It’s been under way since 2009. Now the new version of the Sustainability Framework is making a real difference for farmers and companies aiming to improve their sustainability beyond existing schemes.
Inside a rubber plantation in Sri Lanka owned by Kelani Valley Plantations PLC, auditors are busy interviewing the plantation manager. Boxes on a clipboard are ticked off, workers’ security equipment is being checked and plantation documents are scrutinized.
On the surface of things, this could be any typical audit. However, it is far from ordinary, says Oshada Kumarasiri, Lead Auditor for Preferred by Nature.
“It’s pretty exciting. This is the first time we are using the Sustainability Framework within the rubber sector in Sri Lanka. The client owns 10 rubber plantations across Sri Lanka, and we are sampling three of them and two factories, checking for compliance against the new framework. So far everything is good, but this is the first assessment and I expect there will be at least a couple of issues,” said Oshada Kumarasiri.
Odds are that Oshada Kumarasiri is right. The Sustainability Framework has been in the workings for nearly a decade and today includes a vast range of sustainability criteria, which can be used by everyone in the supply change - from farmer to retailer - to carry out due diligence and align indicators from other schemes as well.
“It is really a Swiss Army Knife. In the case of rubber for instance, there is no established certification scheme, but the versatility and adaptability of this framework allows us to design what is in effect a bespoke standard for sustainable rubber verification,” said Oshada Kumarasiri.
A modular framework
Hando Hain has been with Preferred by Nature for nearly twenty years, and as a Director of Strategy and Innovation he has been overseeing the development of the framework since its conception:
“We got the idea of an all-encompassing modular sustainability framework that can be implemented using a risk-based approach already around 2008-2009, when we started developing this. In 2014 the European Timber Regulation (EUTR) came into force. The EU approach on legality matched what we had envisioned earlier for sustainability. This helped us to develop our LegalSource approach and become the first EU approved Monitoring Organisation. Some years later we wanted to return to the original idea and expand the same approach to a wider framework. This became the Sustainability Framework,” said Hando Hain.
Not just another Ecolabel
Since the late nineties, a forest of certification schemes and standards have been growing rapidly, forcing larger companies to set up entire departments to cover all schemes relevant to their supply chains. So, isn’t this just another Ecolabel, one may ask?
“The intention is not to add yet another ecolabel to choose from. There are probably already too many on the marketplace and it seems that new schemes are being added and developed all the time. We do believe there is a space and need for harmonization between the sustainability schemes and this is what we are trying to do with the framework,” said Hando Hain.
“Also, the framework seeks to fill the gaps within certification landscape that still exist, but without having separate scheme and standard for every commodity,” he said.
In Sri Lanka, the first verification audit has now been finalised, and Oshada Kumarasiri is eagerly waiting to learn if he can tell the clients that they can start using the hummingbird logo that Preferred by Nature has chosen as a label for the framework.
“We’ll see. This framework covers 29 sustainability topics. It sets an ambitious bar, but it’s also what is needed to drive change. ”
Photo by Oshada Kumarasiri / Preferred by Nature