification system operates worldwide in more than 40 countries and across over 100 types of crops. Although not exclusively designed for smallholders, the greater part of the farms and farming cooperative members (over a million in total) would fall into this category.

SAN periodically review the standard in order to keep up with innovative agricultural practices and latest scientific and technological research. Revisions of the standard also take into account lessons learned from implementation and evaluation of the earlier versions of the standard. For the 2017 standard this means a more deliberate approach to continuous improvement.

There are three performance levels focused on key areas of mandatory improvement (such as issues related to water, waste management, soil conservation and working conditions). The level of "sustainability performance" is defined as Good (C), Better (B), and Best (A). Farms are required to reach B level within three years, and the highest level (A) within six years. Although the mandatory entry requirements for certification are strengthened, the standards is still designed to be inclusive and allow for progress towards sustainability, with a more focused starting point on high priority issues. 

Level A farmers should realise economic benefits through reduced cost and increased profit

SAN anticipate that farmers reaching performance level A should realise economic benefits through reduced costs and increased profitability. Further, the highest level of sustainability performance could help producers access markets by clearly demonstrating to buyers that they are at the forefront in addressing environmental and social issues. 

Overall the new standard focuses on results and impact, with an assurance model that combines certification, surveillance and surprise audits for a cost-effective and risk-based assurance approach. For more information and a thorough comparison of the 2010 and 2017 system, visit the 2017 SAN Standard site