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2.1 Environmental and social Codes of Conduct

  • The Codes of Conduct aim to ensure environmental and social benefits of interventions in agriculture. They can be based on existing certification schemes.
  • Codes of Conduct aim to address risks highlighted in impact assessments.
  • Producers and other stakeholders should be consulted on whether proposed codes of conduct are feasible.
Agricultural intensification may have some negative environmental side-effects. Safeguards such as Codes of Conduct can prevent this from happening. These codes can be based on existing sustainable certification schemes. Finance should be conditional on following them.
A macaw in the rainforest. Image credit: Gorisen M

1. Assessing social and environmental impacts

It is essential to consider how interventions will affect people and the environment. These risks and benefits are investigated using socio-economic impact assessments and environmental impact assessments. Various stakeholders are consulted during this process, including representatives of regional government and producers.

If the risks are too large, the interventions should be discarded. However, if these risks can be mitigated using Codes of Conduct, interventions may be taken forward.

2. Checking Codes of Conduct with stakeholders

Certain Codes of Conduct may be impossible to implement if they are not realistic. They should be checked with farmers to ensure that they will actually be able (and willing) to abide by these codes.

Researchers may investigate the viability of these codes of conduct by carrying out questionnaire surveys with producer associations, farmer cooperatives, and others.

‘Buy in’ and participation from these groups increases both the legitimacy of the Codes of Conduct and the likelihood that they will be followed. It also helps to understand people’s motivations for current (unsustainable) behaviour and any resistance to change.

Rice production in Amazonia. Copyright Pierre Pouliquin (Creative Commons).

3. Specifying Codes of Conduct for agricultural production

Instead of building codes of conduct from scratch, it may be simpler to base them on standards already defined by existing certifiers. This was the case in the Unlocking Forest Finance project.

For example, in San Martin, Peru, sustainable sacha inchi nuts and palm hearts are already certified under USDA organic standards.  In Mato Grosso, some beef farmers are already working with voluntary guidelines for beef production under the Brazilian Roundtable on Sustainable Livestock (GTPS). For many other crops, Rainforest Alliance certification is the most appropriate starting point for creating the sustainability criteria. Building on standards which are already well-known and used in the area has the potential to increase uptake of the scheme.

Once they have met the Codes of Conduct, it may be easy for farmers to obtain full certification in the future.

Useful benchmarking frameworks

There are a number of important benchmark frameworks for social and environmental safeguarding, notably the performance standards for international investments developed by the International Finance Corporation (IFC), or the project level standards by the REDD+ Social & Environmental Standards Initiative.

For agricultural production in specific sectors, certification initiatives specify the dos and don’ts of on-farm operations. Useful examples include Rainforest Alliance, 4C, Sustainable Agriculture Network - SAN, Fairtrade and UTZ.

4. Linking Codes of Conduct to finance

Farmers and other producers should receive funding on annual basis, and pay it back following the harvest. In some cases, each installment should be conditional on meeting the Codes of Conduct - if producers are unable to meet them, funding should be paused until the situation changes. In other cases, other sanctions may be imposed, such as a higher rate of interest.

A farm monitoring scheme can help farmers meet the Codes of Conduct and flag up areas where codes have not been met. This is the subject of the next section, Monitoring progress.

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